It is 12:40 a.m. east coast time, on Friday, September 26th, and I am writing this blog piece from the Marriott hotel in downtown Toronto, Canada. I am here for Camp Widow, getting set to give my comedy presentation for the 5th time in a row. Sitting in the lobby where the Wi-fi is free on my laptop, exhausted after an almost 12 hour train ride from NYC into Toronto, followed by a lovely dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory with some of my widowed friends. And then, of course, in classic Kelley fashion - I was just about to snuggle up under my covers in the comfy Marriott bed, when I suddenly out of nowhere remembered: "SHIT!!! I HAVE TO WRITE THE BLOG!!!" So, down the elevator I went, to the Wi-fi hot spot area in the lobby, and here I sit, with no real idea what to say.Read more
So, last week, you may have noticed that my post was strangely invisible in here.
Yeah. That is because I totally forgot to write one.
I realized this fact somewhere around the time when my name was being called out loud by my friend and Soaring Spirits board member Janine. We were in San Diego. At Camp Widow West. At the Saturday night formal dinner banquet party. Janine was asking the writers of Widows Voice to please stand and be recognized, and as I stood up proudly, something inside of my brain screamed. And then I screamed out loud, to nobody and everybody around me: "Crap! I forgot to write my blog this week!"
When I found the Soaring Spirits International website, just after I'd finally gone online with my story and shortly before I became one of the seven widow's blogging here at Widow's Voice, I found a deep solace in the smiling faces on the photos of past events at Camp Widow. Here was a group of people dedicated to a beautiful community of support, fellowship, sharing, and friendship. Here was true life, real people...important healing at work.
Here were people devastated like I was, but able to come together, support each other, and find a way to survive.
What a fabulous idea. A place we could all go to meet. To hear each other's stories. To give and receive hugs. To wipe each other's tears. And maybe, even, to laugh together, and create new friendships and memories.Read more
Today I watched the flashmob video from Camp Widow. I was inspired to watch it after seeing the tutorial video on the Soaring Spirits Loss face book page.
The tutorial. I barely got through it and only got through it with tears coming from my eyes and my chest feeling tight and sorrow filling every part of my body. And the whys of that were immediately evident to me.
Since Chuck died one year, one month and 18 days ago, I've lost all sense of my body and I marveled at the dancers on the video because of this loss. As I travel now, I realize that I am so completely in survival mode that I feel like an animal. Which is so weird to say, I guess but, well, there you have it.
I'll be missing Camp Widow West this weekend for the first time since Dave died. I didn't feel a drive to go this year. I know exactly what I'll be missing not going, and that makes me sad, but the need to go has faded. I'm not sure what I'll do next year when camp time comes around.
I'm so incredibly grateful for its existence. I found Soaring Spirits and Michele by doing a google search for widowed resources. If there was one thing I'd tell anyone else who's joined our ranks, it's that finding support is the most important move you can make and Soaring Spirits is support like no other.
I wandered into that first Camp Widow in San Diego, only 2 months after Dave died, numb and in shock. I left 3 days later with new lifelong friends and countless concrete examples of how people not only survived being widowed, but eventually welcomed life again. I held those examples close in the following months and years.
It's been years since he died. Wow. I still find this a shocking fact.
I've had a really tough few weeks. In some ways, it has almost felt like I'm right back at the start - crying from the moment I wake up without him in my bed until I pass out each night from exhaustion.
Thankfully, it has lifted again in recent days but in the depth of this latest low I realised I was withdrawing from the people in my life in a way I hadn't done before. I just felt so disconnected, like no one could relate.
When Dan died last July, the shock and pain resonated out from me in waves through our family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and acquaintances. People openly grieved, their lives halted while they came to terms with this unimaginable loss - this wonderful man taken from our world in such a tragic way. In the weeks and months that followed, there was unquestionable support and understanding, people were so gentle with me, everyone 'got it'.Read more
I am just a couple short weeks away from the 3 year mark of my husband Don's sudden death. I feel like I can't even type that sentence without breathing differently. 3 years. Three. Years. I have no idea how it is even possible. I have no idea how those words could apply to me. I have no idea ....
July 13th will be the 3-year mark. On the first year death anniversary, I created "Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day", in which I asked everyone on planet earth to do something kind for someone else, tell me about it in writing, and take pictures if possible. Last year, I did it again, and there was even more of a response. Over 130 stories each year, all of which helped me immensely in getting through that day. This year, and every year, I will continue that same tradition, but Im also in the middle of writing my book, which will hopefully come out later this year. In the book, I will take my favorites of all of the stories from the past 3 years, and create a Top 10 List out of them to publish as a chapter.
In exactly one week, Friday, June 13th, it will be one month from the 3-year anniversary of my husband's sudden death. It feels different somehow to me this year, even though the actual day or month is not here yet. First of all, on the first two death anniversaries, I spent them both staying at my parent's house, with my family. We did a big dinner in his honor with all his favorite foods, and whoever could come to that came and it was nice. This year, I will be in San Diego, at Camp Widow, performing my comedic presentation for the 4th time. The day of his death just happens to fall on the Sunday that is the last day of camp. Although I'm not positive what it will be like to be there instead of with my family on that day, I'm guessing it will be a very good thing. After all, every single person there "gets it," and what better place to be if I'm going to have an epic breakdown of 54,000 emotions? And really, even though I won't technically be with my family on that day, I will be with my family. My other family. My widowed family.Read more
Since I lost my fiancé almost 2 years ago, I have been acutely aware of how uncomfortable my very presence makes people at times. I talk about it less and less on Facebook, and even with my closest friends and family. It turns out people really don't like being reminded of death. Who knew? I've started to feel like I am carrying around some bad omen on my back - like some I'm some messenger of death now that brings a black aura everywhere I go. It's definitely a shitty part of this journey - feeling like my very identity upsets people or makes them uncomfortable. Which is made to suck even more by the fact that I am one of those people too - I also don't want to be around my own pain and this new unwanted identity of "widow". It is a constant battle for me to try and make peace with this new part of who I am that reminds me of everything I do not have.Read more
This past Saturday night, while at Camp Widow East in Tampa, Florida - I was sitting at one of the tables at the fancy banquet that Soaring Spirits throws for us during each of the camp events. I was talking to my friend Sarah (who writes in here each Sunday), whom I had been talking with in regular phone calls and online for months and months now, sharing our grief and our pain and our love for our partners with each other. She is someone I have cried with over the phone more than once, and there we were - sitting at the same table, in person, finally.Read more