In the wake of my Gabriel’s suicide, I couldn’t fathom what to do with myself – I felt overwhelmed and alone, adrift as a widow at just 27 years old. Lost, wading in the waters of grief, I attended my first Camp Widow: it was the best thing I could have done for myself.
I returned home renewed, alive again for the first time in months. Filled with a sense of purpose, I applied to graduate school for my Masters of Public Administration, and currently attend night classes to pursue my nonprofit management goals. I also volunteer as co-chair for my local American Foundation for Suicide Prevention group, and as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line.
Soaring Spirits has taught me that nobody has to walk alone – and I will fight that fight for myself, for my Camp family, and on behalf of those who can’t fight any longer. That, my friends, is #howisoar.
Losing my wife Shannon to cancer when she was only 42 years old left me feeling lost and lonely, overwhelmed thinking about what the future had in store as a widowed father of 2 young kids, and feeling like her death had stolen a lot of who I was as a person.
Now, here I am, 16 months later and looking back on everything I’m somewhat in disbelief at all that has taken place during that time – all the ups and downs, the emotional roller coaster, wanting to crawl under a rock and make the pain go away, and feeling scared about whether or not I could actually manage everything.
As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months things started to change, slowly, but in a good way. When Shannon first got sick we talked a lot about needing to do more rather than just talk about things and that became a driving force for me especially when it came to the kids.
We’re making new memories now and those feelings of being scared and unsure of myself are being replaced with confidence, laughter, and gratification of finding different ways to honour Shannon’s memory. Also, having a front row seat to watch just how resilient my kids really are has inspired me with their ability to keep moving forward despite Shannon’s death.
In that first year I took the kids to their first ever concert to see Maroon 5 (and Shannon’s “boyfriend” Adam Levine); I finally had some work done on the house that Shannon had wanted to do; the kids and I started travelling more and the highlight was our trip to New York last summer and showing them all the things Shannon and I had done on the New York trip we took 15 years earlier when I proposed to her on a horse and carriage ride in Central Park.
I’ve seen positive changes in myself too as I’m now finding my groove again at work; I'm helping coach my son's hockey team; I'm active with my daughter's competitive dancing; recently I spoke in front of more than 300 people at a fundraising event for our local Hospice organization; soon I’ll be helping to facilitate a Dad’s group with one of the support organizations I’m connected with; and I’m doing things like contributing to this blog – something I never would have dreamed of doing a year ago.
I would be remiss not to mention the impact that Camp Widow has had in helping me get back on my feet and how it was a definite turning point connecting with my new “tribe” of fellow widowed folk from across North America who “get it”.
The instant bond you feel with others at Camp and the love that fills the room is something I’m grateful for having found and is infectious too - I'm not only planning to return to Camp Widow Toronto this fall but I will also be attending Camp Widow in San Diego in July and this time with my kids so they can experience everything Camp is about and hopefully benefit the same way I have.
Camp Widow has helped me connect with a “hope posse” (as they call it) that finds ways to pick me up when I need it most and thanks in part to them they have me feeling like I’m starting to actually live again and not just “going through the motions” day in and day out.
Thank you Soaring Spirits for connecting us all and building the support network that has become so crucial. Without you this journey would no doubt be more difficult to get through.
Soaring Spirits has had such a huge impact on my life. From the very first meeting on Valentine’s Day, exactly 8 weeks after my Erik died, the regional group gave me hope and encouragement. The courage that I have gained over the past 2 years has led to me embracing life and conquering my fears. Fear of loneliness has led to co-leading the regional group. Fear of speaking in public has now changed to performing slam poetry. Fear of heights has now changed to flying to Vegas alone to zip line over Fremont Street. Don’t get me wrong, I still have many fears. But thanks to my wonderful support system I can meet them head on, and 12 stories above the ground.
Soaring Spirits has impacted my life by providing me with a tribe that understands the unique journey of young widowhood and solo parenting. After the death of my husband, I was embraced by many family members and friends who had not experienced the death of a spouse. As empathetic as they all were, I still felt incredibly alienated and lost. Soaring Spirits provided me with a network of other young widowed parents who have likewise been thrust upon this journey much too soon.
Soaring Spirits has given me the courage to share my story and has given me a voice to encourage and be encouraged. I am not alone on this journey. There exists no criticism on how I process death or how I grieve, and by observing other widowed members thrive, it provides me with the hope that I too, will continue to thrive.
Thank you for the gift of this program! Thank you for giving me a strong and encouraging tribe! #howisoar #tribe #community #soaringspirits
I'm lucky to have a great support network of friends and family around me. But nearly two years after my wife passed away, that support was starting to fade away. That's when I attended my first Camp Widow® event, in Toronto in 2017. The experience was truly amazing, uplifting, and life-changing. Months later I continue to feel the love and support which grew out of that weekend.
Camp Widow brought together more than 100 widowed people from all over for lots of meaningful discussions, workshops, and fun. (Yes, fun. Who says widowed people aren't allowed to have fun?). I was part of several in-depth workshops on topics of interest to me, including a "widowers only" round-table discussion and a session for people who have lost a spouse to suicide. There was also plenty of unstructured time to get to know people through shared meals, one-on-one discussions, and the Saturday night celebration event.
I've kept in touch with many of the people who were at Camp Widow and we truly are each other's long-term mutual support network. I'm so thankful to have these people in my life, and to be on both the giving and receiving end of the mutual support. And Soaring Spirits is what brought us all together.
My husband’s death left me living on my own for the very first time in my life at age 59. Joining Widowed Village and attending Camp Widow during that first year gave me a community that has provided inspiration and supported my growth. They gave me hope that I could find a way to live this new life in a way that would honor Vern. I am volunteering. I am doing daily acts of kindness. I am teaching soul work and holding retreats. And since hiking in a rain forest had been on our bucket list, I decided to head to Costa Rica on my own. I snorkeled for the first time and hiked through the Monte Verde cloud forest, crossing eight hanging bridges high up in the canopy. I even held a red-eyed green tree frog in my hands on my 64th birthday surrounded by new friends I had just met. Thank you, Soaring Spirits, for giving me my wings. #howisoar
This photo was taken on one of the hanging bridges.
Soaring Spirits is celebrating ten years of service to the widowed community. We are so honored to have been a part of the lives of thousands of widowed men and women since our founding on May 27, 2008. The mission of Soaring Spirits has always been to build community for widowed people around the world and to share the hope of a meaningful future with every widowed person we meet.
As we mark this ten year anniversary, we want to share the stories that really matter - the stories of our community. We can think of no better way to celebrate ten years of service than by celebrating YOU, our community, during each week of this special year.
We are super excited to launch our #howisoar program! Each week using the hashtag #howisoar, Soaring Spirits will feature a different community member who has shared their story about how Soaring Spirits has impacted their lives. At the end of the year, we'll have a beautiful collection of stories about how people are thriving through widowhood. You can check back here for a weekly dose of inspiration and hope (two of our very favorite things at Soaring Spirits!).
If you'd like to share your story of how Soaring Spirits has impacted your life, please email your story (no longer than 10 sentences, please!) and a photograph to email@example.com.
We love the way our community soars! Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of the widowed people who have shared their stories (and they lives!) with us! Check back here each Tuesday to be inspired!
Here we come, #howisoar!