Camp Widow

I am still mesmerized.

I joined 300 other women (and a dozen or so men) this past weekend in San Diego for Camp Widow, and was born anew with new hope, with new purpose.  No, everyone didn’t have a box of Kleenex clipped to the end of their sleeves all weekend; we reveled in each others victories and shared raucous laughter.  Yes, there were tears, yet by and large, we were a rowdy group, surprising all the Marriott-ers who looked at our t-shirts, expecting a macabre atmosphere.

We shared how being in a “widow club’ was unique; NO ONE  wants to be in this club! Yet, all members are instantly welcomed and whole-heartedly supported, from day one.

Attendees wore name tags with ribbons affixed at the bottom, identifying how long they’d been widowed — 0-6 months, 1 year + 0-6 months, etc. One widower I met had only been widowed 11 weeks!

After, “hi, I’m Amy” came the immediate question, “how did you husband/wife/partner die?”  And the sharing began.  Not much small talk the entire weekend;  no time for that.  Here, people wanted to hear the story, and weren’t embarrassed or overwhelmed by the tragedy.  This was space in which to BE with each other; gather around workshop titles that would comfort and/or guide; share lunch, dinner or drinks into the night with new-found friends, bonding with arbitrarily chosen room-mates — the majority of whose husbands died in similar circumstances!   Wow!

I sat at a dinner banquet table with 6 widows and 1 widower, ages 20, 22, 33, 35, 37, 40 and 41!  Years ago, I was shocked to read that the average age of widowhood statistic is 52; it is these very young widows who shape that statistic.

How did I, a non-widow, get invited into such a sacred space, you may well wonder?  I have provided asset management and financial planning for dozens of widows and several widowers over the last 33 years; giving them step-by-step guidance in how to manage their finances while grieving.  A horrible mixture by any definition, which is why I recommend planning ahead, of course.

I was invited to speak at Camp Widow to both identify important next steps for new widows to take, as well as educate women about their money and WISE investing.  I drew analogies so that women understood the long-term nature of the stock market, comparing it to raising a child over the years.  I asked if everyone was “happy” with their child (or any child they knew if they weren’t a mother) every minute of every day?  When the laughter died down (every pun intended–there was a lot of gallows humor there) I explained that for us to view the stock market with short-term glasses, or measure our performance in the stock market with a 6″ ruler, was as silly and non-productive as attempting to track, measure and emote about our child’s every mood or action.  The light bulbs began to illuminate; the smiles emerged and we were onto the real work–setting our individual goals.  I helped them get started with goal sheets, categorized by personal, professional, family, etc. so that we could get the pens writing, details to be inserted later.

Women and money have often been sparring partners–in each others’ space–yet somehow not in each others’ corners.  I’m out to change that!  I’m passionate about identifying steps and strategies on investing for beginners, many of whom are women.

Realizing how little I retain when I leave any workshop room, I decided to write a book entitled New Widow Financial Lifeline: Practical Next Steps with pages to note goals–assets, debts, etc.  Don’t let the size surprise you; it’s small enough to fit in most purses or briefcases, yet PACKED with salient info and encouraging anecdotes along the way.  It has already been an invaluable reference book, providing helpful websites, valuable phone numbers, etc. and just good old common sense–something we women are hard wired with.  Missed Camp Widow?  No problem, haul on over to Kindle/Amazon and grab your own copy now!  Then write me with what I may have missed….I’m all ears!

God Speed!