‘MY HEART FEELS FULL OF LOVE AGAIN’

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Real Life -

When nurse Michelle Carr-smith lost her hus­band, her fam­ily felt bro­ken. But this Christ­mas marks a new start with fi­ancé Dougie and their four chil­dren

When I was wid­owed, it was hard to imag­ine ever be­ing happy again. Craig was gor­geous, strong and made me laugh like no one else. We mar­ried in 2003 and had three chil­dren to­gether: Zak, Eve and Mitch.

A few years af­ter Eve was born, Craig be­came quiet and dis­tant, and wouldn’t open up to me. He was di­ag­nosed with de­pres­sion and put on med­i­ca­tion. He tried his best to be there for the kids and stay pos­i­tive, but I could tell there was a dark cloud hang­ing over him. It was so painful to watch.

Af­ter Mitch was born, Craig seemed to be in a good place. His med­i­ca­tion was work­ing and I thought he might be back on track. But in Septem­ber 2016, we went to a friend’s 40th birth­day party. Craig walked out at the end of the night and I ran af­ter him. I was on a bridge over the River Der­went when I saw him in the wa­ter. I called out his name but there was no re­ply – then he dis­ap­peared. I called the po­lice and they searched the river. It wasn’t un­til three days later, on his 39th birth­day, that they re­cov­ered his body.

Telling the chil­dren was the hard­est thing I have ever done. I couldn’t sleep for days – I would drift off and then the shock would wake me up. I couldn’t es­cape the vi­sion of Craig in the wa­ter – I was later di­ag­nosed with PTSD, as this im­age still haunts me. The next few weeks were a blur of sleep­ing and hold­ing the chil­dren as they wept. We were all to­gether in one bed. I felt lost as I tried to help them.

Craig’s death was ruled ‘ac­ci­den­tal’. The coro­ner at his in­quest sug­gested the mix­ture of an­tide­pres­sant med­i­ca­tion with the small amount of al­co­hol he’d con­sumed that night meant he had been un­able to think clearly.

That first year was in­cred­i­bly hard. I joined the or­gan­i­sa­tion Wid­owed & Young to meet peo­ple go­ing through the same as me. As the months went by, I knew I had to find a way to be happy again – for my­self and for the chil­dren, who were then 13, 11 and five. In Novem­ber 2017, I was try­ing to con­vince my friend Melissa – also a wi­dow – to start dat­ing again. She said she’d join a dat­ing site, but only if I did, too. I thought I would never find any­one to love me, as I was so bro­ken, but I agreed to try.

I re­ceived a few mes­sages but only one stood out, from Dougie. He looked nice in his

pic­tures so I plucked up the courage to say hello. He made me laugh with his mes­sages and I found out he was di­vorced and had a daugh­ter of 16 who lived with him. We ar­ranged to meet a few weeks later.

When the date rolled around, it was snow­ing. We were meet­ing at a coun­try pub and I felt very ner­vous about go­ing. But Dougie was warm and funny and very good look­ing! I was at­tracted to him, and as the evening un­folded I got the im­pres­sion he felt the same about me. Out­side, the snow was fluffy and thick on the ground, a blan­ket of white – it was so ro­man­tic. As we said good­bye, he leaned in and we shared our first kiss as snowflakes fell around us. It was like a scene from a Christ­mas movie.

It was a whirl­wind ro­mance. Ev­ery time I saw Dougie I fell for him a lit­tle bit more. Zak and Eve were ap­pre­hen­sive, but over time they have got to know Dougie. I tell them that it’s okay to get on with him and still love their dad. Craig will al­ways have a spe­cial place in our hearts.

Dougie and I are plan­ning to marry next June. Some of our friends think we are crazy, that it’s all been so quick. But I know that life is fleet­ing and if it feels right, you have to grab that op­por­tu­nity for a happy end­ing.

We’ll all be spend­ing this Christ­mas to­gether. It’ll be chaotic and hi­lar­i­ous – with four chil­dren and four dogs be­tween us. Af­ter grief and loss, my life is full of love again – and for that I’m truly thank­ful.

'We shared our FIRST KISS as SNOWFLAKES fell arounf us'

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