During a meet and greet for the presenters of Camp Widow West 2013, I had the honor of meeting fellow widow, Dr. Carrie Neel West, who was at camp to collect data via a survey she put together regarding the effectiveness of Camp Widow as a healing tool for the widowed community. When she told me she might be interested in showing Rebirth to her Family Communications class at Schreiner University, I told her I would gladly Skype in and talk to the kids afterward if she thought it would make a difference.
While I had previously spoken on panels to members of the mental health community at a film festival and trauma conference hosted by Vinfen in Boston, and to widows who attended my workshop at Camp Widow, I had never spoken directly to students who were too young to fully understand the impact of September 11th. When Carrie reached out to me in late October to see if I was still willing to talk to her class, I nervously accepted (in all honesty I never thought she’d call, lol). She said they would see the film two days before my Skype talk, and the topic they were discussing was “unexpected stressors”.
I found it ironic that up until the talk, I was experiencing my own “unexpected stressor” in that I had nothing prepared, i.e., nothing written down, to offer these kids, except a quote from Steve Jobs and the words “WE ARE TALKING ABOUT UNEXPECTED STRESSORS” in huge capital letters. I mean, I knew that I wanted to give a little bit more of mine and Sergio’s back-story, and delve into the unexpected stressors we faced as families in the days, weeks, and months after the 11th, and convey the message that therapy and peer support are extremely helpful when facing grief or crisis. I just wasn’t sure how to best deliver it, so I took a deep breath, said a prayer to Sergio, my dad, and the universe to please help me to express what needed to be expressed and to be as articulate as possible. And then I took a leap of faith.
The hour went so quickly and at the end I was happy with the way it went and I felt as though I connected and delivered, but uncertainty still managed to creep in, until I heard from Carrie. When she told me some of the kids thought I was the “best speaker ever” and wanted to know if I could be their friends on Facebook, my spirit soared. But the biggest gift was a message in my inbox from a student who shared that he had never dealt with his own grief after losing his father a few years earlier, but was now looking into resources for support because of what I shared. And from that, the message was clear- this is what I am meant to do, this is how I will continue to honor Sergio and all who were lost on 9.11, and this is what brings meaning to my loss.
A few weeks later I received this lovely package of hot cocoa, a Schreiner mug and pen along with this adorable puppy love of a Thank You card. Here is what the students wrote:
Thank you Dr. Carrie West, and all of your amazing students, for helping to put me on my path…wishing you love and blessings always… 🙂