“What side of the bed do I sleep on?”
Aged just 35 and with three young children, Michele Hernandez felt alone and bewildered by widowhood when her husband Phillip died in a cycling accident.
As she’d journey through the grief following her bereavement, she had many questions, including about the practical and everyday tasks involved in living when someone you love has died.
“How long do I wear my wedding ring for?”; she wondered.
“What do I do with all of his shoes?”, she’d ask herself.
Inspired to ask – and support others through their loss – she compiled a list of questions and embarked upon a nation-wide journey to meet other widows from around the U.S. and explore how they’d coped with life after loss.
Michele spoke to 30 different widowed people from all walks of life, aged from 22-83 years old. Although she hadn’t set out with the intention of setting up a network, as she visited people in their homes to record their stories; that’s exactly what she did.
The bonds she created were the foundation of what’s become Soaring Spirits International, which now connects over two million widowed people around the world. It’s an online community which provides friendship, understanding, inspiration, and encouragement as people learn to live without their partner.
"Soaring Spirits began as a dream to offer to other widowed people what I myself was seeking in the earliest days of my widowhood...a community,” says Michele.
“Ten years after Soaring Spirits International was founded, we've offered resources, hope and community to over three million widowed people.”
“ I never dreamed that our program would reach so far, but am extremely grateful for every single widowed heart we've touched and for every life-affirming connection Soaring Spirits programs have fostered."
Soaring Spirits not only connects people, but has created grief support programs that have been based on the shared experience of losing a partner.
Every program is designed to offer its members the tools and resources they need to rebuild their lives after the death of a spouse or life partner.
It’s an inclusive space, that’s open to people of all genders and communities, however complicated or conventional their family status, religious beliefs – or non-beliefs.
It encompasses a broad definition of the term ‘widowed,’ identifying it as “anyone who has outlived the person with whom they’d planned to spend the rest of their life with.”
Every Soaring Spirits program is inclusive, secular and life affirming.
Soaring Spirits’ signature program, is Camp Widow, a weekend long event, hosted in the US, two times and year, and Canada, once a year.
This uplifting, life-affirming weekend event planned for widowed people by widowed people has a focus on creating a new future, while honoring the past.
Widowed Village Forum
Soaring Spirits’ Widowed Village Forum is an online community that provides access to other widowed people around the clock, each and every day from the comfort of home.
Widowed Pen Pal
This is a lovely way to connect with another widowed person by email. People who’d like one-on-one supportive e-mail correspondence are matched with someone from the Soaring Spirits community.
Updated daily, contributors to the Soaring Spirits blog share the ups and downs of life after widowhood.
- Read more about coping with grief, or supporting a friend or loved one after a bereavement, in our Help & Resources pages.