I just returned from my 500 billionth Camp Widow.
Okay, I'm exagerating, but not by much. Besides, I lost count long ago on how many times I have been honored to be a presenter at this amazing healing place called Camp Widow.
July 13th was the 7-year mark of Don's death. Camp Widow began on July 13th. Friday the 13th. Nothing incredibly weird happened on Friday the 13th at camp, other than the fact that my entire life is incredibly weird all the time.
This time, at camp, I was going there as both a presenter and also a new author, my book being out on Amazon for over a month now, and on sale at the Camp Widow bookstore. The entire weekend people came up to me and asked for their book to be signed. It was my honor. My favorite part of that was sitting there and penning the name "Kelley Lynn Shepherd" over and over, knowing that I did not take my husband's name when we married, but that I would now take it on the pages of this book. Writing that name again and again made me feel so emotional. So filled with pride that I was well-loved by this incredible man. So happy to share with the world, pieces of our story.
At camp, I met new friends and saw old ones. I attended some workshops that helped me to heal just a little bit more. I had lots of drinks, hugs, and support down by the pool. I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean - on two different days. I sat in my widow friend's bed and ate chocolate chips with her while laughing at our strange lives. I waded in the pool, floating from end to end without a care in the world. I went on a sunset cruise to celebrate Soaring Spirits 10-year anniversary in existence. I ate lunch at the famous Hotel Del Coronado, with two widow friends. I stood on a balcony from my hotel room, admiring the gorgeous view of San Diego, and appreciating all of the beauty in nature. I enjoyed an unexpected upgrade into a suite, where I spent the morning of July 13th reflecting quietly, and alone, and with my dead husband. I gave my presentation to the largest crowd I've ever had at Camp Widow to date. I danced to Prince out on the dance floor, and held out my arms and empathy when a fellow widowed brother had an outburst of tears overflowing.Read more
The month of May looms large in my heart and soul, as I remember back to that May day in 2009 when Chuck and I began our Happily Homeless travels, after selling our house and belongings, and our last 4 years together as we adventured around the country…remembering that April night in 2013 when our adventures ended as he took his last breath and I placed his cremains and his flag on the shotgun seat next to me, and...wow... remembering this month, in 2013, as I began my Odyssey of Love for him, creating, at the same time, a community of Love and support for myself around the country.
It inspired me to make a list of what was, what became, what is, sacred and holy to me.
Indulge me, if you will, and, maybe, be inspired to make your own list.
Memories of dancing with him over the years...in the kitchen, in our backyard, at social occasions...dancing as a way of being further connected. His arm around my waist, my hand in his. Holy.
The twinkle in his green eyes as his gaze caught mine across a crowded room. Followed by a slow wink. It was as powerful to me as his touch. Holy.
The confidence he always showed in me that brought me to an awareness of my own strength, my own determination, my own gutsiness. It has stood me in good stead as I weave my way into this damned new life without him. Holy.
That moment as we lay in bed together, when he put his hand on my stomach, which I, of course, immediately removed because I didn’t like my stomach and he asked why I did that and I told him and his response was to place his hand ever so gently back on my stomach and tell me how he loved each and every part of me. That memory strengthens my resolve to make my body strong again, even in grief. Holy.Read more
This year is the 10 year anniversary of Soaring Spirits International.
This Sunday is the official anniversary day of when Michele founded the non-profit.
July 13th weekend, I will be presenting once again, at Camp Widow San Diego.
July 13th will be the 7 year anniversary of my husband Don's sudden death.
July 13th, my book about his death and our life together and my life in the aftermath, will be officially released and available at the Camp Widow bookstore (hopefully.)
September 30th I am having my Book Launch Party in NYC, something I have wanted to do since this whole thing began. September 26th, I will be 47 years old, and no longer the same age of 46 that my husband was, when he left for work one morning and never came home.
We are in final editing this week, and the pressure is on. It is very important to me that this book be ready for Camp Widow, and that everything goes well in trying to upload it, add pictures, choose page sizes, shipping issues, money issues, on and on and on. I am not sleeping well, my stomach is in knots, and my skin is out of control with the dryness and blotchy patches and rashes that I always get on my arms, legs, and other weird places, when I’m stressed.Read more
So the book I have been writing about my husband's death, and life in the aftermath, is finished. It is now in editing, and should be ready for publication for July 13th. One of the sections in the book is called "Words About Don", where I asked a handful of his close friends and family to write up a few words/couple of paragraphs or so, about a memory, or what Don meant to them, or anything they felt like saying about Don Shepherd. I have been receiving the last of these writing pieces over the past few weeks, to be added to my draft. Yesterday, I received one from Don's very best friend - his EMS partner on the ambulance for years out in Florida, and his Best Man at our wedding. This man and his wife drove 24 hours from Florida to New Jersey, on very short notice, to be there at Don's funeral and honor him. They were the kind of friends who felt like and thought of each other as brothers.Read more
I’ve heard that when you feel you are struggling with your writing it is because you are writing what you think you should write instead of what you truly feel. I can’t find the actual quote right now (it was much more eloquent than that) but that idea has been on my mind for a while. Since I saw it really. I’ve wanted to write and share about something but I’ve been nervous. Anxious for a whole bunch of reasons. Nervous that it’s too easy and good to be true. That it’ll soon disappear. Anxious because I’m less cautious than I use to be and although I like it I’m still getting used to myself. Nervous because with change comes emotions and more changes and I’m adjusting.
