Julie was 34 years old when she said goodbye to her love, Jon, as he left for work. Early the next morning, Valentine’s Day 2010, she received the dreaded news that on his way home he was involved in a fatal car accident. They had a 3 year old son, Jayce, and Julie was 3 months pregnant at the time with their second child. Six months after Jon’s death, Julie was a single mother to two little boys.
She worked as an elementary school teacher full time in the city of Boston. Through the support of her parents, she maintained her full time job and the care of her children. With determination Julie was able to continue paying her mortgage and bills, as well as childcare for two children. She received a grief counselor immediately for herself and her young son. This helped Julie on the path to learning about healing and grief for her son, as well, as herself. Yoga, was a practice Julie and Jon did together weekly, and Julie continues this healing practice.
Julie’s search for support brought her to a widow’s group. As she told her story to a room of women significantly older than she was, Julie realized she was different. Two older women in the group actually told Julie that her story was “the worst” of the group.
Realizing that she was not necessarily the “widow” that society pictures of an elderly woman with 50 years of memories to provide comfort, Julie knew that there was a need for a group to provide support to “young widows”. Julie started that group called “Young Widows Connection”. Six and a half years later “young” varies among members, from 22 to 60s, but the majority of the group lost their partner long before what many would consider “a long full life”. Just as age isn’t exact, we also have a few men who have lost their wives in the group.
In 2012 Julie decided that new widows deserved some special attention and began putting together care packages or “Gifts of Love” one Valentine’s Day. This extended to providing gifts and support to widows and their families at Christmas. As We Do Care grew, Julie knew it needed more of her attention and went from teaching full time to part time to focus time on We Do Care.
Julie started social meet ups for widows with the mission that everyone needs a buddy. Her philosophy being that if everyone could find just one friend, one person they connect with, as a support and a crutch to lean on when times get hard, the path through grief would be more manageable. The organization began to grow. The tradition of the Christmas party began.
Non-Profit Status was officially granted just as We Do Care was picking up more and more members and the first face to face Support Group was formed, meeting in a donated Church Hall. The Support Group grew, and rather than requiring the members to obtain babysitting, Julie brought in local artists and yoga instructors to do projects with the kids while the parent’s find that much needed time to address their grief.
Julie is a forced to be reckoned with when she is organizing anything that will help someone in pain. Her huge heart and even bigger smile is constantly working to bring people together and make connections. What started out as a hope that members would find “one buddy” has turned into members finding many buddies who quickly turn to true friends, herself included.