Why you might consider bringing a party dress with you to Camp Widow (At least, if you are a girl, lady, or woman, or someone who identifies as one of those)
It’s hard to explain why I am in the market for a pair of silver high heels. Am I really going to feel like dancing at Camp Widow -- a “grief retreat”?
Well, I may or may not — but Kim put in an advance request to the gala DJ for some Chaka Khan, so there’s a good chance I’ll shake some tail feathers (note to self: pack tail feathers).
Yes, there will be a lot of crying at this conference. Everyone attending will, like me have lost their spouse or partner. Workshops will tackle every subject in grief, loss, and adjustment. But I am excited to attend an art workshop and one in writing as a way of healing.
More than 200 widows and widowers… men and women, of all ages (right now, folks aged 21 to 83 are registered!). Couples who were married or unmarried, gay and straight, divorced or “complicated.” People actively raising children, empty nesters, and couples who didn’t have children are represented in almost equal numbers. Folks who’ve lost someone just this summer… and those who are ten years out and more. You’ll hear about their losses, about their loves, and their selves, and you’ll see that they all have coped differently.
Camp Widow is a little bit, for the grieving soul in me, like “coming home.” And what an opportunity to be out, to be real. It can be beyond overwhelming to see and meet so many others who’ve been there, others who are “there” now, and people who are through it — who’ve gone beyond mere survival to flourish. Many attendees will find out they’re not crazy, or that they are doing pretty well. Some will have the experience of reaching out a hand to someone else and with that step… understanding their own path a little better.
Grieving people don’t have many chances to show how they feel (though we may do so unwittingly by staying home most of the time) — to live our souls in all their richness, the dark and light showing equally. Unlike when we’re out in the “real” world, at Camp Widow, we can’t hide. When no one expects you to hide your feelings, you might not even want to hide. You might even wish to shine. Something about belonging in that way — about that rare experience of deep freedom — might just make you want to boogie.
Sparkles are on my agenda because I had one regret last year. At Camp Widow 2010, my first time there, I wore a new outfit — a very “daytime” outfit because I was keyed up about speaking, hate shopping, and don’t have many clothes that fit me after the “ups and downs” of being a mom, grieving, and now being happily remarried.
That evening, after a long day of workshops and friendships, I was surrounded by comrades and allies, and there were drinks.
I looked nice enough (although I discovered I have back fat). I could have danced in my sensible shoes, but what about black wedge mary janes makes you want to dance? NOTHING.
I didn’t think I’d need a party dress. I didn’t dream I deserved a whole second brand new outfit. Didn’t Thoreau tell us to “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”? I shouldn’t have been so cautious. I minded being a little dull that evening (plus my toe hurt). That’s my regret.
Something about that rare place and time where you can “come as you are” — a chance to relax without denying all your stresses, to work on rebuilding your “wild and precious” life — is in itself a celebration. And that is the element of Camp Widow that I find the hardest to explain to people.
Maybe this should be the motto: “Camp Widow: the grief retreat where you should bring a party dress.”
So pack something spangly and see how you feel, okay?