So last weekend I went to Camp Widow. It was something that took me way outside of my comfort zone, but like most other things that I have done that have been outside my comfort zone, I am really glad I pushed past my anxieties and went! Its a weird thing to talk about – a conference for Widowed people, and it was hard to explain what it would be like before I went. I had one person suggest it would be like some kind of orgy – It was definitely not that!
Essentially Camp Widow was a 2 1/2 day conference, held in the city, for widowed people. It is run by a support group that is based on a similar program in America. It was as you would expect, heavily female dominated – I think out of the 200 people there only about 6 were men. People came from all over including all parts of Australia, New Zealand (1), the UK (1) and the USA (4). We shared drinks, meals, classes and all sorts of conversation about all sorts of things – but predominantly death and grief, our process and our people. It was a super positive experience and I am so glad I pushed myself to go. It was insanely emotional – both my own emotions and those of the other people there, and with all that emotion came extreme exhaustion (I was in bed and asleep by 6pm Sunday night); but it really felt like I was not alone in my journey.
In my friendship groups, at least those friends from “before”, I am the first one to find myself in this situation of being Widowed (Have I mentioned how much I hate that word?! ….. I really HATE that word!) I often feel like I am being watched and judged and used like some kind of case study -I also know that some of this is me being hypersensitive; and I know that would probably do the same if it was a friend in this place. I get that people imagine what it would be like and how they would feel and process it all – I have done the same thing about/to friends going through a separation or divorce; but when it is you that everyone is watching, it can all be a bit much sometimes.
At the conference, I was just me. I was not anything special, just one in the crowd of many… and in so many ways it was almost a relief! My story was not the most awful – in fact I keep coming back to how lucky I’ve been. Some of the stories told were just so, so hard to hear – and while my/our story is horrible and devastating for us, there are so many things that would be so much worse to live with and harder to accept. It feels really bad to say that and I know you absolutely shouldn’t compare grief, but it is a human thing to do it and it made me feel somehow better (and I know again that is not the right word!).
In some ways I feel like I am light years ahead of some of the people there with things I have done and the emotional processes that I have gone through, and in so many others I am still right at the beginning. What I have realised – and I do try to tell myself all the time, but sometimes forget – is that it is all Ok. I can only do what feels possible and right on any given day. There is no magic potion that will make me feel better, and wake me up form this nightmare. All I can do is take one day at a time – sometimes an hour at a time, and everyone around me just has to suck that up too. There is no right or wrong, it just “is what it is”, and while I am alone on my journey, I am not alone grieving. I have a community of both old and new people around me that love and support me, and I am lucky and grateful to have you all in my world.