Five years ago when my husband died in a cycling accident, the last thing on my mind was finding a new man to love. Horrified by the unexpected jump from wife to widow, I struggled to regain both my sense of self and my will to live.

When I first was able to entertain the thought of marrying again, I would be rendered mute when asked to utter the phrase, “till death do us part.” Those four words mean something completely different to me now that I know what parting actually feels like.

As my heart slowly recovered and love did again enter my life, I subdued a sense of dread about making another lifelong pledge. When I finally said, “Yes,” to a wonderful man and faced the fact that I would be expected to make this promise out loud, I braced myself for the moment in our wedding  ceremony when I would be asked if I would love him until death took him from my side.

But when the time arrived, I found myself overcome with joy that Michael and I made it to that moment. Together we allowed grief to coexist with love, though the concept may not make sense to many people. He didn’t require me to walk away from my widowhood in order to become his wife.

With the assurance that my love for my first husband, Phil, was safe, my love for Michael found room to grow. This new love includes my kids, my family, my friends both old and new, and my widowed community. Finding someone who could embrace every part of my life is a blessing I experience with awe, and instead of crying all I could do was smile.

The tears did fall when Michael and I finally laid down at the end of a wonderful evening full of love, laughter, and friendship…I cried and cried. When he asked me what was wrong, I said, “I don’t think I believed until right this minute that this day would actually come.” I explained to him that it was if I’d held my breath for the two years we dated, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But love won out over fear, and so did I.

I write this article today being able to very clearly recall saying the words, “No one will ever measure up to Phil.” The journey that has led me to the place I am today has been equal parts terrifying and amazing. I am not implying that being married again will wipe away all the pain of past loss, nor do I believe that finding a new life partner is somehow mandatory as proof of healing. I just wanted to share with you my reality, which is that I don’t have to trade in one love for another…I can have both.


Michele Neff Hernandez

Michele Neff Hernandez is the founder and executive director of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. SSLF is a non-profit organization committed to providing resources and support to people grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to her work with the foundation, Michele inspires people as a motivational speaker and freelance writer. Through speaking to service groups, faith communities, Universities and hosting community seminars she has shared her thoughts on loss and hope with a variety of audiences. She is the creator of the Widow Match program. Since the death of her husband in 2005, she has made reaching out to other widows her personal mission. Ms. Hernandez’s various projects have been featured in the Ventura County Star, the Simi Valley Acorn, and the Riverside County Record. She is a contributing author to several websites and is chronicling the interviews she has done with widows across the country in a book called, The Healing Power of the Widow’s Bond. Currently, she is planning a national widowhood conference scheduled for the summer of 2009. Ms. Hernandez is a resident of Simi Valley, California where she lives and laughs with her three amazing children. An avid runner and outdoor enthusiast, she actively encourages others to embrace the life we are given.

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