I have experienced using the word death, or the word grief, or the word widow and having people physically step away from me. I have been told that since I am young the death of my husband isn't as large a tragedy as it might be if I were older, since I am sure to remarry. I have been asked whether or not I am "over" my husband. People have looked at me from behind walls, sunglasses, the back of their cars, and then purposely walked the other direction. I have been told that finding another man to love would mean that Phil was not my soul mate, because how could you replace a soul mate? I have been asked to explain why I still talk about my dead husband when I have a new one waiting in the wings. I have been asked how I can possibly listen to the stories of other widowed people day in and day out without wanting to jump off the nearest bridge.
Yes, I have definitely experienced being misunderstood, but I have also been introduced to the power of a compassionate community.
This weekend Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation held our first Board of Directors retreat. I am humbled and honored by the love and dedication these ladies show our cause. We talked about where we are going as an organization, and how we will get there. We discussed why this mission is important to us personally, and how to explain to people outside of our group WHY this work matters. Because frankly, finding support for the programs we run has been the most difficult professional challenge I have ever faced. There is an expectation that we will all just, "get over it." Somehow a perception that grief is a short lived time period that can be managed by pulling up the boot straps has pervaded our society. There is no general sense that people who grieve need on-going support.
But everyone who reads this blog knows better, in large part because of the courageous way our bloggers share their personal walk with grief. We all have learned that the only thing that lightens the load of grief is understanding. The one thing that most impacts understanding is community, and the most powerful type of communal support is created by connecting those who have a shared experience. That means we need each other.
So the board of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation set an impressive goal...we endeavor to become the leading worldwide resource for providing peer based grief support programs. The very idea makes my eyes well up with tears of gratitude, and honestly a bit of disbelief. We intend to change the world.
Death has taught me that we are on this planet for a finite amount of time. Grief has taught me that I need a community that understands the complexities of losing the man I love. Widows have taught me that community heals.
We can't accomplish this goal without you. You are the reason we exist.
(Oh, I forgot to explain the photo...we are testing recipes for the Widows Rock! and Death Sucks cocktails for Camp Widow. Yes, thanks to Ms. Dippel, we have a very tasty drink for you to test out when you arrive!)