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Young Widows And Widowers Learn To Cope

Evening Edition

Aired 6/27/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests

TJ Anglin, Widowed at age 27

Michele Neff Hernandez, Executive Director and Founder, Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation

Transcript

TJ and Letta Anglin with son Jordan

Young married people, just starting out, are usually said to have their whole lives in front of them. But it doesn't work out that way for everyone.

TJ Anglin, 29, of San Diego knows that first hand.

He met his wife Letta when he was just 11 years old. They eventually got married and had a child. But in 2011, Letta died while giving birth to their second child.

"I felt like an alien," said Anglin.

Since most people don't have to face the death of a partner until later in life, young widows and widowers face special challenges.

"I had a newborn baby and I had trouble adjusting. It was hard trying to find a new normal."

Now, a community of young people who've lost spouses has come together to form the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation and next weekend, its annual conference called Camp Widow will be held in San Diego.

Organizers say the camp will offer hope, support and tools for rebuilding lives instead of cabins and camp fires.

Campers attend a series of workshops with guests speakers and hold discussions to help them navigate the life after the death of a spouse.

The topics range from grieving to remarriage and this year will include discussion for parents of widowed people.

Michele Neff-Hernandez started the organization after experiencing her own loss.

Her husband was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005.

"I didn't have a clue what to do, didn't know any widowed people. There were so many questions, like how long do you wear your wedding ring? Do you sleep in the same bed?"

So, she started traveling the country interviewing widows from all walks of life and a community of widows was born.

The first Camp Widow was held in 2009. Four years later, the organization has launched online and regional programs.

This will be Anglin's second year attending the camp, which he believes is helping him heal.

"You don't heal in isolation, you heal in community."

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