So I am back after my first Weekend Retreat with the American Widow Project. It took me 3.5 years but I am so glad I finally signed up for an event. After Tyler died I started searching online for some kind of help and information on being a widow. AWP was one of the most unique and helpful resources that I came across in my search. I then requested their AWP Pack that they offer free to military widows, that included the documentary that Taryn Davis, the founder of AWP, had made early in her experience.
AWP has been on my radar since the very beginning and they helped me immensely, though it was from afar, they gave me one of the most important things that I needed, to see other military widows LIVING again. They were going beyond just existing. They were smiling, they were traveling, they were going out and sharing their story and hero with others. They were trying new things, pushing past fear and building a new life…..and they were doing it proudly. They were not hiding that they could smile and that they wanted to still live an incredible life after their loss. That meant a lot to me, especially in the early days of my journey. The women I saw became my role models and I was inspired to not hold myself back, but to go do more with my life than I ever had before….and most importantly that I could do all of that and honor Tyler at the same time.
My intentions for the weekend originally were to get more involved and see what it was all about, but I needed it more than I knew. I have been in Nevada a while now and while there are so many great things that have come out of it, I have missed my circle of friends back in Virginia. I had not been to an event with just military widows in a long time and I had never been to one like this. What makes the American Widow Project (www.americanwidowproject.org) so awesome in my opinion, is that it is for military widows, BY military widows. While there are so many scholarship programs out there and some foundations help with the immediate needs after loss (usually financially if you are in a bind), there isn’t much in the way of support like the AWP offers. Really, I don’t think there is anything like the AWP. They fill a very specific niche and I think it is because Taryn, the founder of AWP and a military widow, obviously is aware of where there are gaps.
The Weekend Retreats offer military widows a chance to meet and spend a weekend together in an intimate setting (the group size is limited to ensure this). You get to know everyone, their story and their hero. You have a roommate, which encourages building a relationship and sharing even more. There are activities to help everyone bond and to open up. It is a weekend that encourages healing, true understanding and camaraderie. All these things are SO important. Some widows don’t know any other military widows until they participate in this event. Some finally feel comfortable after having to pretend everything is fine because no one in their life understands. And we all learn from each other’s journey.
I was just amazed that in such a short amount of time I felt completely comfortable and willing to share with all of these amazing women. We all now have a connection and I am sure that we will continue to be in each other’s lives from here on out. I needed this weekend more than I knew. I learned a lot, but overall what was really highlighted was the importance of these kinds of friendships, having the right people in your life, and how necessary it is to give and receive empathy. Experiencing that with other military widows is on a whole different level.
On another note, it is impossible not to be inspired by these women and their heros. To see these women walking the same path as me and identifying with their stories, challenges and victories so much, was incredibly validating and encouraging. It was an amazing experience to receive support and advice from those further out than me and to encourage those that are a little newer in their journey, and to see yourself in both.
I hope you will look into the American Widow Project if you are a military widow looking for support or if you are looking to support a great organization that helps our military. American Widow Project is different to me because they are doing real and tangible things to help our military widows. (www.americanwidowproject.org)
I am so grateful to have had this opportunity this weekend and I am more energized than ever.
Never Give Up,