‘After my husband died, I thought trips like these were over for me.’: Widowed mom shares self-realization journey after feeling ‘limited and trapped’

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“After my husband Ian died three years ago, I thought trips like these were over for me.

Who would watch my kids? It felt frivolous and selfish to leave them behind.

Who was I to prioritize myself when I needed to support THEIR needs first?

I felt guilt and shame as I compared myself to other moms on IG who looked so happy and content at home with their children.

Why did I so desperately want to escape?

I got a call from the Bachelor asking me to be on their next season and my knee-jerk response was, ‘HELL YES. My ticket out!’

Whelp. My parents definitely did not support me wanting to leave my kids with them for 8 weeks.

And after reflecting upon the invitation, what scared me more than the idea of pouring my heart out and chasing a guy around on national TV was how badly I wanted to LEAVE.

To ESCAPE. To experience FREEDOM.

Woman sitting by the pool with her legs in the water and her head facing the sky wearing a white dress
Sunnie Heers

A part of me had died with Ian, and with her death, a new sense of self was emerging. But, I felt limited and trapped to explore who she was within the confines of motherhood and the realities of my new normal.

I told myself an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ type journey of self-discovery was not an option…and instead I started to look within.

What I discovered was that the disconnect from my kids was more about the disconnect from myself and the role of mother I was trying to fulfill.

I was still attached to the mother I was when my husband was alive.

I was striving to be the mother who could do it all without him.

I was attempting to live up other’s standards and ways of mothering and in the process…I abandoned myself.

My needs.

My desires.

Self-abandonment feels pretty crappy. It breeds shame and shifts your focus outside of yourself as you seek validation or permission to act a certain way.

So when you finally summon the courage to speak up and voice your needs or desires, you feel like you need to justify them.

Once I realized I was mothering according to paradigms that didn’t fit me, I started to focus on what mattered TO ME as a mom.

I got clarity around the type of motherhood I was capable of creating for my kids. I considered the unique demands and constraints of my situation.

The sacrifices I would have to make to meet my children’s needs…and my desires as a woman (my passions, my hobbies, whatever lit my soul on fire outside of motherhood).

woman in a white dress photographed though a palm tree branch
Sunnie Heers

Then, I used this information to OWN, EMBRACE, and LOVE the mother I already was!

I didn’t have to prove my worth or justify my needs because I already felt worthy.

I didn’t have to ask for permission for time away from kids. I just needed to ask for help caring for them!

With the support of a friend and my amazing parents (really, they are incredible!), my desire for a one-week retreat of relaxation, self-reflection, healing, and sisterhood in Colombia was granted.

What this experience taught me is we tend to give up pretty easily—especially when we don’t know our own worth.

woman photographed from behind at the beach with her arms up in the air
Sunnie Heers

So I’m here to tell you, mama…YOU ARE ALREADY WORTHY!

You are already deserving!

You are enough and don’t have to justify a damn thing!

I’m so fired up about helping other widowed mamas to this self-realization.

Now, do you believe?”

woman walking in the beach with half a coconut in her hand wearing a short white dress
Sunnie Heers

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Bingham of Arvada, CO. You can follow her journey on TikTok, her blog, and her workshop. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Emily:

‘They found a tumor in my eye.’ We were both 24 and just starting out our lives. So, I married him. Our wedding was the last time he saw me from both eyes.’: Young mom loses husband to Uveal Melanoma, ‘We survived by living in the moment’

Read more touching stories from moms here:

‘I’ve never felt closer to my husband, and yet more distant. I’m so excited to watch them grow, but simultaneously, I wish they’d stay little forever.’: Mom explains why motherhood is ‘one beautiful contradiction’

‘You must love YOURSELF.’ At 4, she leans down so I hear her. I teach her about my difficulties, and free us from shame.’: Woman with hearing impairment describes ‘pure, deep, powerful’ motherhood

‘You don’t even like kids.’ But there they were, two pink lines. I laughed. There was no way I could raise a girl.’: New mom shares reality of motherhood, ‘It’s okay not to love every second’

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