Titles of skill are not given. They are earned from hard work and perseverance. For Sharon Clark of Harrisburg, the title “Queen of the Camper” was bestowed upon her by her sister as Sharon found inner-strength during her yearlong journey of grief following the death of her husband. Along the way, Sharon formed new friendships and found comfort through support from Homeland Hospice, a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.
Sharon grew up camping with her family and loved the quiet connection with nature and those she loved. She shared this passion with her beloved husband Greg and their two sons. Family vacations meant packing up for a trip in the great outdoors. For Sharon and Greg, camping was a way of life and their dream for retirement. This plan changed when Greg died of lung cancer in February 2022.
As the weeks and months passed following Greg’s death, Sharon walked through life in a daze. Every day she put one foot in front of the other trying to define her life without her husband. She was determined to continue camping and learn how to manage their 37-foot fifth wheel camper.
“I had only driven the truck and camper a few times with Greg,” Sharon says. “I relied on my notes and memories of past trips.”
Sharon’s first trip was to a campground in Lancaster with her sister and extended family members, followed by several small solo trips. There were hiccups along the way as Sharon tackled driving the large camper, maintaining its mechanical needs and hooking it up for electrical and sewer services at the campgrounds she visited.
“I needed help backing up the camper,” Sharon jokes. “Family members, friends and my pastor often came to my aid.”
Sharon continued to take brief outings each month despite the challenges of the camper and her loneliness without Greg. At the sixth month anniversary of Greg’s passing, Sharon reached out to Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, Homeland’s Lead Bereavement Counselor.
Noelle connected Sharon to several bereavement groups offered by Homeland. Sharon attended the Ladies Luncheon series, for women who have lost a loved one, group therapy, and Homeland’s Annual Picnic. Sharon pushed herself out of her comfort zone and shared her grief with others.
“Sharon was trying to recreate her life without her husband,” Noelle says. “She was overwhelmed with stress and worry.”
To the outside world, Sharon appeared to be doing well, but her heart was heavy. As 2022 ended and a new year approached, the culmination of her grief took hold of her. It is common for grief to take hold several months after a loved one’s passing when the reality of everyday life sets in. This is often more challenging for people who planned to live out their golden years with their spouse.
“I could exist, but I wanted more,” Sharon says. ‘I wanted a way to live life again.”
Around the same time, the camping trailer weighed heavily on her mind. Camping was a salve to her wounded heart but the responsibility of the trailer caused significant stress with each trip.
Sharon decided to attend the RV Show at the Farm Show Complex to research alternative campers. She found one that perfectly suited her needs. It was a much smaller camper which she could easily drive without the need for a truck. It would give her the freedom to camp whenever and wherever she liked. This purchase would also mean giving up the camping trailer she shared with Greg. Her time with her bereavement group gave her the strength to acknowledge the happy memories she shared with Greg, and say goodbye to the camper.
“I felt brave making this decision,” Sharon adds. “My new camper was a big step forward for me.”
The timing of this decision took place during Lent, which is a solemn Christian religious observance leading up to Easter. Sharon is a thoughtful, prayerful and introspective woman who takes this holy time to heart. As she was finding strength to make difficult decisions, she was also growing in her spiritual journey.
“I began to believe again that God is love,” Sharon says. “The raw pain and anger is gone, and I have accepted what happened. I am ready to live my life again.”
As summer hits central Pennsylvania, Sharon Clark – survivor, risk-taker and “Queen of the Camper” – is ready to hit the open road and take on new adventures.
Homeland Hospice’s bereavement support program is available to the bereaved of Homeland’s patients as well as anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.
To learn more, please contact Noelle Valentine at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.