But at the same time, I want to share. It’s what is on my mind a lot and it’s hard to write about other things when it’s not really what I’m thinking about. I’ve mentioned here and there about it but not really fully shared.Read more
So, after about 3 and a half years or so of writing and not writing and then writing again, and then the last 6 months or so of REALLY doing a TON of writing and not being able to look at computer screens anymore because my eyes hurt so bad - I am finally finished writing my book. It is FINISHED!!!!
I handed it over to my editor 2 days ago, and now he will edit and make suggestions on things like grammar, structure, spelling, and a little bit of content. And then it will be ready for uploading and publishing and that whole process by early June, so that it will be 100% OUT and available for purchase and shipping etc., in time for July 13th. That weekend is Camp Widow in San Diego. My great hope is that I will be there as a presenter, this time with my book on sale at the Camp Widow bookstore, for the first time. More importantly, July 13th will be the 7 year anniversary of Don's death, so it's really important to me to be able to honor and recognize that day, with this book finally being out there for the public. I hope like hell that it helps people; brings them comfort, hope, or a few moments of knowing someone else understands.Read more
In July of 2011, my husband died, and I died too. Well, that version of me died.
About an hour after his death, after I had made the phone calls to immediate family and a few close friends – from a random bathroom inside the ER part of the hospital, sitting on the toilet after having just thrown up from shock – I sent my first Facebook status update about my husband being dead. I wrote it in words, so that everyone would know. I wrote about it in a brutally honest way. My post said “I don’t know what to do next.“
From there, Facebook posts became something of a comfort to me. My only way to reach out to lots of people all at once, and say how horrible this all was. I didn’t have a widowed community back then. I didn’t know what the hell that even was. I was 39 years old, and my world was gone.
Sometime around early 2012, my Facebook posts became a blog (ripthelifeiknew.com). People started saying I should write a book about the brutal realities of grief, the dark humors of it, and about my story in the aftermath. So at some point that year, I started writing and slowly shaping my book. I wanted to give him a legacy. I wanted to help people who are going through this. I wanted to share all the things that I learned the hard way while grieving – all the things nobody told me.Read more
On February 5th, 2015, I wandered into a Hotel in Tampa, Florida, not quite sure if I was supposed to be there. I had lost Megan less than three months prior, and I hadn’t honestly accepted the fact that I was now a Widower. In the year leading up to it, I had spent more time sitting next to my dying wife than anything else.
Like many of us, I was searching for answers to hypothetical questions. “Who am I now?” and “What am I supposed to do?” served only as constant reminders that, well, “I don’t know” was the only answer.
Almost three years later, and the questions, and the answers, are still the same. What has changed, and what I’ve learned in that time is that we will never know the answer, but we are always inching closer to it.
In the past 30 days, we’ve had a birthday party/ family reunion, visits with friends, Sarah’s sister in town for a few days, Shelby’s best friend at the house after school for five days, a fall festival, halloween costume prep and decorations, dress fittings, tuxedo fittings, counseling appointments, extremely busy days at my work, extremely busy days with Sarah’s work, loads of homework for Shelby, Sarah’s birthday, concerts, trips to grandparents’, airport pickups, and all of the other general day-to-day minutia.
Vegetable harvesting, clothes washing, house cleaning, grocery shopping, dog walking, dish washing, dinner making and such all need to happen at least a few days a week. Somewhere in all of it, at least a few hours of sleep need to happen.
In the next 30 days, we have my birthday, a trip to a haunted house with one of our other widowed friends, Halloween (our favorite holiday), tuxedo pickup, a wedding rehearsal, the wedding itself, my parents’ anniversary, a trip to Canada for Camp Widow, Shelby’s 5K run, and best of all, the 3 year anniversary of Megan’s death.
It is very rare that one particular emotion takes the forefront of my mind for any longer than a few days. In general, there is a veritable melting pot of thoughts occurring at any given moment, ranging from sadness to joy and everything in between. Fear and confusion are tempered by confidence and determination.
Of course, there are periods where certain emotions boil over and persist. Obviously, the first few months after Megan’s death were filled with overwhelming grief. The “busy” times of year at my work are always stressful, and it shows, even when I’m at home. There are times when my “give-a-damn” appears to be busted, and times when worry about the future pervades. Excitement and joy one week can easily give way to doubt and malaise the next.
Approaching three years since Megan took her last breath, I can truthfully say that I’m openly wandering.
And that’s a good thing.