August 14, 2010

My Turn

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 12:12 am by letterstoelias

The widowed blogs are a blaze with amazing recaps of this past weekend in San Diego at Camp Widow.  I’ve been trying to come up with something equally as eloquent – but it is difficult to explain an experience like that.

I was fortunate to be on the same plane as Jackie on the way there – which, though we couldn’t sit together, it was a comfort to not be alone.  As we came down the elevator at the airport in SD, we were greeted by Matt.  Quite a ‘celebrity’ in the world of widowhood (yes, such a thing exists!  he’s even been on Oprah) – though he would be quick to tell you he’s nothing but an asshole =) (which is the farthest thing from the truth, well, most of the time . . . ).  He carted our bags off to his car, but then we walked right back into the airport to meet Sarah who arrived just after us.  It was great to scream and hug this wonderful person whom I had never met – nor even spoken with on the phone.  We previously only knew each other through blogs and emails – but she’s even WAY better in person =).

Matt treated us all to starbucks and they all realized quickly just how a venti frappucino can actually make me talk more.  It was fun spending time with the three of them – that alone would have made the trip worthwhile as they are all such great people, but we had one more person to pick up.  Next, we met Emily – coming off her first ever flight!  I had not ‘met’ her online previously, but we quickly found out we had something in common, as her husband also died of a brain tumour (though a different kind), and for her it was exactly one year ago.

Once at the hotel, we met Andrea – another wonderful person I was looking forward to meeting after reading her blog – her kids are not far off in age from ours.  Jackie, Andrea, Sarah and I were ‘roomies’, and I was a little shaken when I discovered our room number was ‘422’, but they all agreed this was a good sign that you were here with me.

We spent an hour or so chatting with a few other great new friends by the pool before heading up to register.  This is when the nerves kicked in.  As flattered as I was to be included in the email from Supa about helping others feel at ease who may know me by my blog – having a blog by no means made me more prepared or more at ease.  I was glad to have Sarah with me walking in there.  It was tough.  Heavy.  There is an incredible kinship with the people there – but the reason we were all there is still not an easy one.  And, that first day it was clear to see.

But, one of the other things that helped me through was to see Dan at the registration table.  When I introduced myself, we gave each other a big, teary-eyed hug (at least my eyes were . . .).  Still, I was ready to head back outside pretty quickly, but there wasn’t much time before the welcome reception was to start.

I was still fairly nervous, but was absolutely giddy to find a mashed potato bar there!  Ok, so maybe a little too giddy . . . but it really was amazing!  My own personal heaven.



I was starting to feel a little more comfortable, but I still stuck pretty close to the group that I ‘knew’.  I found Deb (see above potato pic), which was SO great to see her again – I met a few others, but as far as I could tell the ‘blogger’ group didn’t go.  As it was all still a little overwhelming, that was ok by me.

Saturday morning started with a keynote address by Michelle Neff Hernandez.  She is a fantastic woman and speaker – and had us laughing at death jokes no other would dare, and she had us teary eyed seconds later.  We were off to our sessions for the day – the first one I was in, though I didn’t recall that as the one I had picked, was with both Sarah and Andrea (and another great Sarah I had not previously met).  Thankfully so, as 5mins in they asked us to write three things that are keeping us from moving forward with our ‘new’ lives . . . . all I had was one word.

I couldn’t keep the tears back.  There were a few other tough points in that session, but some great ones as well.  Next it was on to a session regarding conjuring up and maintaining memories.  I shared about how you, 3 days before you died, for some reason decided to teach me how to make your amazing salad dressing.  Though we didn’t typically work well together in the kitchen (I was your worst student), on this day it was perfect.  I can still recall the feeling of your hand on my back, and how you would pour in the ingredients while I mixed.  And now, every time I make the dressing I can still feel your hand on my back, and  E always comments on how it’s ‘Daddy’s dressing he taught you to make’.  I later found out I made another new friend, Cathy, cry – though she had vowed not to (sorry Cathy!).

I went to lunch with two wonderful women who were very recently widowed.  For one it had only been two months, and I could see a familiar look in her face that I once wore, so early on after you died.  I could see there, some of the distance I had travelled in this past (almost) 16 months.  I learned from them, and I only hope that perhaps they learned a little something from me as we shared our stories.  No matter how much time has passed, none of us are ‘expert’ widows – and that really is one of the main points of the weekend.  To just be able to connect with people who understand.

