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Richard Alpert thought his future and that of his children would be different, but he is determined to find the joy in life despite the pain of losing his wife.

Alpert, a father of two children, ages 14 and 10, said he became good friends with his wife, Melanie Baron-Alpert, before the pair fell in love and married in 2000. Just 10 years later, Melanie was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 40. She died a year later.

“My wife was 10, almost 11, years younger than I,” Alpert said. “I’m thinking I would grow old. I never thought I would be taking care of her and then the children at my age. It was bizarre. It’s a lot to process mentally and emotionally. In our society, typically women are doing those things — nurturing them, taking them to the doctor. All of a sudden, that’s on me. It’s a major adjustment.”

But Alpert has made sure that he and his children have processed their grief and sought help when they needed it. That began while Melanie was still with them and they worked with the local nonprofit organization, Let There Be Mom, to help Melanie create tangible reminders that could stay with her husband and children. Among those items are hand-painted dishes featuring Melanie’s favorite brownie recipe.

Since Melanie passed away in 2011, Alpert has been deliberate in seeking healing, even when it would have been easier to do otherwise.

“I think we’ve made some pretty remarkable progress,” Alpert said. “Everybody is laughing easier, enjoying themselves – not feeling like we’re stuck in grief. The big heavy cloud lifted one day. We actively processed our grief, rather than burying it and pretending like nothing happened.”

This most recent Mother’s Day, the grief was still present, but not as overwhelming as Alpert pulled out the brownie recipe dishes.

“They say time heals,” he said. “I’ve seen people actively stuck in grief for 30 years and I didn’t want to be that person or have them be those people. I didn’t want their mother dying to be an excuse for not living their lives fully. We went through some painful stuff, but there’s beauty in every day. I try my best to take notice of what’s going on and not take anything for granted.”

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