‘MY HEART FEELS FULL OF LOVE AGAIN’
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'