Have you ever wanted to pack a bag, take a trip, and just get away? Maybe you’ve had a long and stressful week, weekend, or month (or year). Maybe you have a hard time connecting with others about the ins and outs of your life, your days, or your job.
I have been there, friends. I have struggled in my role as a military caregiver. I had one person that I could really connect with on a daily basis. I had a community online that I could reach out to, but it is a large group and sometimes I did not feel comfortable posting or commenting. I had moments where I wanted to pack that bag and just get away.
Back in September, near the end of the month, I went out to Unity Village. If you don’t know about Unity Village, it is a property about 15 miles from downtown Kansas City. The campus is on 1200 wooded acres with beautiful buildings, fountains, and comforting hotel rooms. I felt overwhelmed, it was so lovely, and I was nervous.
You see, I applied to attend a Restorative Weekend for military caregivers. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I knew that it would be an exciting opportunity because I was about to meet up with other caregivers, have some time for myself, and maybe, just maybe relax.
I arrived with a nervous feeling…what would we do? Would I be able to share stories or talk about my life? Would I have to do yoga? What about the rooms? The food…all sorts of questions went through my mind. I knew the organizer and founder of the organization, Caregivers on the Homefront, and I knew one caregiver attending. When I started to meet the others, I felt comfortable. I reconnected with some folks I met at a workshop I was at in Kansas City.
So, what is Caregivers on the Homefront and what is a restorative weekend?
Well, Caregivers on the Homefront is a non-profit organization that serves the families of those who have served. What does that mean? This organization works with military families of all eras, first responders and their families, and they provide support to caregivers and their families.
The restorative weekend is an opportunity for some caregivers to connect with other caregivers, a chance to share our stories, a chance to laugh, cry, and fellowship. We participated in yoga, worked on sharing our stories by participating in a writing workshop, we learned to plan and prepare for the best and worst, we made vision boards, we visited War Horses for Veterans and saw the amazing work that takes place, we made goals, we talked about our hopes, fears, and most importantly, we had time to connect. Did I mention there was some really good food too?
During the weekend, I learned about myself, I learned that I cannot control every situation I encounter. I met other spouses who struggled with the ins and outs of the VA, other caregivers who were recognized by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation as a caregiver but not the VA, I heard similar stories of struggle, of frustration, and I learned some techniques to help Sam and myself.
Our group that attended became Tribe One. The ladies in this group were from a variety of areas in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Texas, and Missouri. While miles may separate us all, we are connected through the bonds we share as military caregivers and spouses. We have a group on Facebook that allows us to connect, we can talk, vent, share, and inspire one another even though our weekend has ended.
Caregivers on the Homefront found that our first restorative weekend was so fun, successful, and important, that they are hoping to get another group of caregivers out to Unity Village in May. The next restorative weekend will be May 31, 2019-June 3, 2019. What is so amazing is that Caregivers on the Homefront will supply travel, hotel, activities, and all the food! Can you believe that!?! How awesome?!
They need our help. The workshops are interactive. Caregivers will be able to work on self-care, physical health, emotions, learn and discuss suicide, resiliency, and take time to engage and develop friendships with the other participants. This organization needs our support because just as the loved ones have served, families serve as well.
I never understood (at times) why people thanked me too for my service, or why people would say “you do such a great job,” “thank you for your support of Veterans,” “thank you for taking such good care of Sam,” and then it hit me. I am recognized as a caregiver. I have the opportunity to help Sam and our family in ways that I never thought possible. Caregivers on the Homefront helped me realize that I needed and now have the tools to be a strong warrior on this journey of hope and healing.
If you are interested in donating to Caregivers on the Homefront so more caregivers can have an amazing restorative weekend, please consider visiting their website at http://www.caregiversonthehomefront.org
If you are a caregiver and you would be interested in finding a community that is safe, welcoming, and that provides information on resources, self-care and courses that will assist you on your journey, visit this part of the Caregivers on the Homefront website here: https://caregivers-homefront.org/what-we-do/registration/
And, finally, if you feel that you need a restorative weekend, consider joining the Caregivers on the Homefront Community and registering to attend the Restorative Weekend. I promise, if you feel that you need some help, you need some time away, a chance to gather information and resources, you will enjoy this weekend. Check out the application here: https://caregivers-homefront.org/what-we-do/registration/mhwrestorativeweekend.html
I can honestly say that I am changed for attending a caregiver retreat. I feel prepared for what our life throws at us every day. I know I have a tribe, a group of strong, resilient women, that I can turn to, and I know that I am forever grateful to my family and Caregivers on the Homefront for the opportunity I had to make a difference.