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    American Widow Project: Support Like No Other

    American Widow Project: Support Like No Other

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Hurd | Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson's headstone at Arlington National Cemetery in...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Hurd 

    Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Staring at a wooden board, Alicia Dickinson was looking at all the things that she wanted to break through. She knew that because she had written them there.

    But for her and the others like her in the room, it wasn’t just about what they were breaking through, but more about what they were working toward that was written on the back that mattered most … happiness.

    “That really clicked with me,” she recalled. “Scott wouldn’t want me to be miserable and mopey. It was kind of that light bulb moment for me of, if I’m the best version of me, that’s the best way to honor him.”

    For Alicia and the other widows who have found the American Widow Project, it is the comfort, support, and understanding that they give each other that has helped them after losing so much.

    Alicia met her future husband, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson in 2002 when she was 20. She was on a trip to visit a high school friend who was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina when he caught her attention in the barracks.

    “I remember thinking ‘there’s something special about this guy,’” she said. “My parents thought I was crazy, but I told them I met the man I’m going to marry.”

    They spent the next several years visiting each other whenever they could. Scott often took his 96-hour leave and drove to see her.

    “He would definitely jump through hoops for me,” she added.

    After marrying in 2008, they moved to Hawaii as part of his next assignment.

    On a deployment Aug. 10, 2012, he was killed along with two other Marines.

    In the months after Alicia stayed busy, planning the funeral and having him buried at Arlington National Cemetery. She went to see her family in New York for a month after and then went back to Hawaii and back to work.

    “I thought I was OK as I could be, but it wasn’t the same,” she said. “It probably wasn’t until a couple years down the road that I realized I was numb and in shock for a very long time.”

    She didn’t look for help however for several years until coming across the non-profit organization American Widow Project in 2014 and learning about a retreat they were having. She decided to give it a shot.

    The retreat was an extended weekend trip to New Orleans where widows came together to meet, and give back by helping build homes in areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

    Getting the chance to finally meet and talk to other women who were going through the same thing had a big impact on her.

    “It introduced me to a support system that understood me more than anyone else could,” she said. “Your friends can try, your family can try, but no one really understands that deep sadness and pain of loss that you feel.”

    While she was at the retreat she met another widow, Danielle Schafer, who was leading the retreat for American Widow Project.

    Danielle had lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Schafer, in 2005.

    She, like Alicia, spent several years on her own trying to manage until eventually finding AWP.

    She went to a golf outing and skydiving event they were having at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2010.

    “I was at the point where I thought I had done everything I could do and I still felt lost,” she recalled.

    After talking and getting to know the women there, she said it just felt so easy and she quickly realized something.

    “I found my people,” she said laughing. “Everyone else is crazy, but we are so normal. They always tell you to ride the waves of grief, but before I met them I was treading in the water all by myself and they became my life raft.”

    After the first event, she was hooked and decided she needed to make up for lost time. She signed up for every event she could that first year and says she would often be the first to cry. But as time went on and the more she went she started seeing a change.

    “I was feeling, each time a part of me was healing more and more,” she said. “And I was figuring out ways that I could bring [Mike] into this life.”

    Seeing the impact it was having on her life, she wanted to help other widows. So, she decided to help facilitate retreats for AWP like the give-back retreat in New Orleans where she met Alicia.

    After completing that retreat, Alicia decided to sign up for the more intense Widow You retreat that is meant to work on their inner self and the barriers holding them back.

    There they walked across broken glass, broke arrows with their necks and also broke through the boards.

    “It helped me look at the source of those barriers like anger and why it was OK to be angry,” she said. “That really helped me.”

    Since leaving the retreat, she has remained in contact with several of the widows she met like Danielle, who lives in the same city of Richmond, Virginia.

    And when she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2015, it was the same women who remained by her side.

    “I don’t think they will ever understand,” she said. “It took the pain and loss of Scott to a whole other level. To have them there, they will never understand how much it meant to me that they were such a support for me. They were just so incredible.”

    Now cancer-free and planning an upcoming weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee with Danielle and several other widows from AWP. Alicia says she wouldn’t be where she is today without them.

    “They are a support system like no other,” she added. “The American Widow Project has been the perfect scenario for me. It helped put me back together.”

    For more information visit the American Widow Project at americanwidowproject.org.



    Date Taken: 11.06.2017
    Date Posted: 01.02.2018 15:22
    Story ID: 261166
    Location: RICHMOND, VA, US 

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