The Man That Came After

You were not in the plan.

My story did not write the way I penned it.

I penned happily ever after. I composed the fairytale ending with the same man I married at 27 in a seaside chapel on the Big Island of Hawaii.

I penned one man, one love, and one life.

My pen stopped working at 36, and I was forced to re-write my story in the middle. My story up to that point had been a best selling novel of love and adventure and ended in a sad and tragic way.

Bestsellers often do.

You weren’t supposed to die when our babies could barely walk. You weren’t supposed to leave us alone on this earth to find our way without you.

You did.

I know you didn’t want to go. I know you didn’t choose to go. I imagine your last thoughts in your earthly shell were of us.

The soul within my earthly shell still thinks of you.

I never wanted more. I never expected more. Continuing the story didn’t seem possible or even tolerable. I had my fairytale – it just ended too soon.

In the time after death, I found my true self. Grieving makes you stop and take stock of who you’ve been, who you are, and who you want to be. I slowed down, I listened to my voice, and I found my way. It’s quiet after death in the wee hours of the night when you can’t sleep and your heartaches from not being able to speak the words you desperately wish you that you could. The shadows dance and your mind will begin to stretch as your spirit grows.

You can still live this life – a strange thought rife with potential, fear, and unknowing.

The moment came where I felt ready to move forward towards the life I wanted for my remaining days. That didn’t have to include anyone other than my babies and myself – for the first time in a long time I was ready to write my story alone.

Enter you – the man that came after.

You stepped into my novel slowly and gently. You showed grace towards my grief. You were patient with my uncertainty. You showed a quiet understanding, an ability to listen, and allowed for space where it was necessary.

You are not him, and for that I’m thankful.

You are your own amazing self, and we are creating our own fantastic story.

What was had is not what will be, and the fairytale is not in the ending of the story but rather the journey of the story itself.

It can’t be easy to be the man that came after.

I want you to know I don’t wish things were different. I want you to know that I want you in our story. I want you to know that as difficult as life has been – every day with you tops my grateful list.

I want you to know that when you kiss me, I blush and when you text me to say, “I love you beautiful” my heart smiles.

People like to compare relationships and make the person that came after feel less than, a second choice, not enough.

You aren’t in my life because he died. You are in my life because it is your place to be. You are in my life because I made room for you and you made room for me.

There are no ifs in this life worth talking about.

I’ve picked up the pen and continued to write with intense fervor and fire. The man that came before made me better able to love the man that came after. Life’s been a journey, I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret, but I know that as I continue to write my story, it will only be as beautiful as I allow it to be.

To say I never think of the man that came before is foolish. Once you love someone, they stay with you forever as a piece of your soul. To say those thoughts betray the man that came after is equally foolish. I spend every day writing new adventures, chapters, and creating new memories with this man I chose.

The human spirit is capable of immense love.

You don’t replace the man that came before with the man that came after. You absorb the love, the lessons, and you morph into a deeper soul capable of rich love and unique perspective.

Love is not mutually exclusive, and human beings are not replaceable. I’m not moving on – I’m moving forward. I’m writing beautiful new chapters with a man who has the emotional capacity and understanding to be the man that came after.

No place I’d rather be.

Read more from Michelle in her bestselling new book, Healthy Healing. Pick it up anywhere books are sold or go to

This article originally housed on the Huffington Post

11 thoughts on “The Man That Came After

  1. That is so beautiful. This makes me hopeful as U come to the realization that my life is not my own and our lives are an open book waiting for the next adventure. God is faithful and love does continue in different ways .

  2. Baby steps every day Susannah. Hugs

  3. I love this. I was married at 28, widowed at 33 with a 15 month old and now, 16 years later, (three months ago), I have married my man that came after. He has just moved into our home and all three of us (plus his 3 grow kiddos) are a new family. I love what you wrote. One love does not replace another and you don’t have to forget one to move forward with another. God created us to have a partner. Life can be great again… I honestly learned to cherish the years of independence and I think it made me a better partner for now. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  4. I’m glad it spoke to you Stephanie. Hugs and so much love.

  5. Michelle,

    I am currently dating an amazing woman who has gone through the very same experience. I am “the man that came after”. It has been a journey that I know few could make but I am glad that God chose me to be “that man”. I I am going to marry this woman. I was wondering if I could get a copy of this post as I would like to use it in our wedding.

  6. Lalaine Finley March 26, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    I love your Story. I recently loss my husband about 3 months ago. It is hard to go on. I feel like my world is not worthy to move forward. I pray one day I will manage to see and move forward.

  7. Wow, great reading i met my husband at 13 we married when i was 18 and when i was 53 he passed suddenly there are no words it’s been 4 1/2 years now and i feel like i might be ready to come out of the “waiting room” i just purchased your book and truly looking forward to reading it xo

  8. Thank you fo your ability to pen the thoughts that I just can’t seem to put into my own words. Reading your material continues to bring me clarity, less guilt and more freedom to love with more passion and commitment.

  9. Michelle,
    Thank you for sharing your heart and soul. I lost my husband suddenly in March 2017 and, like you, was ready to go on as a single person having experienced the “love of my life” and content with how wonderful life had been. Fast forward to July 2018, when I met “the man that came after.” He is truly a kind and wonderful man, who seems very much like your Keith and I feel very blessed. I so appreciate your writing. Thank you again for sharing your life with us.

  10. Thank you for this article. I lost my beloved husband of 20 years after a battle with cancer. We had such a fairy tale relationship, I felt so alone and sad knowing I would never find anyone like him again. Or feel what I felt with him ever again. And now, after some flailing to not be alone, and finally coming to a degree of peace with myself, I find that I may have met “the man who came after”. Oh gosh, the roller coaster of emotions! Happy, hopeful, sad, guilty, nervous…it’s all there. But I love that he is different, and not trying to be husband 2.0. This article gives me hope that I will figure all this out and have a different, not less than, love.

  11. I was married 37 years to a very wonderful generous man. He passed Feb 2020, was “missing” from me for 7 years (Parkinsons/dementia). Ten months past loss and beginning to date. No two people are alike, so of course ,no two relationships are going to be the same….but that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be just as wonderful if I find another mate. In the fullness of my first marriage, it completed me THEN… but I have changed and it will take someone new to bring out the NEW best in me. I a terrified, yet anxious in the same breath. At age 61, I’m feeling butterflies as if I were in junior high waiting for that first kiss. Thanks for validation of moving on…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.