Mingling singles and Harley riders

Written on 03/20/2024
Patrick Munsey

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Forty men and women sporting necklaces of champagne, pink, and red danced, sang, ate, and visited with one another. But it wasn’t speed dating or some other event to put people together romantically. For some, it was a baby step back into the world.

Single Mingle, by Widows’ Purse, took place last month to allow widows and widowers to interact and normalize social interaction in the wake of loss. Organizer and Widows’ Purse founder Sunah Flores-Guillaume was more than pleased with the turnout and what the event meant to those attending.

“Single Mingle was addressing loneliness,” said Flores-Guillaume. “Loneliness affects everybody. The event turned out really great, because people who were single, divorced, widowed, as they were leaving, they were asking us to do it again. And several of them said they'd be willing to help.

“It touched upon a population that needed this to be addressed. My goal was first to destigmatize widowhood. By having this event and making it available for the singles and divorced, that helped bridge the gap and allowed interaction between all the people. Part of my goal is not only to support the widows, but to help people who are not widowed learn how to be with the widowed.”

For those who haven’t gone through the pain of losing a spouse, it may be difficult to understand. As Flores-Guillaume explained, for the widow, the lost spouse is forever in their hearts, which has to be reconciled before another relationship can succeed.

“The grief work the widow does or doesn't do affects their marriage,” said Flores-Guillaume. “What’s taken from them immediately leaves a big void. The widows are afraid. They live through anxiety and immense loneliness. Whatever that other half had fulfilled for that person, it hurts so much, that it's almost like they just want to fill it in.

“That’s not true for everybody, because some women will never date. But some, but many of the young ones, they want to replace the loss as soon as possible. That hurt, that pain, it's a real thing and bigger than anything I've ever known.”

Flores-Guillaume’s husband, Brad Guillaume, explained the adjustments and challenges inherent in dating or marrying a widow.

“There is a lot of growing up or maturing and coming to an understanding that is different than getting into a relationship with somebody that is divorced,” said Guillaume. “I’ve talked to a couple other guys who are married and widowers, and we've had the same awakening.

“With the death of a spouse, there wasn't an agreement to separate. You just suck it up and you take what you get. Regardless of whether the marriage was perfect or not, when you lose a spouse, there is a dramatic life change. And they have to adapt. They've got to readjust or learn how to be in a new relationship.”

Guillaume said the most important thing to realize is the new partner isn’t in competition with the spouse who was lost. It’s not about replacing them or “wrestling with their ghost.” It’s finding something new while honoring or acknowledging the past relationship.

“There are some things that are going to always be tough,” said Guillaume. “That's not to say that it can't be good. But that's just a reality of that relationship.”

Working through that pain and providing support is the purpose of Widows’ Purse, which has been in operation for nearly two years. Single Mingle was just one of many avenues for those coping with loss to find help and healing. The group meets every third Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The location varies, but is posted on the Widows’ Purse Corp Facebook page.

“Single Mingle happened because we all need a friend,” said Flores-Guillaume. “For some widows, that was their first time out for something like that. It wasn't necessarily to connect romantically, even though there could have been that potential. For a widow to even go out with someone, that's hard.”

Participants had their choice of three different necklaces to wear during the event, communicating their intent. The champagne-colored necklaces indicated no interest in interacting. They may have come with friends and desired to enjoy the evening in their own space.

The pink necklaces were worn by those who were willing to make friends, and the red necklaces indicated a willingness to find a date.

“We left it up to the individual to choose the color they wanted,” said Flores-Guillaume. “It ended up being a really nice night. Whoever wanted to do something, that opportunity was there without it being something that anybody pushed them to do.”

Widows’ Purse intends on holding another Single Mingle, likely in the second half of the year, but that doesn’t mean the organization will be idle. In fact, its next event takes place on Sat., March 23 – A Movie and Lunch.

The group will meet at Panera Bread at noon for lunch, followed by a viewing of the movie “Cabrini” at the AMC Theaters. While participants are responsible for covering their own costs, the group will pay for movie tickets for the participating widows. Those interested in attending should contact Widows’ Purse through its Facebook page.

On June 15, Widows’ Purse will hold its second Widows’ Run motorcycle ride. This is the largest event of the year for the organization, and it represents the anniversary of the group. The ride will start and finish at Harley-Davidson of Kokomo, though all bikes are welcome to participate.

Registration begins at 10 a.m., and kickstands go up at 11:10 a.m. The cost is $30 for riders and $15 for passengers.

“There will be prizes given away, including some things from Harley-Davidson,” said Flores-Guillaume. “We’ll have live music. And in the evening, we're hoping to do a worship service and a meal after the run.”

Vendor booths are available for the event for $20. The Widows’ Run is sponsored by Community First Bank fo Indiana, Woodland Church of God, Indiana Widows Sons Tenets Chapter, Rice Realty, City of Firsts Cremation and Funeral Services by Rose and Geiger, Encompass Federal Credit Union, and Nick Pate State Farm.

For more information about Widows’ Purse or its upcoming events, call 765-271-4911.

(Editor’s note: The photos accompanying this story were taken at previous Widows’ Purse events and do not depict the Single Mingle event.)