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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — A West Des Moines woman knows how heavy grief can be and is encouraging other widows to not carry their grief alone.

Three and a half years ago, Nicole Fergesen’s husband died unexpectedly while on a business trip.

“I was 29. I had been married for 9 years. The kids were 5,4 and 2 at the time so literally it was the furthest thing from my brain and for it to actually happen to us,” she said.

When the grief was fresh, Fergesen says it was overwhelming. Now, it’s just as hard but she carries the title of widow with what she describes as a “badge of honor.”

“Me being Marcus’s widow shows a part of my story. It’s part of who I am. It’s not that I’m leading with my pain but leading with what I’ve gone through and what god has held us through.

It’s led Fergesen to launch a chapter of “Never Alone” in Des Moines, a support group for women who have lost their spouse.

“I vastly underestimated the value of having friends who have gone through the same thing,” Fergesen says. “In group we say, ‘I’m sorry you’re here but I’m glad you’re here” because we know what that woman had to walk through in order to be a part of this terrible club, but I know you without saying a word.”

Discussions within the support group will center around topics like healthy grieving, kids and re-marriage. All things Fergeson admits can be difficult to navigate after the loss of a spouse.

“It just gets really hard sometimes. I was so happy in my old life you could say, but I’m so happy in my new life. There is like this constant contradiction where it’s like you lost one and gained another.

As painful as loss can be, Fergesen says you can still find purpose in your life after the death of a loved one.

“The temptation is to isolate so if you do put yourself out there and allow yourself to be known that’s painful but you will find your healing.”

Saturday, Never Alone will host an informal meet and greet for moms and their kids at Valley Community Center in West Des Moines at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.