Couple’s story of finding love after losing spouses to cancer shared across the US

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — In 2019, one Overland Park couple told FOX4 about their love story. Now it’s getting an even bigger audience.

Kristen and Michael Kirlew became friends after their spouses died of cancer.

Kristen was friends with Michael’s wife, Michelle, and when she died in 2016, Kristen reached out to offer condolences. Then when Kristen’s husband, Ryan, died that same year, Michael did the same.

They didn’t reach out again for some time until the challenges of being a young widow showed up and conversation struck once again.

The conversations continued and eventually the two fell in love, got married and blended their two families and five children.

Our story on FOX4 went out over the air, online and into the world where, one year later, People Magazine saw it.

“I ran downstairs, and Michael was working out, and I’m like, ‘Michael, People Magazine just called!'” Michelle said. “And I’m like, wait a second this might be a prank, so I looked up her name and no, she was a reporter for People.”

They were so excited to finally see it in print they went out this morning to find a copy, searching several stores before they found one.

“Bam, there it is, so I picked up four. I picked up four more, and then I picked up four more,” Michael said. “And then I’m like, I have 17. I need a nice round number. I’m an Army guy. We always round up, so I just picked up three more and said 20 — that’s it.”

Michael and Kristen both lost their spouses to cancer, but now with thousands of people dying from COVID-19, they felt it was more important than ever to share their story.

“I just can’t imagine going through what we went through under the circumstances, so I’m hoping — we are hoping that the story on this platform will reach somebody and touch their heart and give them some hope,” Kristen said.

They want people to know love is always a gift. You don’t move on but you can move forward.

“I just wish I could tell them it’s OK,” Kristen said. “You’re going to get through this. There’s going to be people there to get you through this, and you never know what might come out of that friend. It’s really just hope.”

Michael and Kristen’s advice is don’t rush it. There’s no handbook on how to grieve. And don’t be afraid to lean on your friends and family.

You can read PEOPLE Magazine’s story here.

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