One Podcaster's Journey to New Love Following Loss
Ashlee Jensen is a Utah-based podcaster and mother. In addition to raising her daughter Poppy, Ashlee can frequently be found recording episodes of The Art of Joy podcast alongside her mother, Tresa. The mother-daughter duo uses their podcast to talk about both "the good things and the difficult things" we are all faced with. Their goal is "to find connection, beauty, love and healing, by sharing stories and insights. We believe that inspired people inspire people," they tell Apple Podcasts. Ashlee also uses another platform, Instagram, to share her life with the world. To her more than one-hundred-thousand followers she showcases everything from fashion tips to insights on connection and love. I recently connected with her for The Knot Spring 2021 issue as she opened up about her road to healing and new love after the passing of her first husband.
From Ashlee: I had this idea in my head of how I thought my life would go: get married, have a baby—you know, a cute little life. But when my daughter, Poppy, was just eight months old, my husband, Paul, went missing. Following an 18-day search, I sat with Poppy, our life in pieces. I didn't know there could be such darkness. But my mom promised me, "As dark as this feels right now, I promise you, one day you will feel the light again."
Following the funeral, Poppy and I moved in with my mother. I hadn't left Poppy's side for months, and while I wasn't ready for a relationship, I was ready for a break from the heaviness of my emotions. Around Halloween, my friend brought Dane over for a game night. He is a six-foot, five-inch Danish man who golfs, and he walked in the door with confidence and charm. Yet his presence was also calming and peaceful; he felt like home. We played a card game that night and really hit it off. I hadn't laughed that hard in a while.
I was smitten with him from the start, but also apprehensive about being in a relationship. Although we clicked right away, I still had a lot to go through emotionally. I had already been through so much; my life was unzipped and fully laid out for the world to see when Paul went missing. The life that I built was just shattered. However, the thing that was beautiful about Dane was that he allowed me to heal myself.
He didn't step in and just fill a hole, a broken heart. He stepped in and buoyed me up on my journey. He let me cry on his shoulder, he brought fresh perspective into my world, and, more than anything, he brought hope. The first year after my husband's passing was really hard on the anniversary dates, birthdays—all these reminders that take you right back. Dane, fortunately, was the supporting anchor through it all. That's why our relationship works. He didn't try to save me, but was just supportive, loving and kind. Over the course of the two years we dated, he also slowly won over my daughter. Now she is obsessed with him.
When we got married on August 22nd, it was the most magical day, second only to giving birth. It was surreal to be having that moment, because I honestly couldn't imagine myself getting married again after going through such a big loss.
Although COVID-19 upended our initial plan to get married in California—and then our second plan to wed in Hawaii—our intimate celebration in Utah was perfect. The energy at our venue was so inviting, welcoming and grounding.
I chose to have my mom and Poppy walk me down the aisle. After my first husband died, and even before then, my mom's always been there for me. I also worked so hard through infertility to get my daughter here. She is my heart outside of my body. When I was healing through my grieving process, Poppy was the only thing that brought me peace and calm; she grounded me. Having Poppy holding my hand down the aisle was symbolic of our new journey with Dane. Plus, having my mom holding my dress, just as she had held my hand when I gave birth, made me feel her supporting this next step.
My mom has a shaman background and she started the ceremony by opening the directions, which are similar to prayers. My longtime therapist then officiated as we exchanged vows. He has been there through everything and it was really special to have him marry us. Many of the guests had been through the heartache with us, so it was beautiful to have them present for a new beginning. Our union was truly a moment of collective healing.