My husband died less than two years after our wedding. What happened next should never happen to anyone
After finding herself widowed at 24, Prerna couldn’t have imagined the trials that awaited her. And the strength she had to pull through
I met my future husband when I was still in school — Heet was my brother’s friend, and we just had a hi-hello relationship. But one day, it changed. He was visiting London from his university in Prague, and that’s when he told me, “I really like you.” I was 16, he was 19. I’m from an orthodox Rajasthani family while he was Gujarati, so we didn’t think our families would accept. Still, we kept in touch. He even attended my brother’s wedding and met my whole family.
There were rishtas coming in for me, so I jokingly told my dad that I liked Heet. He was on board immediately. We were very young, I was only 22, but it felt like we were getting along, our parents were happy, so why should we wait? In any case, Indian parents are happier if you’re married rather than in a relationship. We had a religious ceremony in December 2020 in my London home with only 11 people present due to pandemic restrictions. We thought we’d legally register the marriage, and throw a grand celebration, once things opened up again.
A year and a half later, he died in a plane crash. I was 24.
Heet was a commercial pilot, and in 2022, we had gone to Spain where he was continuing his training post-covid. He was flying solo, the Spanish authorities informed me, when his plane crashed. My life came to a standstill. Both our families rushed to Spain, where we performed his final rites.
My husband was the only son, so things began to fall apart.
I had travelled with my in-laws to their ancestral home in Jamnagar, Gujarat. On the 12th day of Heet’s death, while I was still in shock, they made me sign some legal documents at their home. I couldn’t read them because they were in Gujarati, and given my state of mind, I faithfully trusted his parents. Only several months later, when my parents got their hands on the documents, did I realise that I had been made to sign over Heet’s Indian investments, insurance, and estate in their favour.
His family kept saying they wished I had been pregnant, so that his child could carry on his legacy. Within 15 days of him passing away, they began talking about getting me remarried.
At the time, I was living in my marital home with my in-laws. I was not able to feel my grief and accept it, they expected me to cook, clean and look after the family, even though I couldn’t physically move. In our culture, being a widow isn’t easily accepted, especially not when you’re so young. They didn’t want to deal with that burden, so I felt like I couldn’t cry or express my feelings, even though I had just lost my husband. Bear in mind, I was really attached to my in-laws, they were the only people who could have understood my pain since they too had suffered a great loss.
The humiliation and emotional abuse got so bad, and they eventually evicted me from my husband’s house. They refused to give me any of his belongings, including his clothes and his phone, which had some private photos of us on it. They even blocked me from his phone contact list and Whatsapp.
Heet passed away just 33 days before our appointment to legally register our marriage, which left me extremely vulnerable. A lot of Indian women only get married in religious ceremonies, and in cases of divorce or becoming a widow, they don’t have any leverage because they don’t have any legal standing. People take it for granted until they’re in that situation. A few months later we received a document from his parents which stated that he had died unmarried and without children, taking advantage of my unfortunate luck. They were able to transfer Heet’s entire UK estate, insurance, and investments in their names because he hadn’t made a will.
Even though it’s extremely uncomfortable to think about, keep all your documents up to date — regardless of whether you’re single, married or have children —to ensure you are leaving behind an easier life for your loved ones.
Becoming a widow at such a young age and dealing with constant grief has impacted every single direction of my life. People no longer see me as a normal person, they look at me with sadness or pity. That’s impacted my self-esteem because I don’t want it to be that one scenario makes or breaks who I am.
Even with my in-laws, we used to be happy and get along. Now we haven’t spoken in a year, and it hurts me that suddenly one day they don’t recognise me anymore, I’m no one to them. It feels like, for them, my life only had value because of him.
But Heet would want me to be happy, to be strong, and I don’t want people to think of me as any less because he’s not around. I’m a strong person thanks to my upbringing so I’ve been able to conquer whatever I experienced, but it doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t deserve to experience this, to have my life fall apart.
Now I approach life on a day-to-day basis, or even an hour-to-hour basis because it’s still hard to deal with what I’m experiencing. I used to be a big worrier about the future, how I’m going to progress, how my career needs to be, where I’m going to send my kids to school. Now, I don’t look past the 24 hours, my life is quite limited to living in the moment because that’s all I had with my husband. The last 24 hours we spent together remains the clearest in my memory.
I’ve stopped stressing about things I can’t control, and have learnt to approach life in a positive way. I feel quite happy and content with what I have, because when you lose something so precious to you, nothing material seems to have any value.