Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kindred Spirits

peer group
Originally uploaded by

No, this is not a photo of a group of us, nor is it San Diego, but it speaks to the feeling I get when I think of the friendships I have developed in the widowed community.

Last night I went out for a drink with a large group of people at the Camp. Upon returning back to the hotel, I picked up my laptop, and settled into a sofa in the lobby. I was writing last night's post when the last of the group were returning to the hotel as well. A couple of the women noticed me, and came over to talk, surprised that I would be sitting there writing. This was maybe around 1:30am, and indicative of these late night conversations, we began discussing many very personal aspects of widowhood that don't often get discussed. Both of these women seemed to both have a wickedly dark sense of humor, as do I. We talked about ourselves, and asked probing questions that had been on our mind.

I love it when I find myself in a situation like this, as it allows the direction of the conversation to take on a life of it's own. Somehow when it is late at night, it is far easier to let your guard down, and talk about your weakness and frailties. And as is usually my experience, I am having this conversation with two straight women. But because I sensed that they were kindred spirits, I was able to talk free of judgement, and welcome their questions, no matter how personal. It was refreshing.

During these days of trauma and grief, we need to be open to expand our definition of compatibility. We need to recognize that while it is always valid to seek out the type of people we think we need in our lives, there are times when we are so deeply wounded that our prior list of contacts just won't fit the bill. For me, during this past year, and throughout this past weekend, I found myself immersed in conversation with so many people, hearing their stories, and speaking about mine. I was able to reach across the chairs to recognize that the direction of our stories were taking a similar turn.

There were several conversations that led to a slow recognition that our spouses had died of the same type of cancer. It brought us so much closer, with that clear sense of knowing. I was also able to have a one on one conversation with another widower about my loss, his loss, our experience in the days since our loss, and where we currently find ourselves. We both reached the conclusion that should we return to the Camp next year, that we need to facilitate a gathering of other men to have a similar discussion.

Back to my two new late night friends. It felt like such a relief to have that type of a release. A release of our pain, and of our self doubt. A release of our worries. A release of our hidden desires. A release of our times of vulnerability. Our bodies tired, our eye lids feeling heavy, we continued through the night, finally ending our conversation at 4:30am. I don't know when I will see these women again. I don't know when I will see this widower again. I don't know when I will have the opportunity to sit with widows and compare experiences in dealing with the brain cancer of our husbands. I don't know when I will again see my now quite close blogger friends.

I do know this. I am blessed. I am blessed with having these kindred spirits around me. They circle my heart in times of pain, they offer support when I need to talk, and they laugh when I need to express my sick sense of humor. It is my hope tonight that each of you have, or will find, kindred spirits of your own. And know that I am one already in your back pocket.


  1. Dan,

    In real time, you are the incredibly sensitive, thoughtful and amazing person you are on this blog. It was truly a pleasure to meet you and spend time with you. As one of those Canadian chicks mentioned in your previous blog (at least I'm assuming I am - but we know what assuming does :) ), I want to send the love right back to you. I am counting on "same time next year" and I look forward to continuing our support of one another as we both progress in our journey.

    You are a blessing to all of us who are lucky to call you our friend. Sleep well, my friend.

    Love Deb

  2. Thank you, Dan, for your last 2 posts. They as usual were honest and wise.
    I am presently in Morro Bay, hunkered down in a motel room having time to myself. It seems funny to sit in a motel room with the curtains drawn when a whole new world is outside my door, but it is what I need - quiet solitude. I have been on the road now for 12 days - 10 of them with my daughter, so I am needing quiet, me time.
    I am pretty sure that I unconsciously sabatoged any chance of getting to Camp widow for that reason. I am not ready to be in large groups and I am not celebrating anything. It is only 5.5 months for me and I am still pretty fragile. I admire your sensitivity to see that in others.

    I am glad to hear that you made some kindred connections. It is important to be able to meet and be met by others that truly understand our experiences. That is why I have been reading widow blogs and have started my own blog to process my thoughts and feelings. I have no live, in real time, widow/ers in my life. I will be joining a bereavement group in the fall. . . .
    Peace to you and yours,
    PS - I have thought of you a couple of times in the last 2 days. First, I saw people out on their boogie boards in Monterey Bay. Of course, the "I love to boogie" song was running through my mind! Second, I passed through Big Sur today. I know that Big Sur has a lot of meaning for you and Michael and I was holding you both in my thoughts as I passed through that beautiful area.

  3. Deb, you too are a blessing to me, and to many others. I love your spunk and enthusiasm. I can see that so much of your energy goes into truly loving those around you. It was so good to spend time together this weekend, and yes, I too look forward to same time next year.

    Dorthea, I am so impressed by your venturing out and traveling. I'm glad to hear that you recognize what it is you need right now, and that you are taking good care of yourself. You touched my heart by mentioning your drive through Big Sur. Yes, it holds so much for me, because it held so much for Michael. It is simple messages like yours that can mean the world to someone like me.


  4. Before I leave a comment, here's a message for Dorthea. Just checking to make sure that you got the emails with info about traveling to Arizona and northward. If not, let me know.

    Now, back to this post. Dan, I'm glad that you, Deb, and others had a chance to get together over the weekend. I do think it's important to make connections with those who understand where we are coming from, and where we are in our grief process. In real life I have not been in that position over the past two years, but did meet a woman who lost her son about 4 years ago - this was a chance meeting and we talked for about half an hour about how we dealt with the loss by working on an all-consuming project. It was interesting to compare notes on how we both handled our grief in a similar way. I have not met anyone in person who did the traveling thing I've done - but now there are others "on the road" and that is interesting to see. I did get an email from a widowed man who travels. He read my blog and then wrote once to tell me his story.

    For many of us, being widowed is a very solitary road. I think that anything that brings us together, be it a conference, a support group, or our blogs or other writings, helps us to make connections with others who understand what we are going through. At times, I think we need some kind of validation - that we have every right to feel as we do, act as we do, and so on. In the first year of so after I lost Don, I was met by so much misunderstanding - in particular, a couple of people who, at 3 months out, gave me such a time by pressuring me to "get over it" and to stop taking refuge in my room in the evenings. Looking back on that time, now I wish I'd just kicked their sorry asses out of my life. (-:

    Anyhow, I'm glad there are ways for us to connect, in person, or on the net. It's all good.

  5. Dan,
    It was great to meet you and I certainly hope to spend more time with you next year. This was my second year and I was sad to have to leave everyone. Camp Widow seems like the one true place where we can really be ourselves .... wicked humor and all. :)

  6. It's wonderful that you feel that kind of support. I have met one person in this blogging world who experienced a very similar situation & her support has been wonderful.

    However, I have come to the conclusion that I somehow don't seem to "fit in." Other attempts to reach out to people in a similar situation have thus far been met with silence. I'm not a "traditional" widow. We were not married. And I don't blog exclusively about my grieving process. I couldn't. Just three weeks prior to Brent's death, we had learned that I was pregnant. So, while I have been grieving, I have also been preparing to welcome life into this world. It's an odd combination. Bittersweet. On top of that I couldn't really be as open on my blog about my grieving as I would have liked, since - unfortunately - someone in the circle of my family reached the conclusion that I was mentally ill & started making threats. In their mind I was grieving the loss of someone who had been "just my boy-friend." They felt I should have really been over it "by now" - with "by now" translating into a week after his death at the time. And then came the comments that it would probably be best, under the circumstances, to have an abortion.

    I'm glad you found support in talking to people who "have been there." I imagine it must feel comforting.