at Camp Widow San Diego: Keynote 2023
There is one talk that most everyone attends on Saturday morning of Camp Widow: The Keynote Speech. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but very few since all the latecomers have arrived by then and it is one of a few talks that finds all of us in the same room.
For those who’ve not yet attended, Camp Widow offers a variety of presentations for widowed people, by widowed people.
Who better to advise us than another widowed person?
John Polo was the 2023 Keynote Speaker at Camp Widow, San Diego. Here’s his bio:
John Polo is a coach, author and speaker.
In January of 2016, John became a widower after his amazing wife, Michelle, died of cancer. From the rubble of everything that he once knew, consumed by desperation and despair, John held on long enough until he found his hope. And he slowly rebuilt.
Today John helps others through his social media, books, coaching, workshops, speeches and podcasts.
From grief to dating, self-growth and everything in between, John offers a style of coaching that is not only effective, but also very personal and unique.
John is the author of four books, host of two podcasts and has worked with clients on nearly 5,000 coaching sessions.
At camp, there are some workshops in which I take notes and others where I do not. It’s random—less about the content and more about my energy level at the time. At John’s keynote, I am so glad I took notes in order to share some of them here. Although my notes are not exact quotes, I believe you will benefit from the scribbles from my page since re-reading them myself brought me inspiration.
#1 – Our person’s love and their memory go with us wherever we go.
Some things just need to be stated out loud to help us when we are 1, 2 or 10 years out. The memories of our person are a tiny piece of who they were to us. Their love lives on through our memories, and John’s words “allowing us to take them with us wherever we go” felt important to me. At this particular camp I especially needed to hear these words.
#2 – Life can have beauty again. It will look different, but it can have beauty again.
Some days I have trouble believing this one. Things can be so.damn.hard in widowed life. Just surviving feels like so.much.work since a life that two people managed is now run by just one person; a person missing their other half. Not only is this life managed by one person, but the one left behind is crippled by their absence. The hope of beauty again? Yes, please.
#3 – If you need to go to anger, go there. But don’t live there forever.
Well trained throughout childhood, anger was the one-forbidden-thing in my childhood home. Most of us know that the suitcase full of agreements we gather during childhood can be difficult to sort out in order to let go of things that no longer serve us. John’s remark helped. For those of us for whom anger is a charged word, with an even more charged feeling, it helps to have an invitation or permission to go there. The reminder not to live there forever removes any sort of timeframe and encourages us to take anger’s lessons to heart and then let the anger go—when we’re ready.
#4 – Grief never really ends. It changes and evolves; but life can have beauty again.
Oddly, it felt good for someone to just say it: grief never fully ends. A product of love, it endures through time. Yet, life can have beauty. Beauty. A big word. Such a gift when it arrives, perhaps not in spite of the grief, but maybe because of it. Life CAN have beauty again. Many here affirm and demonstrate that truth. Life CAN have beauty again.
#5 – Gratitude does not travel alone. We can feel both grateful & cheated.
The “both/and” nature of life comes alive when spoken aloud. I can feel sad that my beloved is not with me AND glad for his freedom from the physical pain he suffered. I can feel grateful for a lifetime together AND feel cheated by the limitations that illness brought to our life in the last years. Gratitude does not travel alone. Brilliant.
There were many other things, mainly John’s humor, that cannot be translated here, which is why I am including the talk in the link below.
The peer community of Soaring Spirits International is here to support us in the many and varied challenges of widowed life.