THE BLOG
06/20/2014 10:39 am ET | Updated Aug 20, 2014

How Fitness Helped Me Grieve and Start My Life Over Again

One Fit Widow

Sitting on a beautiful beach in Los Cabos, Mexico, my life had hit rock bottom. In hindsight my life was really very wonderful, but it had become difficult for me to count my blessings when all I could focus on was my own self-loathing. Seventy pounds of extra weight was weighing on more than my body; it was weighing on my soul. I looked at my husband and best friend and told him that I could no longer live the way I was living. I had put everyone and everything above my own health and fitness; it was time to end the cycle that was destroying my confidence, self worth, and ultimately my happiness.

We returned home from our amazing trip, and with his full support I started a complex and difficult fitness routine. The weight started to come off and my life was starting to feel in control again. I was starting to see the blessing that had been before me the entire time. I suddenly was enjoying my husband and small children for the first time in a long time. I found I was able to juggle my busy life, which included a VP corporate position and still make time for me. With my new found fitness and health routine it all seemed to come in stride and I was starting to love myself again.

October 9th, 2009 started like any other day. The kids woke us early, we rushed around to get out the door, and we even argued about something petty and small. I remember watching him back out of our driveway; little did I know that it would be my last memory of him. My husband was a pilot and his passion would on this day -- take him from his family. His plane crashed shortly after takeoff and I was left to raise our 1 and 3 year-old on my own.

From the moment of my husband's death my gut screamed at me about what was right for our lives. Everything in my being told me to continue down the road to fitness and use that time to help me grieve. I ran a half marathon, a full marathon, finished a figure competition, and utilized ever single second of sweat to release my anger, empower my life, and move me in a bold and forward direction. The exercise literally saved my life when I felt like I had none left. The exercise became a necessity and a driving force beyond loss. I also started the project of living my late husbands bucket list, as a way to honor my past will living a full, fit, and exciting future.

before and after

About a year after my husband's death I realized that exercise could be a life changer for not only me, but for everyone experiencing stress and grief, so I left my corporate job to become a personal trainer. In 2013 I launched the One Fit Widow nonprofit and 1fw Virtual Training in order to help as many people as possible find the renewal of life through exercise.

Now, nearly five years post loss, my life is about to change dramatically again. Five years ago these changes would be inconceivable in my world, but life had different plans than I would have ever imagined.

These past few years I've lived with the loss of my best friend, the loss of 70 pounds of body weight, the process of self discovery as a widowed mother of two, and the process of self discovery as an independent woman who's life was thrown a major curve ball. I left my corporate job to follow my dream of teaching people to use fitness as a grief tool, and I met a man who respects my past, helps me honor my late love, and allows me to grieve and move forward all at the same time.

On the day I married Mitch, I never dreamed in a million years that I'd take those vows again, but in less than a week I will stand before family and friends and vow, once more, to love 'till death do us part'.

one fit widow

My fiancé Keith does not take my late husband Mitch's place in my heart, nor is there a fair comparison I can make between the two. Both men hold their own unique place and both have loved me more completely than I could ever deserve. Having a "chapter two" in my life is not what makes this widow happy or satisfied, you see I learned those things after losing Mitch all in my own, and I believe my new found zest for life is what enabled me to find Keith. Having a chapter two does not end my grief journey or fix the pain in my children's heart as our loss is forever.

So here I am, taking a chance, knowing full well that life is not guaranteed and pain may come again some day. I've been given this life to live, and my intention is to dance my way through it as long as the music plays.

This story is part of a HuffPost Healing, a Huffington Post series about physical, mental and emotional healing. Have you had an experience with healing? If so, we'd love to hear it. For Michelle, it was opening her heart up after loss and allowing fitness to positively impact her life. What was it for you? Reach out by e-mailing healing@huffingtonpost.com