By Sandra Zunino
The loss of a life partner, whether through death or divorce, has devastating consequences transcending to the minutest details of life, from finding ways to survive financially, to dealing with the hollow emptiness left behind.
No one understands this better than Karen West, widowed 12 ago. “You get through it,” she says, “but the pain is still there.” After a year of processing through the first stages of grief, Karen sought Anne Arundel County based support groups such as Parents Without Partners and LA Singles for help.
“While you have your very good friends who stand by you no matter what,” she say, “you instantly become an outsider to everything you thought you belonged to.”
Karen’s says she found connections to those social support groups immensely helpful. When she moved to Kent Island, however, she could find no local groups in existence that catered to people her age. After contacting Queen Anne’s Hospice, a volunteer there suggested she start one.
A single mom working fulltime, Karen didn’t think she would have time to start a new club, but finally she decided to try. Hospice sent postcard invitations to everyone who had gone through the bereavement program in the past year and the group known as Good Griefers II had their first meeting last February.
“We met at the Oyster Cove clubhouse,” says Karen, “and we had a huge turnout at the first meeting.” Currently, there are about 30 members in the club. Fifteen are active participants.
After several meetings, members approached Karen saying they had divorced friends who would like to participate. Karen brought the idea up to Queen Anne’s Hospice and it was approved. Good Griefers II then became The Chesapeake Bay Singles, still operating under the auspice of the Hospice.
Chesapeake Bay Singles meets one Thursday night every other month at the Oyster Cove clubhouse in Grasonville. Meetings on the in-between months take place during happy hour at area restaurants or at a member’s home. This month, Karen will host a potluck in her home on Sunday, October 18 at 5:00 p.m.
After some members voiced interest in gathering on weekends, weekend activities were organized. A group of members will be going to the Church Hill Theatre this weekend and Chesapeake Bay Singles is now linking hands informally with an Activity Singles Klub in Easton, which has been in existence for 25 years.
Karen sends the Easton activity schedule to her membership email list as an adjunct to what Chesapeake Bay Singles offers. “This is just a grass-roots program,” says Karen. “We’re trying to get the members to step forward and help plan activities, but many of them are working and trying to manage children and households by themselves.”
Support groups help single people who find it difficult to get out on their own. Karen says newcomers are welcome. So far, the core group has bonded, forming strong friendships. “The more they interact,” says Karen, “the more comfortable they will feel reaching out if they are having a bad day.”
In addition to social interaction, Karen organizes speakers and other activities for the members to enjoy. One meeting included a travel agent who focused on traveling tips and safety for singles.
For November’s meeting on Thursday the 19th at 6:30 in the Oyster Cove Clubhouse, a Sommelier from The Winery will come out and conduct a wine tasting, discuss wine regions and bring wine and hors de hourves. Members will contribute $20 each for the experience, but most other events are free and there are no membership fees.
Chesapeake Bay Singles is open to individuals age 35 and older who are single, divorced or widowed. For more information, call 443-249-3408.