Friday, February 13, 2009

Michele Neff Hernandez, Founder/President, The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation - An Interview

Good Mourning, Everyone!

Meet Michele Neff Hernandez, member of the club nobody wants to join and Founding President of The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.

Recently I had the honor of interviewing Michele.

Here's my interview with Michele (I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed preparing it):

Question: How did The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation come about?

Answer: Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation was created as a resource center for people grieving the loss of someone they love. When my own husband died three and a half years ago, I felt very alone. Losing my husband in an accident when I was thirty-five years old turned my whole world upside down, and I could not figure out how to make sense of the conflicting emotions that became my daily companions. After living in a fog for a few months, the thought of finding other widows and asking them how they lived through this experience occurred to me.

From the time of my first interview, my grief journey was inalterably changed. Meeting other women who understood me in a deep and personal way shined a light on the darkness I had been living in up to that point. When I realized that I was not alone in my sorrow, the burden of loss was a little bit lighter. As I became more familiar with the ways in which widows all over the country are supporting each other through innovative programs, and courageous personal quests, I realized there was a need for all of us to come together. Meeting this need is a goal of SSLF. We provide resources and programs that connect those who serve with the grieving people who need the love an support uniquely offered by individuals who have traveled the same path.

Question: Where does your funding come from? Do you take donations, and if so, are they tax deductible? Also, how does someone make a tax-deductible donation to the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation?

Answer: Our initial funding came from a grant from a generous Rotary Club in Simi Valley, California that asked me to speak to them about the interviews I did with other widows around the country. Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation, and all donations are tax deductible. We are currently seeking both corporate and individual sponsors whose donations will help us fund the various programs we run, and a special event we are planning in July of 2009. We work hard to honor the trust of our donors by providing high quality programs and compassionate care to the communities we serve.

Donations can be made through our website at or can be mailed to: 2828 Cochran St. #194 Simi Valley, Ca 93065.

We are so grateful to the people who support our mission to provide much needed hope to grieving people across the nation.

Question: I understand you have an upcoming conference? Please tell us about this exciting event--Where is it? When is it? Who can participate?

Answer: We are thrilled to be hosting the first ever National Conference on Widowhood in San Diego, California.

Widows, widowers, bereavement professionals, clergy of all denominations, grief support leaders, and interested family members are all welcome to join us, and each group will go home inspired by the people they meet. The conference will be held at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina from July 17-19, 2009. There will be an outdoor concert, thirty two different workshops available on Saturday, a banquet dinner, and we finish of the weekend with a 5K run/walk...literally putting one foot in front of the other.

This event will be a celebration of all we have accomplished, and a place to find the inspiration to do more in the future. We best honor those we lost by truly living the life we have left ahead of us. This conference will provide attendees with tools they can use, and the hope they seek to make tomorrow a brighter day.

Question: What one thing do you want participants in this event to come away with?

Answer: Anyone who attends this event will come away with new information about the services and programs that are available for widows.

They will also discover the power of being in a place filled with people who understand the journey of grief, and they will be astounded by the amazing amount of good that has come from the ashes of loss.

Question: Being a widow is belonging to the club nobody wants to join. Care to share with readers something positive you have learned since becoming a member?

Answer: I have learned that I don't have to be afraid to heal. That learning to love life again, does not diminish the love I have for my husband, but rather honors that love in a courageous way. I now know that the lessons grief has taught me have altered the way I look at life, and that this new perspective is a powerful force for good in the world.

Question: Is there one secret about yourself since becoming a widow you can share with readers.

Answer: Hiring a gardener was a fabulous decision...I often tell him he is my best friend!

Question: And finally, Michele, if there is one thing you could tell the widows mourning the loss of their loved one to help them in their journey through the grief process, what would it be?

Answer: There are two things I always say to new widows.

The first is a reminder to be gentle with yourself. Allow your feelings to take you away, and allow your day-to-day life to bring you back. Try to focus on making it through right now, and let tomorrow take care of itself.

The other thing is the thought that there was a time when you could not imagine being where you are today, in this circumstance. In that same way, there will be a day when you are in a place you would never have imagined. Your sister widows hold that hope for you, because we know it may be too heavy for you to carry right now. But someday the sun will shine again, and you will be able to hold onto the memories of your love without the sharpness of the pain you feel right now. Really.

For more information about Michele and The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, readers may contact Michele Neff Hernandez

c/o Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation
2828 Cochran St. #194
Simi Valley, Ca 93065
877-671-4071 ext 706

Or, visit The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation

Thank you, Michele, for your inspiring and motivating words. I'm certain readers are encouraged (I know I am) and perhaps looking forward to attending your celebration event for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one.