~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

Dear Mayor

San Diego mayor Bob Filner has announced that he will declare June 28 (the first day of Camp Widow West 2013) Camp Widow Day! While that might not sound like the biggest deal, it could very well have positive outcomes not immediately apparent. (You'll see what I mean below.)

Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, which puts on Camp Widow, has asked those who've benefitted from it to e-mail their thanks to the mayor. I have done so...and I thought I'd share that letter here as well:
Dear Mayor Filner,

Thank you so much for declaring June 28 Camp Widow Day!

I love that Camp Widow is getting this kind of recognition not just because this event has come to mean so much to me but also because: the more people who know about widowed support, the better.

Michele Neff Hernandez, founder of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation and creator of Camp Widow, has spoken publicly about how she continually battles the stereotype that many in the media have regarding the widowed and discussing widowhood: that widows are solely little old ladies with rocking chairs, knitting, and grandchildren--and that talking about widowhood is only depressing. In a sense, one can hardly blame them: our culture simply does not deal well or even much at all with death and grief.

But here's the thing: it doesn't just happen to elderly women. It doesn't just happen to women. It doesn't just happen to married people (I myself am an unwedded widow). It doesn't just happen to straight people. Far too often people in these situations have their loss minimized and their relationship dismissed...as if somehow it doesn't mean as much just because one of these other factors was true. As one who's been told over and over that I am not really a widow because my fiance and I were not married when he passed, I could not appreciate Soaring Spirits' inclusiveness more.

And yes, clearly, a depressing thing has happened to us--among the most depressing things that can happen to a person. But the end of our partner's life doesn't have to mean the end of our own as well...as much as it can feel like it, for a long time. That is where Camp Widow comes in: to tell those on this journey, "You are not alone. Others are walking this road with you. And those of us who are farther along, we'll light the candle of hope for you until you can light it for yourself." That is precisely what Camp Widow was instrumental in doing for me. Besides which, the bond between widowed people is like nothing else. When you've all survived the worst, when you can speak your loved one's name without worry that the other person will be uncomfortable, when you "get" each other and don't have to explain...well, that's like gold.

Mayor Filner, your declaration can help to dispel these myths and to spread the word that help and hope are out there. and for that I thank you very much. As far as I'm concerned, if even one person who could benefit from it hears about Camp Widow (and other forms of widowed support) through this declaration, then every single bit of effort that went into the declaration will be worth it.

I have family who have lived in San Diego for many years, so I've been to your fair city many times--and love it. Now...I love it even more.

Photo source: City of San Diego - http://www.sandiego.gov/home/graphics/photomayor.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30688829

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