“Why are you going to hang out with a bunch of sad, depressed people?”

Widows/widowers – especially those beyond the one year mark – are often chided by friends and family for continuing to be associated with “depressing groups”. But, widow meet ups aren’t the typical ‘sit around in a circle and cry’ type meetings one might expect. From brunch gatherings to exotic getaways to the tropics, widow groups are shattering stereotypes.

It’s Great To Be With Others Who Get It

If we’re being honest, it sucks being the third or fifth wheel. Don’t get me wrong. At a time when widows often complain about not being included at all, we appreciate the invite. The truth is though, being with other couples can make the magnitude of our loss that much more difficult. Yes, we’ll take you up on your offer to hang out, but we often fight through tears to be in the moment and not let thoughts of our spouse not being there ruin the evening.

At a meet up designed especially for the widowed community, everyone totally gets what it means to be “solo”. Plus, when we’re having those “John would have loved this” moments, our fellow widows can relate, which immediately makes us feel connected and less alone.

“I went to the YW&D meet up in Chicago and I can honestly say it was the best birthday I’ve had in years. It’s been six years since my LH died and although I’ve lost a lot along the way, last July was horrible because many significant people made an exodus out of my life. It was like losing my husband all over again. During that time many significant people also entered my life primarily from the YW&D group. Chicago gave me an opportunity to spend quality time with true friends who “get it” and were willing to sit with me in the dark when I couldn’t see the bright side. A year later, I now see that the people and things I lost were necessary for me to move forward. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I also think it takes a small village to support a widow back to wholeness. I’m thankful for these people for being a part of my village.” – LaTisha

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You’ll Be A Better Parent

With the loss of a spouse, we automatically become only parents. We don’t have the luxury of coordinating our schedules with anyone else’s when it comes to doctors’ appointments, sporting events or school activities. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in caregiving duties that we neglect ourselves. Our priority is our children and there is nothing wrong with that. We do, however, need to make sure our health isn’t suffering.

Part of self-care is taking an occasional mental break. Everyone, regardless of responsibilities, needs “me time” to recharge mentally and physically. I’m a firm believer in the expression, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. We can only give the very of ourselves to others when we have an overflow – enough for us and extra to give away.

Being with others in the widowed community is great for the soul. You’ll be inspired by others who may be further along in their journey (proof that you will get through the dark days) and even touch someone with your own story. There is healing in being with others who understand the pain of losing a spouse.

“I was a little nervous about leaving my daughter for longer than a night and putting out family for a weekend to meet strangers by myself. At this point in my grief/life, I felt a push to step out of my comfort zone, do something for myself and just do it. I was greeted with love and acceptance from people genuinely interested in my story. It was an awesome weekend of bonding, food, and fun! I came home with a full heart and friends who were no longer strangers.” – Autumn

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Seriously, What Else Do You Have Planned?

Widowhood is like kryptonite to one’s social life. Friday nights typically involve Ben and Jerry and I don’t mean the hot guys from work. I’m talking Ben & Jerry’s ice cream! We’re relegated to the couch or curled up in bed while binge-watching our favorite shows. Besides work and chauffeuring the children back and forth to school, soccer, and cheerleading, we hardly leave the house.

Come on!  Locate a widow group in your city – or even the one over – and find out the date for their next meet up. So what if you don’t know them? Just be sure the meeting is in a public location like a restaurant. I guarantee they’ll welcome you with open arms into the club that no one wants to be part of. You won’t regret having gone to the event. If fact, you’ll be getting details for the next one even before leaving!

“What an honor to come together with fellow young widows and widowers who understand loss and know how to have fun! The friendships that were formed and built upon are very important to me. The memories we made together will last a lifetime!” – Ann

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You’ll Find Your Tribe

If you’re fortunate, you haven’t been abandoned by friends and in-laws. You were surrounded by people willing to walk with you as you navigated what was probably the most difficult time of your life. Unfortunately for many in the widowed community, the death of a spouse also meant the loss of some relationships. Friends and family we swore would never walk away ended up doing just that. Whether it was because we’re “too sad”, spent insurance money how WE saw fit, or moved on “too quickly”, relationships were severed.

Even if you have a best friend who stood by your side from Day 1, there is something to be said about talking to another widow who understands your loss. She gets why the “You’re so strong” comments irk you so. She knows the stigma tied to having a spouse die by suicide. She understands the challenges of being ostracized by in-laws who somehow blame you for the death.

As one widow pointed out, “Perhaps we might not have been friends because we have so little in common outside of our grief, but I’ve never felt more connected to another group of people than to my widowed community. They understand me even more than my friends and family.”

“I met my laugh quota this weekend. Sometimes laughter truly is the BEST medicine for the soul. The entire event was so connecting, fulfilling and therapeutic, mixed with a little bit of wrong and a whole lot of right. None of it felt forced or difficult. I felt like I had found my long lost clan and it was a homecoming celebration. There were tears and stories shared among strangers that felt like siblings. For the first time ever I didn’t wince or dance around any of my feelings or sharing my grief experience. It was so different from sharing with those lucky people whose life is still intact with spouses. You know when you drop the widow bomb and it is awkwardly silent. With this group, we didn’t feel the repeated desire to say ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’ or any of those pat responses. We heard responses like, ‘Me too’ and ‘I completely understand’. Today, just two days after the meet up, is the anniversary of my husband’s plane crash. Half of the day is gone and I have not received one text or phone call from my family, but I woke up to several people from the group and my therapist checking on me. True friends!”

Mom to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

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