So here’s the thing ….
I wont be attending or presenting at Camp Widow Toronto this year. I just cannot make it work. Almost always in the past, I have been able to somehow make it work. Lots of people in the widowed community have helped to make that happen some years when things are more financially tight than usual, and I am endlessly thankful for that. People have pitched in to help cover my flights, let me stay with them in their hotel room, or even at their home locally, and so many other amazing things. One recent year, my own husband paid for my flight to San Diego so I could attend Camp Widow there. Sometimes I can cover it myself, and other times its just too much for my measly finances to bear. But with all that being said, I have never missed a Camp Widow since I started presenting there in 2013. I have given my comedic presentation, plus led several round tables, been on panels, and even took part in the Camp Kids program – over 20 times in the last 9 years. I take great pride in that.
But this year, between my husband still in the early recovery stages post-double bypass surgery, a very full work schedule where its difficult to get the time off, and our first year of home ownership proving to have many added expenses to our lives (home, car, and pool repairs being at top of the list) – its just not going to happen.
I am heartbroken about this. Truly. Especially since this is the first time Toronto Camp is being held since before the pandemic, so its been a long time since Ive been able to experience that fantastic city, all the many friends Ive made there, and my favorite part of Camp – making widowed people laugh. Im almost positive that Nick and me will be in Tampa for Camp Widow in March 2023, and hopefully we can be part of the “Love After Loss” panel there, which we really enjoy doing together. I’m trying to look ahead and look forward to that. But in just two weeks, everyone will be gathering in Toronto for an incredible life-changing experience filled with hope and love and new perspectives, and I just really wish I could be there. There are so many people I really want to see, and give hugs to, and spend time with. Plus, there will be at least one and maybe two people from our Massachusetts Regional Group attending, and Id love to be there with them to help represent our state, and help make them comfortable. But the timing just isnt right, and it can’t be done.
The same week I made the decision not to go to Toronto this year, I received an email from a new web/video/podcast called “The Mindfullness Podcast.” They want to have me on as a guest – soon. They saw my TEDx talk, which now has over 2.5 million views and has been getting MUCH more attention lately, and they want to talk about my perspective on loss and grief and death and life. I told them Id love to do it as long as its virtual, since I cannot afford a trip out to Florida right now, especially with how expensive flights are at the moment. They said they only do podcasts in person, and they want to fly me out and pay for all accomodations, including cabs and meals. So I said yes, and I booked it. It happens to be the same weekend as Toronto Camp Widow. Its just one night that Ill be in Florida, and then coming home the next day, but maybe this is what I was supposed to be doing this year instead of Camp? I dont know. Or maybe being part of this during Camp will help me to be less sad about not being at camp, since Ill be busy, at least part of the time.
To those of you going to Camp Widow for the first time who are reading this, you are going to love it. Its normal and perfectly be okay to be nervous, or even to be thinking to yourself: “What the hell am I doing??? Am I crazy going to this weird widowed camp??? Can I still get my money back?” The first time I went to this weird and magical place for widowed people, I was terrified. But as soon as I walked into that hotel, everyone was so kind and friendly and supportive. They just understood. You can break down crying one minute, and the next minute you are laughing or maybe even dancing or just breathing a sigh of relief that you havent felt in a long, long time. You will find your people here. Be gentle with yourself. Get good rest, reach out and say hello to new faces when you have the energy or bandwidth for it, take in whatever information you can at the workshops, and hear other peoples stories and realize, over and over and over, that you are not alone in this crappy tsunami. Even more than that, the people you will meet who are also grieving the life they knew, will often become very important to you, like family. Ive always said that widowed friends are the family you gain, when your family has been ripped apart. You can say to each other weird things like: “I love you so much, and I also wish we never met.” They will nod fiercely and give you a huge hug. They will not be offended. You can share your dark humor with them and they will love it. To the people attending in a couple of weeks, I hope that you meet your people and start to form your tribe. I hope that you walk away from this experience with a bit less of a heavy heart. I hope that you feel validated in your pain, and that you know that your love story matters, and that YOU matter.
It will never be okay that your person died. Its not okay.
But one day, in tiny pieces and over time and with hard work, YOU will be okay.
You will be even better than okay.
Just trust me.