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A 32-year-old widow explains how she started to date again after her husband unexpectedly died 1 year after their wedding
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Kerry Phil and her late husband pose side-by-side for a photo.

Kerry Phillips and her late husband pose side-by-side for a photo.Courtesy of Kerry Phil

Kerry Phillips became a widow at 32 when her husband of one year suddenly died overseas.

After intense grief, Phillips met her now-boyfriend and started a community to support others with similar experiences.

Phillips said taking her time and honoring her husband's memory helped her ease back into dating.

The moment Kerry Phillips finally went to remove her wedding ring, she hit her hand on a nearby door, causing her fingers to swell and the ring to tighten. She knew it was a sign from her dead husband, and couldn't help but laugh.

At 32, just a year afer marrying her husband and partner of eight years, Phillips became a widow when her husband died suddenly while visiting family overseas without her. Later, Phillips learned he died of undiagnosed malaria.

Three and a half years after experiencing waves of guilt and grief, Phillips realized she yearned for companionship and created an OkCupid profile. But, as someone who never tried online dating before, let alone as a young widow, Phillips' mind overflowed with questions: When do I say I'm widowed? Do I have to take off my ring? Should I throw out my old lingerie?

She created the online community and blog Young, Widowed, and Dating to find those answers and connect with others who lost a spouse earlier than expected. Now she's in a happy seven-year relationship with a man she met on OkCupid, who helped remove her stuck wedding ring with a dental floss trick he found online.

She told Insider how she was able to move forward while still honoring her husband and the love they shared.

Before making a dating profile, Phillips made sure she wasn't looking for a replacement husband

When Phillips was deep in grief, she said she had no interest in dating. But as she neared the three-year mark in 2015, she started to crave romantic companionship again.

She said she wasn't ready to remove her wedding ring yet, but decided to make an online dating profile to ease into meeting other singles. Phillips didn't expect that the second man she'd ever connect with on OkCupid would become her longtime boyfriend.

She said she later realized he was a great match because he didn't become jealous or dismissive when she mentioned her deceased husband, and he was OK with her decision to keep on her wedding ring.

"He said, 'Have you not taken it off because you feel like you're still married? Because if you feel like you're still married, then we can't date. But if it's because you're just emotionally not ready to close that door, I'm perfectly OK with that.' That was huge for me," Phillips told Insider.

After years of grieving and healing, Phillips knew she was ready to fall for someone new because she came to terms with her husband's death, she said.

Phillips continues to honor her husband, even with a boyfriend now

According to Phillips, paying tribute to her husband, sometimes with the help of her boyfriend, has also helped her heal.

Her boyfriend added her wedding anniversary to his calendar, which she says helps her feel supported when that difficult day comes. She donates regularly to organizations her late husband supported, and she now keeps her wedding ring in a jewelry box in her bathroom.
As a widow, Phillips now views love and marriage differently

In the years since her husband's passing, Phillips says she's looked at love and marriage in new ways.

At her wedding, she said she was focused on the positivity of the experience and grand feelings of desperate and deep love.

Now, when she sees greeting cards with sentiments like "I can't live without you" plastered on the front, she can't help but see the irony.

"It's like, unfortunately I know that I can live without this person. It just makes it a little more real," Phillips said.

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