After Losing My Husband To Suicide, One Good Man Restored Our Family

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“I miss Daddy.”

When I hear those words, I feel like someone took my heart and tossed it on the floor. Like a glass falling onto tile, my heart shatters into a million pieces. My big, brave 10-year-old, who has always been very mature for his age, turns back into a little boy that just wants his daddy back. I try so hard to hold the tears back as I watch his fall onto his cheeks. He has told me on more than one occasion that I’m not allowed to cry in front of him.

It’s the night before a brand new school year, and my normally confident boy is a bundle of nerves. Returning to his school after six months of craziness should be comforting. Instead, the place that makes him feel so safe seems scary now. Just a little over two months before the pandemic caused our worlds to shut down, he lost his dad to suicide. I returned to teach and the boys returned to school just 10 days after his unexpected passing. We were all terrified and didn’t know what to expect. What we found were arms to hold us and guide us through. We were starting to find our new normal as a family of three when the world stopped, sending us into a lonely place.

Around that time, I had begrudgingly decided to start dating again. It came on the heels of detailing a list of all the things I needed in my next potential partner. Having been through an abusive relationship, I knew what I wanted and refused to compromise. As I wrote the list, I prayed…or maybe yelled…at God that I needed a man who had all of these qualities on my list. And I told him I refused to date, too. I wanted this man I made up to be delivered on a silver platter.

The next day I was texting my friend about the conclusion I had come to. She immediately told me about a friend of her husband’s and her’s that I had to meet. I remember texting her a series of eye-rolls followed by a “fine.”

You know how we usually ask God for things and it seems like we are waiting forever for the answer? And of course, everyone tells you it’s all in God’s timing and to just be patient. It is so incredibly frustrating for someone like me who is so incredibly impatient to be still and wait. But what about when you ask God for something and He delivers before you’re even done asking? That never happens, right? But what if it does? Sometimes He answers too fast and you find yourself questioning if it was really Him or if it’s just your impatience getting in the way.

We had about two real dates before the pandemic hit the U.S. in full force (save a smattering of workday coffee dates). At this point my boys did not know that I had started dating, even though my oldest asked me about it constantly. He used to say, “Mommy, I’m scared you won’t ever be happy again.” Talk about a punch in the gut. In all his grief, he wanted Mommy to move on and be happy, hard as it was to think of. The boys had given me just one rule: I couldn’t date someone with girls. At least I knew that I had their blessing.

Despite me keeping him in the dark, I think my son knew something was up and he asked me point-blank if there was “anything I need to know?” He may only be 10, but he is wise and intuitive beyond his years.

Next thing I know, I invited this guy and his daughter over for the afternoon so they could all meet. They decided they were okay with the whole he-has-a-daughter thing. It didn’t take long before they were talking about this garden my boys wanted to plant. One run to Home Depot later, I watched him show my son how to use tools and make raised beds. I watched them have fun shoveling dirt and making a mess. I watched my boys save some of the planting for his daughter because they wanted it to be her project, too. This was a the first time (and far from the last) that I began seeing the items on my list getting checked off, one by one.

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Six months later, we went parasailing with our kids. After the kids took their ride we took ours. It was the most quiet we had had in months and I was enjoying the beauty 800 feet away from the boat. Next thing I know, I hear, “I know you don’t want to get married yet but…” I totally zoned out at this point. I looked away and thought, “This man is not proposing to me

right now!” I heard his voice begin to shake as he finished talking and directed me to look at the boat. Our three beautiful kids were holding a sign, asking me to marry him. I was worried that they weren’t ready. But come to find out he had asked my boys for permission, and they all kept the secret until the time was right.

I knew the boys and I deserved to have someone in our lives who would love us and make us feel whole. I longed to have a partner to share my life with and a man who could be a father to my boys. What I didn’t expect was to go on a set-up date and find someone so incredibly perfect for all of us.

He and I have gone through similar abuse in life, which makes us uniquely qualified to love each other as well as each other’s kids. He has a servant’s heart and goes out of his way to make us feel secure, wanted, valued, and safe. He doesn’t try to replace my boys’ father, but has taken up residence in our hearts in a space that was meant just for him. On top of that, the boys and I adore his incredible daughter and I love that she lets us love her as if she were ours.

Yes, some days are painful—just like tonight, as I put my son to bed and he just wants his daddy. But God’s timing is always perfect. If we wait for Him, He will deliver restoration and healing on a silver platter. Just as He promises.

For more articles about suicide, grief, and hope, start here: Julie Graham’s Untold Story of Heartbreak, Healing and Hope – 101

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