Emotional & Mental Health for Widows

Honoring Their Legacy, Loving It Forward

Jen Johnson

Many things come to mind when I reflect on what it means to honor legacy and love it forward. When my husband died suddenly in 2012, one of my strongest feelings in the early days of grief was that I will do whatever it takes to not only honor his legacy, but to honor my children as best I can. I knew immediately that I would do whatever it took to ensure that their dad will forever be talked about and remain an active part of their growth and being even though he was no longer here physically.

As a family, we have done “Heart Walks,” where consistently visited his favorite places, eaten his favorite foods, told his favorite jokes, and participated in his favorite activities over the years.

The number one guiding force in honoring my husband’s legacy is how we love!

He loved others unconditionally. He gave his heart and energy to anyone who needed it, without question. While he mostly succeeded at everything he did, the thing he struggled with the most was loving himself. He loved me deeply in ways I didn’t even fully understand until after his death, and I’ve learned that leaving a legacy of loving ourselves unconditionally is just as important as loving others unconditionally.

In the first couple of years of widowhood, every ounce of my energy went to surviving, trying to remember to breathe, and doing my best to get through each day of parenting two small children.  While I know I was facing grief as consciously as I could in order to heal, I didn’t spend much time loving on myself.  What I didn’t thoroughly understand (or was even capable to seeing) was that if I had loved on myself from the beginning, the healing process would’ve been a little easier.

The first thing we forget in this journey is that it is critical to our ability to heal and thrive to take care of ourselves first. However, loving ourselves is one of the biggest ways in which we can honor our spouses, because they loved us like no other. They would want us to see all of the beautiful things that they saw in us. Plus, the example I set for my children of making time for and loving myself will help shape them into self-loving, conscious, and healthy adults. That is the legacy I strive to leave for them.

Over the 4 years since I had that realization, I have learned to tap into and intently listen to my intuition; that internal spirit that lives within each of our beings that helps to guide us to what it is that is best for us. Just a few ideas to love on  yourself could be as easy as:

  • Having some YOU-time on the beach
  • Attend a yoga class and find your “center”
  • Take yourself and/or your kids on a trip

It may also bring you the opportunity to step into a community such as Modern Widows Club that can gift you even more healing, support, and growth in ways you may not tap into on your own.  You may then find that once you are part of a community, the deep desire and purpose of sharing your experience and extending a loving arm out to others comes out.

One of the most impactful experiences I’ve had as part of the MWC community was attending the Widow Empowerment event last year. Having been a member of MWC for 5 years, a chapter leader for 3 years, and actively participating on a national level in several ways, I have gained a soul-filling sense of community along with a tremendous amount of growth, inspiration, and tools needed to thrive on this journey.

However, nothing prepared me for how empowered I would feel after a weekend of such immense love, support, wisdom, and connection with my widow sisters. It’s difficult to explain the energy in the room but when you are in it, you know without a doubt that you are forever changed. You are surrounded by women who get you in ways no one else can. You will be inspired to discover and then share your light which brings further healing to you. You then go home with full awareness and confidence that you have a purpose, that you have every ounce of support you need, and that you have the ability to create a life and legacy you never thought possible.

I will be attending again this year and I hope you will as well. It is truly the ultimate gift of loving on your self. If you do attend, please find me so that I can hug and love on you. And if you aren’t able to attend, I am hugging you from afar and encouraging you to remember that honoring the legacy of your late spouse in it’s best form means honoring the love you have for yourself and remaining open to all that love can bring you.

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Knowing there are women who have not only survived what I was going through, but were also thriving and moving forward in their lives.
— MSC Wister® (Widow + Sister)