Soaring Spirits is Helping People Look Ahead to a Brighter Tomorrow

This unique organization restores hope after loss.

Widowed participants at a Soaring Spirits event

(Photo courtesy of Soaring Spirits)

Support organization, Soaring Spirits, draws upon the wisdom behind the saying that a problem shared is a problem halved to extend a big hug to the widowed. It works to empower them with the strength of others who find themselves in the same situation and who “get” how they feel. 

Founder, Michele Neff Hernandez, builds on her personal experience of widowhood and her inspirational outlook to offer people bereft after the loss of a beloved spouse, peer-based comfort and renewed hope.

A truly inspirational human being
Neff Hernandez transformed her grief at losing her husband in a tragic bike accident into a global network that has reached more than four million people to date through its goal of connecting widowed people with each other. This is because, as she recounts to CNN, while she had a great support system to help her after her loss, no one knew how to handle her grief: 

"I didn't even know what to do with myself… Every single thing about my life changed, from where I slept, to where I ate ... to who was I going to check in with if I had a flat tire… They meant well but couldn't understand what I was going through."

Neff Hernandez found that she craved the real-world stories of other widowed people. It was only with them that she felt able just to be herself and to be understood, and that she could laugh without being judged. 

So through the nonprofit she went on to found, she is reaching out to fellow humans; widows and widowers,and that includes people of all genders and from all types of relationships, who just like her, have lost the person they thought they’d always be with, to live life in community with each other. 

And just like the name she chose, Soaring Spirits, Neff Hernandez strives to offer the bereaved a safe space in which to reconstruct their lives, energized by a compassionate, community-powered strength, to let their spirits soar once again.

As she shared with Goodnet:"Soaring Spirits steps into people's lives during a painful and often confusing time. Our mission is to provide any widowed person (anyone who has experienced the death of a person they planned to spend their life with) with relevant resources and a supportive community as they rebuild their lives post-loss.”

There’s even a Soaring Spirits Resilience Center. This researches widowed experiences and develops tools to support healing in grieving populations. Based at Schreiner University in Texas,  it was established to fill a research gap in this field,  especially regarding a younger demographic.

A rich menu of programs just for the widowed
An appealing mix of virtual, in-person, newly-widowed and mailing programs blending resources, community and hope are provided to help anchor these people experiencing grief after losing a spouse.  As the Soaring Spirits website explains:  “We have felt the relief of being understood by another widowed person. We have laughed, and cried, with our widowed community. We have witnessed the transformation that having access to hope makes for someone whose life has been altered by death.”

As Neff Hernandez explained to Goodnet: “Our programs are designed to help widowed people craft a new life for themselves that honors the person they love while making room for whatever gifts the future may hold. My hope is that as we continue to meet the growing demand for our programs the hope we share with each widowed person is passed from one hand to the next; healing in community and making our way forward, together."

Camp Widow, offered both in person and once a year, virtually, is a weekend that offers practical tools and resources, but most importantly, gives widowed people an opportunity to meet others making their way through widowhood, one day at a time. Rather than morose gatherings, however, these act as hubs creating camaraderie and the uplifting shared realization that everyone’s grief recovery can be colored  with hope and positivity. 

Additionally, regional social groups led by volunteer facilitators meet regularly, sometimes virtually, to help participants connect with people who understand, and ease their way into getting back into the world

Creating real connections virtually
Long before the pandemic, Soaring Spirits honed its skills creating connections between people in the virtual world. As the website outlines: “From our daily Widow's Voice blog to our Widowed Village online forum, weekly Zoom calls, and [most recently], COVID-19 Widowed Resource Program, our virtual programs were created to connect widowed people to a community of understanding and support from anywhere in the world.”

The Widowed Village Online Forum is the organization’s online community available to the widowed from the comfort of their own home. This also features topic-specific forums for deeper discussion, ways to find others who are close in age, date of widowhood and geographical location.

The community has also amassed a rich Widows Voice Blog resource where “our bloggers write about widowhood as they live it. ” Here,  authors from all walks of life discuss their journeys in a way that resonates with any widowed person, proving to their readers that they are not alone.

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