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. 

I came home on an overnight flight, which I did not sleep on. It is now days later, and I'm exhausted beyond words, in a daze, and unfocused. It is taking me a very long time to find my core again, and to accomplish even the slightest thing. I feel sadder than usual, and I am missing my dead husband in a way that feels new somehow, and difficult to describe in words. It's been a challenge getting back into real life. They call it "Camp Crash" - and you'd think a Veteran widow like me (that's what they call us older ones who have been at this for awhile) would know what to expect by now. But I don't. And it feels like a lot right now, and I hope I don't begin to drown inside all of the not knowing and the missing. 

I felt the most at peace lying around in the pool at the hotel. Just floating, wading, existing. It's a peaceful state to be in, just letting my body move slightly, as if I were weightless. And even though I know that the heaviness of my life and my body and my bad knees and my back and my aging and out of shape muscles and joints, await me when I get out of that pool - I hope you don't mind if I just stay in here a little bit longer and enjoy the lightness of my being, before real life kicks down that door again, forcing me into tomorrow.

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  • Nicole Johanse
    commented 2018-07-29 21:45:30 -0700
    You were the perfect ending to my first Camp Widow. I cried so much while I was there. It was nice to laugh for a while.
    I also find water incredibly therapeutic while grieving. I had a massage at a Vegas hotel on my way out and was offered a day pass to their spa waters after a massage. I never wanted to leave once I got in there. I forgot all about my body conscious issues and was able to feel like I was clear headed for the first time since my husband died. I just felt like me, not a ball of grief.
    Since returning from Camp, I’ve been looking in to my best option to experience this feeling on a regular basis.
    Thanks for sharing!