~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

Camp Widow East 2013: The Same and Yet So Different

All Camp Widow East 2013 attendees. Hope Matters!
(Official Camp Widow photo courtesy of Soaring Spirits International.)

So...I had internet access issues for several weeks recently (long story); that's why I haven't posted much lately and why I'm only now posting my overall report on Camp Widow East (which was over a month ago). So, without further ado:

Camp Widow was different this time...and also the same. The "different" part will make sense later. The "same" part is...this was my 4th Camp (so hard to believe), and they're starting to run together in my mind. Never thought that would happen.

This time, I didn't know for a long time if I'd be able to go. For the first few months of this year, I wasn't sure I'd be retaining my job, due to changes at the company. Fortunately, in the meantime, I've kept it, but back in March, I didn't know if I'd be able to afford Camp. Well, enter...an anonymous donor. One evening during the second week March, Michele Neff Hernandez, the head of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation and Camp Widow director, messaged me on Facebook to tell me someone had anonymously donated specifically for me  a registration and 2 nights' stay in the hotel. I was absolutely floored...and soon in tears. Though I have my suspicions, I don't really know who this donor was. So I can only put a huge "Thank you!" out into the universe...and find ways to pay it forward.

Another amazing means of help came the night before I was set to leave. After all sorts of talk with the SSLF car pool coordinator (cool, huh?) about things like picking someone up in Charlotte of all places and after a plan with a widow sister from Indiana to ride together (but miss parts of the event), the coolest thing happened. That night I thought, "I should check Widowed Village." That turned out to be fortuitous: a friend had messaged me there saying a widow in my area was driving all the way there the next day. Also fortuitous: that same widow, Beth, came into the chat room shortly thereafter. We started chatting, and pretty soon we'd agreed that she'd pick me up in the morning. All I had to do was pay for a tank of gas. So that is what we did...and we had a good time in the car getting to know each other. Plus--no missing any part of the event. So cool!

Here are some of the highlights/things I remember most from this Camp:
  • The Widowed Village gathering on Thursday night, which I'm so glad I got to attend. After the previous Camp, I realized there were a bunch of WV people I hadn't met...and only after the fact did I also learn they'd had a gathering! So it was good to connect in person with more of them this time.
  • Debra Morrison is awesome. Well, I knew that already. Her session was about how passive investing is better than active investing (something else I knew already). But what I really loved about it was seeing how Debra speaks to and looks out for those who like her are widowed but who may not be financially savvy...and who other less-principled financial advisors might prey on. If I ever decide to get over my wimpiness about money, Debra's wisdom is the first place I'll turn.
  • Audrey Pellicano's session Healthy Living After Loss. A couple of things, both unexpected, from this session stand out: first was how the guided imagery she led us through affected me. I'm half skeptical/half open to stuff like that, but--damn, this made the emotions well up so strong and so fast, it floored me. For some reason I tend think that at 8+ years out, I'm not going to get "so" emotional about it anymore. Wrong. Second was how I have started to think I should take up yoga, after I felt so...loose and, I don't know, different--in a good way--after the few yoga moves she had us do. Me, considering yoga. Whoa.

    (Official Camp Widow photo courtesy of Soaring Spirits International.)
  • Michele's (always-excellent) keynote address. This time the theme was: Instead of thinking of life after widowhood as "Plan B," choose to create a "new Plan A." Keep your arms open to life. Can be so hard to do, but...so necessary.

    (Official Camp Widow photo courtesy of Soaring Spirits International.)
  • The unexpectedly-different-this-time roundtable discussion for those Widowed and Not Legally Married. Usually we have a more facilitated discussion, but this time we just went around and told our stories. Also different: I'd only met one of the people in that room before. While I'm never glad when there are new unwedded widows, it was good to get to know those people.
  • Becoming friends with some of those unwedded widows, especially Tanya Villanueva Tepper. Tanya's fiance Sergio Villanueva was a firefighter who was killed on 9/11.

  • Tanya's session about grief over time. Tanya was one of several people that documentary filmmakers followed for several years after 9/11. They made the film Rebirth. She was able to get just her portions of the film put into a single clip, which she showed in the session. I don't have words adequate to describe the effect it had on me. The emotion welled up so strong that I was a mess for a couple hours afterwards; in fact I had to leave early from the session following it and go lay down for awhile. Simply profound.

  • Chatting with Steve Cunningham and Veronica King Cunningham and attending their session Love in the Aftermath (which incidentally is also the name of Steve's blog). Steve and Vee (as she is commonly called) are one of the couples who help me have hope for finding love again.

  • Meeting Jodi Hutchinson, an intuitive health consultant. We had a great conversation of just sharing our stories, and she affirmed my thinking about a health condition I believe I have (I'll be blogging about that soon).
  • The banquet (where this happened).

    (Official Camp Widow photo courtesy of Soaring Spirits International.)
  • And, as always...connecting with other widows!--renewing existing friendships and making new ones. Here's me and my new friend Orla Green. She's from Ireland, has 12 (!) children, and is both a riot and an absolute sweetheart:

But the most different thing of all was: I detected a shift in my feelings about Camp Widow...not to the negative, mind you! I think it's just that I don't need it in quite the same way I once did. I started noticing this shift when I realized toward the end that, while I didn't want it to be over, I wasn't devastated that it was over.

Do you know how weird all of that is?

Anyway, at the very least, I know that I need to not just "take" from Camp Widow anymore. It's beyond time to start giving back. (I'm already working on one way to do that; so stay tuned!) 

I'm excited that I'm finally to the point where I know that I can be of real service to others in this community. New Plan A, indeed.


  1. So, so glad you had this rich, deep experience!!!
    See you soon!

  2. Hi Connie,
    I just happened upon your blog, it's wonderful.
    I want to thank you so much for writing such a lovely post about my workshop. Hope you were able to find a yoga class that works for you.

    See you March 2014.

    Be well,
    Audrey Pellicano


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