Last year, my grief was still a raw and gaping open wound. Steve had been dead six months. I had recently restarted nursing school, Zoe was just beginning to process her own grief, and I was still recovering from a bout of the flu that was so severe it nearly sent me to the hospital. Honestly, I was exhausted and running on fumes. Our experience at CROH that year was so healing and supportive, and so terribly, terribly necessary at that point in our lives.
This year two other widows and I (who had all met last year at CROH) noted how far we had come in twelve months. We were still angry, sad, and grieving, but damn if we weren’t moving through life, starting to laugh again, to bring laughter to our grief (because sometimes that is just what you have to do), and even starting to enjoy life again. We talked about how much our children had grown, what was easier now and what still hurt like hell, and about the difference a little time and distance can make. We also talked about how we were now in a place within our grief where we could actually reach out and support others, a concept that seemed impossible a year prior.
On the second day of Camp I had the privilege of offering a writing/journaling workshop with Emily Swartz, a dear friend and fellow writer and widow. We brought some readings and writing prompts, and were prepared to talk a little about how writing had helped us with our own grief. We had journals (generously purchased by the Hospice Volunteers of the Waterville Area) and mandalas for folks to color. We worried whether people would come. We worried if we would have enough to offer them.
The sign-up sheet was full. More participants showed up than we had materials for. We gathered together in a circle and talked. I passed around a copy of Mary Oliver’s “Heavy.” We read and laughed and cried. Some who had never journaled before seemed excited at the prospect, some who had been away for a while vowed to revisit it, and others spoke of the therapeutic nature of getting words on the page. Some folks read their responses aloud, others sat quietly with their words, but everyone seemed perhaps a little more peaceful for the experience.
The next day we all participated in a short ceremony honoring the loved ones that we had lost and said our goodbyes. We made plans to connect, plans to stay in touch, plans to see each other in the same place next year.
I can tell you with great certainty, I’m already looking forward to it.