The Value of a Friend (Part Five thousand and two...)

3_15_11.jpgI recently attended the Soaring Spirits annual board retreat. Each year the board members get together in the same place to brainstorm ideas for the foundation, establish our annual goals, reestablish our focus for the year and just “be together”. Our board meets regularly, once a month, but our meetings are held via Skype because four of us live in Cali and two in Texas. I look forward each year to the “retreat” because we actually get to occupy physical space together instead of just virtual space.

Saturday is our big work day for the retreat, and we spent 8 hours talking, drawing our thoughts on charts, discussing new opportunities and also talking about the year in review. Our topics are not always the same, but we do have a few topics that are – fundraising is one of them. Soaring Spirits is not a self-funded foundation; we rely on the financial support of others. The challenge of finding funding is an ongoing one. I have struggled since we started the foundation to figure out a way to make our cause understandable to the non-widowed community. I have found it to be very difficult. Unless you have walked this path, it is hard to understand what the need for support might be.

I can hear the question in people’s minds: Why do widowed people need extra support, don’t you have any friends to support you? Why would you need support from strangers? I think if I hadn’t met my own widow-match (our friendship created the concept) I wouldn’t have understood it myself. How could I have known how life changing it would be to find a widow friend who completely understood my situation? I could talk about that for days. I believe our friendship saved me and continues to help me find my way in my new life. I’m sure I would have survived, but I’m not sure I’d be near as healthy as I am today. Thank God for you Tacalla.

Because it is difficult to understand the value of that relationship if you haven’t experienced it, I think it is difficult to sell the concept of “peer based support” to potential financial supporters. I’ve watched the highly successful efforts of groups that support children who’ve lost a parent and wondered why we can’t get that kind of support. I think it boils down to this – people don’t get it and they think we should just get over it already. Children have an understandable need, they’re children. People automatically feel sympathy for kids, they lost their mommy or daddy, and they are in need of support and guidance. But what about a spouse losing a spouse? What about the half of a whole that is left behind? Maybe they would get it if we talked about it from the perspective the health of a surviving parent. What about the “only parent” left to provide for their children? What if that only parent is slowly drowning in a pit of despair and has no one to turn to for understanding? I think if more people thought about the health of the remaining parent and what an impact it has on those children, maybe, just maybe they might find the value in programs that offer support to widowed people?

I find it shocking that the idea of losing a spouse (whether you have children or not) doesn’t generate much interest. People find it sad, but don’t understand the need that might be associated with such a loss. I guess I’m trying to find a way to make the cause of surviving widowhood something that digs into people’s hearts and pocketbooks. How can we make it a cause that people understand and see the value in supporting?

I wish we could bring everyone to Camp Widow. Experiencing the magic of Camp Widow can warm even the iciest heart. That weekend is life altering for the attendees and I’ve been told by non-widowed volunteers that the emotion of the weekend changed their perspective and had a personal impact on them. I wish we could bottle the magic of Camp and let people have a taste. I wish we could show the world the power of a single friendship with someone who "gets it". A video or photos of Camp Widow doesn’t fully capture it. The feeling is something you have to be there for. I’ll continue to try to find a way to capture it and translate it. We need to figure it out in order to continue to find funding for our programs.

Got any ideas? I’m definitely open to them.

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