What kind of support do widowed people need?
Many people are familiar with the five stages of grief, but mourning a loved one rarely happens in a clear or predictable manner. You might cycle repeatedly through different emotions, or you may feel everything at once. Every widow or widower processes grief in their own way and on their own timeline. –Melanie Donohue, LCSW
There is a unique loneliness that can seep into our lives as widowed people. When I mention the loss of my husband in some groups it feels awkward. People seem to be searching for the “right” thing to say. With my widowed peeps, even if we find ourselves in different places in our grief, there is a “knowing” present. Not a lot of words or advice. Just the opportunity to name something about this huge change in our lives. A palpable feeling of comfort with someone who has walked in our shoes.
“Feeling really off lately . . . “
“Yeah. It sucks.”
Since there is no consistent timeline for grief’s hold on us, and since it can surprise us, seemingly “coming out of nowhere,” I still find it challenging to answer the question “how are you?”
Recently, my old friend depression has been coming around. Most often, she shows up disguised as exhaustion, or illness, or laziness, or boredom. Sometimes she shows up as despair. When I lift her veil, I see her clearly for who she is—and then I can take action.
When depression arrives in this new country named grief, some enter therapy for the first time. Others return to things they’ve learned in therapy or take advantage of a tune up visit with their therapist. Whatever way it happens, therapy can be a lifesaver. It can be the upside of depression’s joyless nudge.
Down the road we might be grateful for that nudge.
There are so many options for widowed folk to get support, but sometimes we feel overwhelmed and it keeps us from seeking out solutions.
During my first two years after I lost my beloved I found many things at Soaring Spirits that helped—and many that are available for help that I’ve not yet tried.
If you are a new widower or widow, I hope something here appeals to you.
My first reach out as a new widow was through Soaring Spirit’s Pen Pal program. Writing an email and getting to know others that way seemed an easy way to start. It was so exciting to eventually meet my pen pals Lois and Shelley. Some pen pals talk by phone and some make a plan to visit in person. This photo is Lo and I meeting up at Camp Widow in 2022. It feels good to know I am not alone in what I am experiencing. Talking with other widows and widowers helps.
Others of my pen pals are better at writing than I am. My favorite way to get to know people is through the human voice. Maybe I am a “cell pal”?
One of my pen pals is named Kathy and she lives in Missouri. Although we don’t talk regularly, when we create the opportunity to talk by phone it feels like no time has passed since we last “met” each other.
WIDOWED FOLK WITH COMMON INTERESTS
Many widows meet up with other widowed folk through their common interests. Water volleyball, playing cards, dancing, pickleball, bowling, writing, or painting. Others mention art classes, day hikes, dinner chats, movies, or travel with others. Just a few of many options that bring people together.
Friendships through common interests grow organically. In widowed groups, or at Camp Widow, memories with others are often created through something said, or a smile that comes at just the right moment. These gifts, unbidden, can grow with time and attention.
SOARING SPIRITS REGIONAL GROUPS
The Regional groups are great opportunities to share a monthly, or twice monthly, dinner with other widowed folk. Offered through a simple, yet brilliant model, the Soaring Spirits Regional Social Groups meet for a meal and chat over food and drink as has happened through time immemorial.
In a 2010 study, researchers described the earliest evidence of a feast — a specially prepared meal that brought people together for an occasion 12,000 years ago in a cave in Israel.
Regional Social Groups come in all sizes and are featured on the website to help others to find us when they need a widowed friend. Go to the link above and click on “Find a Regional Social Group” to find a group near you.
I’m not great at taking photos, but my Regional Group is in Orange County and is led by an angel of a person, Priscilla, a skilled and loving facilitator who has faithfully led this group for some years. Our group is a wonderful bunch of folks who will sometimes meet outside of the group’s normal timeframe to catch a movie, or a play, or even go camping!
Recently, I’ve been dogged by the 45-min drive (one way!) that I’ve been making and decided to do the training to start a group locally. I have a couple of folks who want to join, so we’ll be starting in August (meeting twice a month in Riverside). Wish me luck! 🙂
INFORMAL MEET-UPS WITH (new) WIDOWED FRIENDS
A man I met at Camp Widow told me that he thought his newly widowed aunt would enjoy meeting me. In true Camp Widow form, he organized a dinner with himself, his aunt and one other Camp Widow alumni. We had a lovely meeting with delicious food and enjoyable conversation. The following week was her first wedding anniversary since her husband passed. I asked if she’d like to have breakfast together on that day and we met up and told stories of our spouses, which feels like the best way to honor their memory. Cecilia and I hit it off and met a second time and found we have some key things in common. These informal meetings with widows in your community can result in lifelong friendships.
When my old friend, depression, arrives, i find that reaching out to help another can be like a reset button for my emotional roller coaster . . . and a distraction from that other friend, navel-gazing.
I continue to discover what good medicine other widowed people are for me.
WIDOWED VILLAGE: An Online Community
In addition to a variety of live Zoom meetings for literally everyone, Widowed Village offers a safe, online space for widowed people; a 24/7 option that you sign up for in order (at no cost) to gain access any hour of the day or night. Wake early? Check out videos for new widows. Can’t sleep? Search through the videos named by topic and see if something interests you.
A space designed with YOU in mind.
From the Soaring Spirits Website:
Widowed Village offers a 12-week program with research influenced resources designed to address the needs of those who have been widowed within the last year. The program includes guest speakers, educational videos, weekly Zoom meetings, and resource sharing related to the specific topic chosen for each meeting.
This is a rolling program and attendance at all meetings is not necessary. Drop-ins are welcomed, and connections between participants will be facilitated and encouraged. To ensure the safety of the calls, the Newly Widowed Program is being hosted through our Widowed Village platform which has an easy application so that we can verify that everyone who is in attendance is widowed. You can join Widowed Village for free at the link above, and once approved navigate to the meetings page using the Newly Widowed Program slider on the Widowed Village homepage.
*In keeping with all of Soaring Spirits programs, this group will be a peer community, and should not be considered a support group or a therapeutic offering.
This is one offering that I admire in concept but have not yet partaken of thanks to Zoom Fatigue from my teaching job online. Due to my over-familiarity with Zoom life, I have been seeking in-person events instead.
Note to Self: Get on over to the Widowed Village archive of video meetings next time you are in a funk!
Finally, there is Camp Widow!
Thanks to the greeters at sign-in, and the friendly Ambassadors and Volunteers; thanks to the workshop presenters and the competent team of organizers who carry the day; thanks to each and every first-time camper and to the return campers who arrive to both give and receive—-you WILL find something wonderful at Camp Widow.
Camp Widow brings an in-person experience which features the best that Soaring Spirits has to offer. Set up conference style, yet with a family reunion feel, it is a mainstay for many.
In its evolving form, it is a gift for ALL.
Camp widow has been key for my health in the widowed journey. Attending CW helps me to stay on this journey of grief in a way that is awake, alive, and on a path of growth. I attend as a seeker and I always find something to take home and utilize in my life. There is so much to say about the goodness of Camp Widow that words fail. Thank you, Soaring Spirits, for the gift of a camp that is tailor made for widowed folk!
What kind of support do widowed people need?
One thing for sure: We need each other!
Death sucks, but we are alive! We are doing our best to live our future while integrating and learning from our past. We need never leave our beloved behind; yet, we can go forward to create a meaningful life now. In the end, love wins!