A holiday party in South Philadelphia Sunday sought to empower and unite mothers who lost children and loved ones to gun violence.
Moms Bonded by Grief was founded in 2017 with the goal of creating a safe space where mothers can express shared experiences amongst themselves without any judgment, said Terrez McCleary, founder of Moms bonded by Grief.
“We all go through that anger, the hatred, and people who have not experienced the loss of a child sometimes don’t understand the bitterness that we have,” McCleary said.
She lost her daughter in 2009.
“As the years went on and I was able to get myself together, I wanted to reach out to moms and be able to help them through their healing process.”
McCleary says it was Mothers in Charge, a violence prevention and intervention-based organization that supports and educates communities affected with violence, that first influenced her to unite mothers who lost children to gun violence.
Over the years, membership has grown. Something McCleary finds bittersweet, as “it means that more mothers are out here hurting,” she said
Williesha Robinson Bethel joined Moms Bonded by Grief when she lost her son in a South Street shooting in 2018.
“We meet each Tuesday and the group really gives you comfort. We pray together, we laugh together, we cry together, and we know how each other feel,” said Bethel.
Bethel opened WillBe’s Corner Candy Store in Roxborough as a tribute to her son.
She said she was full of emotions following her son’s passing but said speaking to other mothers who experienced similar loss made her “feel a little better”.
“I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I lost my mind. I lost my soul. I choose to go another way, I choose to go into drinking,” cried volunteer Stephanie Mobley, who lost her only child 15 years ago to gun violence.
She said time and the support of the organization has helped her cope, but the pain of loss is still there, something she says feels like it will never go away.
Sunday’s holiday party was geared more towards children. But mothers dealing with loss are encouraged to attend their weekly Zoom meetings on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Members are given access to therapy once a month, as well as, events like the holiday party or the organization’s annual grief retreat.
“For other mothers to know that we are here to support you, we are here,” Bethel said. “We are willing to help. We are. We are willing to. Some people just want a hug.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources online.
Saturdays just got more interesting.