#howisoar - Tonya Karvonen-Nelson

Soaring Spirits impacted my life by helping me find a fulfilling life again. Before I found Soaring Spirits and the amazing community surrounding the organization, I had lost all purpose in life. I lived through the motions, as most of us find ourselves doing after such a deep loss.

I learned to live for me. In return, I gave more life to my boys. I was able to learn that to love again doesn’t mean it’s forgetting, because love forever lives on. I’ve remarried an amazing man and we now share a gorgeous little girl. My life has been blessed for a second time because I learned to embrace an uncertain future.

 

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#howisoar - Lorraine Dominguez

Thank you Soaring Spirits and Camp Widow, for helping me through the toughest time of my life.

Cancer waged war on my Eric at age 42 and our engagement and plans for a family were never to be realized. "What do I do now?" I thought. Feeling lost and alone, I found Soaring Spirits and Camp Widow. I decided to attend but I wasn’t sure I belonged there. On day one of Camp, I felt validated in my grief as an unmarried widow as I met many others like myself. Not every story of widowhood has a marriage certificate.

Pulling myself from deep depression and attending Camp Widow was the BEST thing for my heart, my soul, and my brain. I learned so much about grief education which I share with others all the time, and I made LIFE-LONG friends at the same time. I'm not alone anymore and I have a supportive community I can reach out to anytime I need to. It has been life changing and I can honestly say hope now fills me on even the toughest days.

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#howisoar - Sharon Wall

I discovered the Widow's Voice blog 6 months after my wonderful husband died of cancer in June 2014 - just when we were going to start living our retirement dreams. I know it sounds melodramatic, but reading the blog every single morning felt like it saved my life - it provided the first glimmer of hope that this tsunami of grief could become more manageable and that I might be able to really live again.

Then, in fall 2015 and 2016 I attended Camp Widow in Toronto where I instantly felt like I belonged and made a ton of new friends in a few short days. I have begun to live again. I've travelled in Europe and in Canada. I downhill skied again after a 30 year break - it's NOT like riding a bicycle, believe me! I've gained some friendships and lost others. I spend lots of time with my kids and grandkids. My greatest accomplishment was walking the Camino de Santiago - an 800 km pilgrimage across northern Spain last fall. This after-life is a work in progress. There are still bumpy days, even more than 3 1/2 years later, but I know now that I can muddle through even the worst of them. There are also great days. I've made some good and some pretty bad decisions along the way, but I continue to put one foot in front of the other. Overall, life is good.

 

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#howisoar - Harold Buchanan

I remember my first Camp Widow in Toronto and literally falling into the open arms of Michelle and Dana, as I descended the escalator to the unknown. It was only six months after Camille’s death, and I had tons of doubt about what I was doing. I chose Toronto because it was within driving distance, and I could easily drive back home at any time. Of course, Michelle and Dana comforted my grief and made me feel welcome. This was my first introduction to the supportive widowed community.

Camille and I loved to travel, but we did EVERYTHING together. We discovered her cancer a few weeks before our scheduled photo safari to Tanzania. It has been difficult to travel alone. The deck is really stacked against the solo traveler, and being widowed doesn’t help. This February, just short of the three year milestone, I finally had the strength to travel to Tanzania alone. I worked my way up to it with three solo Jazz Cruises, whale watching on Grand Manan Island, photo trips to Yellowstone, Panama and Ecuador and several more Camp Widows. I am soaring again!

 

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#howisoar - Kim Boylan

My husband of 5 1/2 years, Scott, died 11/25/17 after a 20-day battle with pancreatic cancer. We were raking leaves, the sun was shining, we were joking with our neighbors when he suddenly collapsed with intense abdominal pain. A week in the hospital full of biopsies, tests and scans, another week of tests finally confirmed cancer in the pancreas, liver and lungs. He died 8 days later. He was 49. I had just turned 50 the day of the Las Vegas shootings in October, and I remember worrying that that would be a bad omen for things to come. Sadly, I had no idea how devastatingly true that became.

11 days after Scott passed, I went to my first Mile High Widows function and met a truly admirable lady, Sade Ariyo. I actually found myself laughing with this great group of men and women. It was the first time I enjoyed myself in over a month. Soaring Spirits really DOES save lives! I'm feeling better by the day, and will be attending Camp Widow® in Tampa AND San Diego! I cannot wait! I'm even feeling so much stronger in such a short time, that I just applied for a promotion at work. I could not imagine even CARING about work enough to put forth the effort two months ago. I feel I've come a long way in a short time.

Thank you Michele, and everyone at Soaring Spirits. I absolutely would be in the darkest hole, never wanting to crawl out if I hadn't found you!

 

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#howisoar - Patricia Frederickson

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.

 

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#howisoar - Dan Bogdonov

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.

 

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#howisoar - Shantelle Buethe

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.

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#howisoar - Jenny Reyes-McCormack

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

 

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#howisoar - Tim O'Brien

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.

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