After lunch it was an emotional session called ‘Little Tears’ focusing on childhood grief, where I met Mel – who is just awesome, and I later discovered that Wendy was in that session and I also chatted with her in the elevator, though neither of us clued in to who the other was until the conference was over.

The final workshop was on parenting through grief, then we had a brief break to get ready for the banquet.  Sarah and I went for a little walk along the water – though we didn’t see much of it, San Diego seems to be truly a beautiful city (some of it reminded me of Vancouver).

The sessions were great – it was difficult to hit all of the various ‘needs’ in one session as so many of the widow/ers were at different stages or had children of different ages – but I was able to find some value in each session attended.  Something I could take home with me, or, if nothing else, validation that what I am going through/how I am reacting/feeling is normal.  It was also nice to, for once in the last year +, not be ‘the’ widow in the room.  I hate that all these other amazing people have to go through this too, but we are stronger together.  Initiation into the club sucks, but it’s members are fabulous.

The banquet was great.  A few speeches and awards.  I ended up sitting next to yet another woman widowed by a brain tumour (at least five of us there that I know of), her loss only a few months ago.  We were all excited to see Emily become the next recipient of the Liz Logelin foundation  and to tell her we had known all along.  After the banquet (complete with two drunken crashers – some think it was genius, I think it was dumb luck to stumble in on a room full of widows) a number of us headed out to an 80’s night pub/bar, where we sang along with the cover band (ok, it was mostly just Deb and I loudly butchering the songs, but it was a great release), danced and laughed.  To the point of tears, actually, when a poor unknowing bachelor party stumbled upon our ‘widow party’, and when they asked Sarah to sign the bachelor’s sombrero –she so wonderfully signed it with ‘Get Life Insurance’.  They didn’t seem to think it was funny . . . .

Jackie (because she’s one hot mama) attracted a few unbelievable pick-up lines, and I thought we should give ‘So, do you want to be my next dead husband?’ a try.  It was great fun – though I quickly felt very old as, though I didn’t have much of anything to drink, it has been some time since I’ve been out like that and it wore me out.

It was a great, short, couple of days – there were heavy moments and tears and laughter and hugs and fun and sharing.  It would have been nice to have just a little more ‘down time’ between the scheduled events just to chat with people – in many ways I wished I could have stayed longer with this amazing group to whom I don’t have to explain much of anything (I had to leave fairly early on Sunday morning and didn’t get much of a chance to say good-bye to some), but I was missing the girls terribly and ready to see them again.  I wish I could have bottled all those people and that feeling up and brought it home with me.  It’s difficult to explain to others just how valuable it is – without it sounding like I think the supportive people I have at home aren’t doing enough.  But, both groups are incredibly valuable to me, and I need both in my life – desperately.

One of the benefits of going away from the coast, is how much I love coming back.  As the ferry pulls out of the dock I can feel peace creeping up on me. Sailing along past the various coastal islands, covered with trees and dotted with cabins.  The sun shimmering on the water.  Light clouds dusting the tops of the mountains.  Sail boats, motor boats silently cruising around.  Ocean, ocean, ocean.  I know I’m going home.

Watching other mom’s on the ferry, I certainly didn’t miss having to balance my two girls in the cafeteria line up or in the washrooms – but I was sure looking forward to seeing them again and getting their big hugs and kisses.

It was great to get home and receive one of the biggest hugs from E, ever.  I think some of her acting up over the weeks prior may have had to do with some anxiety over me going – but they were great while I was gone and had so much fun I could barely speak to them on the phone – and I am glad for each of us that we got a little break from each other.  As an ‘only’ parent the relationship is just that much more intense, throw in grief on all involved, and it’s a whirlwind.

