Survivors Forge Active Lives After Early Deaths

Ann Karrick had a great life. She loved Westport — her home since 2002. She and her partner Don were active, adventurous and free-spirited.

Just over 2 years ago though, he collapsed on a chair lift and died. Still in her 40s, Ann was suddenly alone.

Ann Karrick and Don, on the slopes.

Ann Karrick and Don, on the slopes.

She forged ahead. But after 11 years of companionship, it was not easy. “We’d done so much together,” she recalls. “We skied, traveled, biked and hiked. Now I had no one to do those things with.”

She realized there had to be others in similar situations. But how could she find them?

Ann was not a “support group” person, nor was she seeking a dating site. She wanted to be with people who liked doing fun activities; who hoped to move forward and create new lives — but who also understood loss, and the need for “unexpected emotional letdowns.”

Her friends said “I mentioned Don a lot,” she says. “I didn’t feel like I could not talk about him. I know I can’t live in that sad space, remembering happy times, forever. But at the same time I wanted a chance to do active things with people I could relax around, who had stories like mine, where we could talk about the person who is gone without dwelling on him or her — and have ‘moments’ if we needed to.”

Which is why she started Avant-Garde. Billed as “an active Fairfield County social group for those who have lost spouses or partners,” the emphasis is on “creating a new life filled with love, joy and happiness — again!”

Avant-Garde logoThe emphasis is also on activities. Ann envisions hiking, biking, skiing, horseback riding, ropes courses, ice skating, tennis, the beach, kayaking, day trips, festivals and barbecues.

“It’s not Outward Bound or Ironman competitions,” she notes. “But it is for people who like to do active things, not sit around and talk.”

Avant-Garde is not age-specific. However, Ann says, “it probably skews to ‘young widows and widowers’ below retirement age — whatever that age is.”

Friends of men and women who have lost partners are welcome. However, Ann says, “they should understand there may be conversations about people who have died.”

She chose Avant-Garde as the group’s name because it is “forward-looking.” She did not want anything that sounded like “widows, death or mourning.”

Avant-Garde is just getting off the ground. It will take its cues from members. To learn more, email, or search Facebook for “Avant Garde.”

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