[Editor’s note: This is the first of four stories marking Women’s History Month.]
Julie Enos Brennan, ’98, was looking forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day with her husband when she was suddenly awakened by a knock at the door in the early morning hours of Feb. 14, 2010.
Police officers were there to deliver the somber news that her husband Jon, 38, died in a car accident on his way home after working late the night before.
In that moment, Brennan went from having a supportive spouse to becoming a single mother to her 3-year-old son, Jayce. The couple was also expecting their second child as Julie was three months pregnant.
Thankfully, the Brockton native had help from her family and was able to continue working as a Boston public school teacher.
As a Bridgewater student, she had also learned the importance of positive and negative interactions through the teachings of psychology Professor Herbert J. Greenwald.
“I learned from him that for every one negative you hear or experience in a day you need ten positive things to counteract that one negative. Imagine that?” she said. “Our attitude and the vibe we give off attracts other like-minded people. Staying positive and optimistic is a way of life. It has to be your mindset.”
Brennan knew in order to continue to heal, it was important to connect with positive people who shared similar stories of loss.
She was encouraged to join a widow’s group. After the first meeting, Brennan, then 34, quickly realized she did not fit the typical image of a widow projected by society, and struggled to relate to the other members, some of whom were negative.
One woman went as far as to comment that Brennan’s story was, “the worst of the group.”
Brennan subsequently came into contact with four women closer to her in age who had also experienced the death of a partner. The group got together and through casual conversations shared both laughter and tears.
They discussed what it meant to be a young widow, the crushing financial stress and the struggles involved in raising and guiding their grieving children.
From those gatherings an idea blossomed.
Brennan began to collect gift cards, gel masks, comfy socks, slippers, tea, coffee, plush blankets and other comforting items to create and distribute care packages to young widows for Valentine’s Day.
As the holiday represented so much sadness, the care packages helped Brennan cope.
“It ended up being the biggest thing to help me heal,” she said.
The wick was lit and the flame grew, evolving into the non-profit organization We Do Care, a space for young widows to share in their loss both online and through in-person support groups and special events.
Through We Do Care, young widows can find the necessary positive supports to move forward.
“The women are amazing, they help each other out and are each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” Brennan said.
Donations that encourage self-care are always welcome and Brennan hopes those connected to her alma mater will join in the We Do Care effort and help if they can.
Those interested can email her directly at, email@example.com.
“I’m trying to make more connections in the community,” Brennan said. “There is such a need for this and it is still healing for me. I’ve learned that this is my purpose.”
Do you have a BSU story you'd like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.