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Matt and I were together for 10 wonderful years - met in 1998, married in 2002, until his untimely death on November 15, 2008. We have two beautiful, healthy children - Jacob (born 5/04) and Sydney (born 5/07)... the most precious gifts he could have ever given me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Defining "widowhood"

Those who have been reading my blog for any amount of time know that I have been involved with a group called Soaring Spirits which is a top-noch organization for widowed people. They bring people together who have suffered the life-altering loss of the person they intended to spend their rest of their life with. "Diverse, inclusive, and secular" are some of the words they use to describe themselves. Positive, happy, full of love, and non-judgmental are just a few more words to describe them... I've been involved with Soaring Spirits right from the very beginning - merely months out of widowhood - and they have helped me and so many others immeasurably. I've also had the opportunity to give a little back to them in different ways over the years. I've made lifelong friends through them as well.

In addition to Soaring Spirits, I have become a member of a few other Facebook groups that also deal with the issue of widowhood - one is specifically for the younger set, one is for people with young children. I had also recently joined a local group from a different website (the only local group I could find) that was relatively new that I was so excited to find. I suggested to the organizer that he create a Facebook page since Facebook offers a much easier platform for the members to communicate than the original site they were on. I was worried members' messages would be easily missed - especially in a time of need. Messages would spontaneously delete halfway through typing them which made it frustrating and discouraging to communicate at all. He was very receptive to that idea and needed help setting it up, and I was happy to assist. I had only been a member for a couple of weeks at that point, and not very active because I was having such a hard time with the original site. 

While creating the Facebook page, I was also asked to assist with membership approval. At that point, I began to learn that inclusion into the group was likely limited to only those who were in a "traditional" marriage. My heart sank. As gently as I could, I suggested that unless the group is titled something more specific and that intent is made known upfront, I felt they should include anyone that has lost the person they expected to spend the rest of their life with - married or not. That kind of loss (aside from losing a child) is possibly the worst pain anyone can experience. If I am going to be involved in membership approval, I could not, in good conscience, turn anyone away grieving that loss. Unfortunately, that suggestion was received with ambivalent reluctance, and no clear decision was made, which made me believe he wasn't open minded to that idea. 

At that point, another member of the group also wanted to talk to me, quoting from the Bible for probably a solid ten minutes to give evidence of their now more obvious intention of excluding certain potential members. I ended up giving her a little speech that went something like this:

"I believe that God loves everyone. I use cuss words, had sex outside of marriage, and will do it again, am close friends with a psychic medium, and have many gay friends, so if we're going to be selective about who is allowed into the group, then I probably shouldn't be allowed in it, either. The only thing I seem to have going for me is that I have a piece of paper that shows I was legally married."

I was actually surprised by the words spilling out of my mouth, but confess that I probably enjoyed saying them just a little too much! I kinda wish I could have seen her face on the other end of the phone.

I believe everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs, religions, and lifestyles - if I felt otherwise, I would be a hypocrite since I believe I'm entitled to mine, too; as long as no one is pushing them on others or hurting anyone. I do have a problem with it when it interferes with helping people who need it and are seeking help (here comes in the "hurting" factor). I don't expect everyone to agree with me on this issue, either. The difference is, I'm not being sneaky about my intentions or beliefs - I'm being completely honest and making them crystal clear, and if anyone thinks I am off base, they don't need to read any further if they so choose.

I have since quietly backed away from the group, feeling a bit guilty for the few members that have so far been allowed in that may not necessarily share the same knowledge or belief about possibly excluding other potential members who need this community... I would so love to become a Soaring Spirits Regional Leader and provide all of our local widowed people with all the incredible benefits that organization has to offer, but I just can't make a commitment of two meetings a month when I don't have guaranteed childcare at this point, and so many other things on my plate (one of which I will be posting about very soon!).

So for now, I'll just continue doing what I've been doing - be the "go-to" person that people who know me come to when they learn of a friend or family's loss. I have resources, friendship and compassion that I'm happy to provide, including a vast network of other widowed people to call upon, thanks to Soaring Spirits.

Ironically, just after this incident, a different (much larger) Facebook group dealt with this very issue. I was so happy and relieved to see that the vast majority of the people replying also defended the group's position to be all-inclusive. 

Loss is loss. Pain is pain. Love is love. It's not complicated. 


Merritt Weisenburger said...

Preach it, woman! Love you.

Andrea Renee said...

I love you, too, Merritt!! XOXO =)

Darla Wentz said...

Well said!

Dana said...

Bravo! I, too, wish I could have seen the face at the other end of the phone. So well said! Love is love and loss is loss. I love you and am honored to know you and all the support you give back to those hurting from loss. <3!

Andrea Renee said...

Thank you so much, Dana! That whole last sentence in your comment is EXACTLY how I feel about you. Love you, too! XOXO

Andrea Renee said...

Darla - thank you, too! <3

Anonymous said...

Good for you!