Nora McInerny Purmort , 33, lost the love of her life, her husband Aaron, to brain cancer on November 25, 2014, a few weeks after her father also died.
But instead of wallowing in her sadness, Nora reached out to find other widows, then created a support group where those who lost their loves could be honest about the emotions and feelings that follow—naming it The Hot Young Widow’s Club.
She also penned a memoir, called It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too), which was released earlier this year. “It’s a funny and sad book about my dad and my husband dying weeks apart,” Nora tells Personal Space. It all started with a blog she called My Husband’s Tumor, where she wrote down her feelings while her husband was ill.
The HYWC stemmed from a joke her husband thought of before he died. He’d been suffering from brain cancer for three years, with the two dating for a year before he became sick.
“I’m finally dating someone who is good,” she remembers thinking. “Our relationship was so fun and normal.”
And the two had fun together until the end, even penning Aaron’s famous obituary together the night he entered hospice.
“We said he was bit by a radioactive spider bite,” Nora laughs.
But after he died, she found she immediately became part of a group of women who people didn’t know how to address. “These things are hard for people to look at,” she says. “We’re so afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, so we don’t do anything sometimes. After Aaron’s death and the blog, my inbox was filled wit women telling me about their dead husbands. People had stopped listening to their stories and they didn’t know what to do.”
You never move on, Nora says, and she realized widows needed a healthy outlet to understand what they were feeling was normal.
“It always stays with you,” she says. “So the more we met and clicked I realized it did need to be a place. Now, it’s under a secret name on Facebook, where no one can find it. It’s a safe, secret place to say and feel things that you need to.”
Nora says that the group has grown to women of all ages, and one man who is a member. “We talk about anger too, no one wants to see the anger side of grief,” she says. “We talk about sex because your body doesn’t stop needing that. We talk about how your relationships change, some people are gone, they don’t know what to do with you. We talk about dating.”
The group meets to try to laugh and ease the pain of losing your partner. “I’ve always been like ‘I’m not a support group person,’ but I made what I needed for the kind of women who needed it,” Nora says. “There is totally a bond and an understanding there. It’s so nice to see other women who are trying to figure out the same things and have a place to be honest. It’s ok to feel happy again.”
Nora's also hosting the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast, produced by American Public Media and launching November 2016.
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