Early last week a widow friend texted our widow group chat that was started after Camp Widow San Diego. She had shared with us that she needed to go to the hospital for her daughter. I was driving as I read this text and immediately my heart dropped for her. It took me right back to when I was in the hospital for Charlotte a couple of months after Erik’s passing. All those worries and feelings came rushing back to me and I started tearing up for her. It’s one thing to know you’re a solo parent, but it’s another when you actively live it. I remember how I felt being alone in those waiting rooms. All that worry and no one to share it with; no one that would care as much as me or their father. I immediately texted her back knowing that even though anything I said still wouldn’t take that feeling away from her, but hoping that she knew she wasn’t truly alone even though it might feel like that. That’s when it hit me how much it truly, truly means to have people who have gone through a similar experience in your corner. I feel so blessed to have an amazing support group of family and friends, but until I met other widows I didn’t realize how important it also was to have a group that knew exactly how I was feeling even if the situation wasn’t exactly the same, but similar. The experience of losing your person.
I had signed up for my first Camp Widow in San Diego about four months after Erik’s passing. I remember just feeling so incredibly alone even though I was surrounded by people. So many people who loved me with good intentions, yet I still felt alone. I thought to myself, there must be other people out there in my situation too, I can’t be the only one. Hence started my search. I did a simple Google search of widow support groups and that’s when I found out about Camp Widow and Soaring Spirits. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the San Diego camp that first year because Charlotte ended up in the hospital. Wanting desperately to meet people who I could talk to that might understand I signed up for the next one once she was better. I attended my first camp that November in Toronto. And what an experience that was. I danced again for the first time since Erik’s passing and truly danced and it. felt. good. I learned that what I was feeling was okay and I wasn’t alone. I met so many amazing people walking through this path with me at similar and/or different stages in their journey, which showed me there was hope even though I’m still not ready to see that at this stage. I cried in a room full of strangers and I didn’t care because I felt no judgement and when I looked over so many others were crying too. That meant a lot to me as I don’t cry easily in front of others, mostly strangers. This was my first true solo trip since Erik’s passing and really my first solo trip, aside from work trips, in almost a decade. And as camp came to a close I did not want it to end. I had wished camp was longer even though the ache in my heart from missing my twins and wanting to see them was so strong. I felt like I had known these people for years. The conversations came so easily and never felt forced. These strangers whom I had only met a few days ago now felt like family to me in ways I could have never imagined.
These strangers were no longer strangers, but family.