Since coming home, I’ve felt a bit ‘lighter’.  Some of my patience has returned.  I’m a little less crabby.  I feel a bit refreshed.  And the girls seem a bit easier too (that said – it didn’t take long for the chaos of life to return as on Monday night while I was in the midst of cooking dinner, C broke a plate on the floor and I had to rush her out of the kitchen, try and protect my own feet, clean up the thousand shattered bits of plate and make sure that dinner didn’t burn/overcook).  The girls were both also a bit more expressive about missing you these past few days.  E had a cry, and C was speaking excitedly about you surprising us, and coming in the door (we had been reading a book with a part where a Daddy comes home from work) – then her little face turned once again as she realized it wouldn’t happen.  They miss you so, very much.

It’s also been an insane week getting ready for the grand opening of the store tomorrow – but I’m so very excited about that.  It seems Martin will be the only one from your side making it over, and I’m really glad he’s coming.  So much of why I did this in the first place was because of you, to honour you, so I had hoped your parents could have made it over too.

It should be a fun day though, and I’m really looking forward to it.  I know with my whole heart that you’ll be with me.  I feel your happiness about it.  I sense your pride.  I still wish more than anything you were here in person for it – though I guess, had you been here, it likely wouldn’t have happened.  One of those strange irony’s about this whole thing.

I’m a little worried that once I’m through this weekend and things start to settle into more of a routine, that some of the events from camp will hit me like a tonne of bricks.  We shall see.

I hope this is somewhat coherent – it’s been pieced together from bits here and there I’ve jotted over the past few days.  And, I’m just tired.  I can’t believe it’s not even that late!  So, I’m off to try and get a few more things ready for tomorrow, then bed.  Ahh, sleep.  My long lost friend.


P.S.  I Love You.

and, my word . . . guilt



  1. Dianne said,

    I can only imagine the bittersweet of Camp Widow. So glad you got to connect with others who truly know what you go thru day to day.

    I really wish I would have made plans for Canada for the grand opening of your store. Looking at the next 2 weekends to see what we can work out. Lindsay is beginning week 3 of radiation next week and so far has done great, but we’ll see.

    Zip me an email when you get a chance with the info on which ferry to take from Vancouver and other info necessary to find your little store. Can’t wait…need a mini vacation!

    • letterstoelias said,

      Glad to hear the radiation is going ok – hopefully the last couple weeks will continue as such.

      The current ferry schedule will be changing in early Sept – so once I know the weekend you think you can come I’ll give you the rundown on the schedule at the time you want to come! Can’t wait to meet you in person!


  2. Debbie said,

    Great post Chelsea. I found myself reliving some moments of the weekend and smiling at the memories. I agree with your point : ” I wish I could have bottled all those people and that feeling up and brought it home with me. It’s difficult to explain to others just how valuable it is – without it sounding like I think the supportive people I have at home aren’t doing enough. But, both groups are incredibly valuable to me, and I need both in my life – desperately.” So very true.

    And your point about really feeling like you were home when you were on the ferry really hit me for the opposite reason. I feel that way when I get to the ferry at the start of the summer and definitely don’t feel that when I arrive home. I guess that’s a big sign that I need to make some plans for the future.

    Have a great day today! As I mentioned on Facebook, so many of us are there with you in spirit and cheering you on from all over Canada and the U.S.!!!

    Love Deb

    • letterstoelias said,

      You really are meant to live on the coast Deb! Can’t wait for you to make your way out here . . .


  3. Wendy said,

    Enjoyed reading your recap. I’m really behind on mine:). Good luck with your grand opening!

  4. Dan Cano said,

    I loved meeting you Chelsea. You have such great energy, and a very loud voice. Perhaps you and Deb should do a widows tour of bringing back the 80’s hits, sort of a Widow’s Just Wanna Have Fun Tour.

    I wish you so much luck with your Grand Opening. Yes, we are all there with you in spirit. You know, I miss all of you so much. San Diego doesn’t quite feel the same since Camp Widow left. I didn’t get on a plane to leave. I just climbed into my car, and drove the long 5 minutes home. But, a miracle did happen. My boys put down their Playstation controllers long enough to give me a hug upon my arrival. I haven’t seen them since, but I trust they are around somewhere.

    Love you. Dan

    • letterstoelias said,

      Widow’s just wanna have fun – I love it!


  5. […] would be easy enough to just refer to my ‘recap’ post from last year to explain how great Camp Widow is, but it is so much more.  Difficult to put into words, but, […]

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