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How we met: ‘When my wife died I was so lost. I prayed that something would change’

Six months after losing her husband, Abhay, to cancer, Navya joined an online dating site to ease her loneliness. It wasn’t long before she met Nishant, who was also recently widowed. “At first, we started talking on the phone in the evenings,” says Navya. “We were both going through the grieving process and it was comforting to talk to someone about the challenges.”

Navya had two teenage girls and three older step-children; Nishant also had three children. “I was so lost when my wife, Aashima, died. I remember praying that something would change,” Nishant explains. “Navya came into my life and it felt like it was meant to be.”

The pair were living in different parts of India at the time, but after several weeks of phone calls, they decided to take the plunge and meet up.

“I drove six hours to one place from Another with my children to visit her,” Nishant recalls. “We met up at a restaurant and I think we just knew straight away it was going to be something real.” They had a similar sense of humour and lots of common interests, Navya says. “We’re both Hindus and have the same values. Because we had both been married before, I feel as if we understood how important long-term relationships are and we knew what we wanted.”

For the next few months, the couple spent their weekends driving across the country to see each other. Although they were anxious about their children’s feelings, the families bonded quickly. “It’s not been an easy journey and we know that our previous partners are irreplaceable,” Navya says. “But I believe it’s possible to find joy in life even when you are still grieving.”

Nishant says he loves Navya’s straightforward nature. “Humour helps us through the dark times and we always laugh together.” For Navya, things “just clicked” when she met Nishant. “He’s so easy to be around and will do anything for me. I have to remind myself never to take that for granted.”

Six months after the couple met, Nishant proposed while they were on holiday. “I took Navya out to dinner and got the waiter to attach the ring to the dessert,” he says. “We knew it was going to happen and it felt like fate.”

The couple’s former partners will never be forgotten. “I’ll never be a mum to Nishant’s children and he’ll never be dad to mine,” Navya says. “You can’t ever replace Aashima and Abhay: they’ll always be part of our lives.” When they married in 2018, Navya and Nishant put up photographs of their first weddings to honour the memories. “Grief and joy can coexist,” says Navya. “Just because you’ve lost someone, doesn’t mean there won’t be glimpses of joy through the pain. We have decided to grab that joy with both hands.

“As a mother, I know that Aashima would have been so scared of leaving her children behind,” she continues. “I’m very sad that she’s not here to see her children grow up, but I feel honoured that I am helping to raise them.”

Nishant and Navya’s “seize the day” mentality has helped to strengthen their relationship and brought the two families closer together. “I used to worry more about what I was spending and think ahead,” says Nishant. “Now we enjoy ourselves. We’ve bought a big house and regularly have our extended families over for dinner.” Losing their partners so young has made them appreciate every day.

“Our story shows that there is always hope,” says Sally. “It might not be a new relationship, but one way or another you can find joy again after grief.”

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