The holiday season can be especially challenging for those who have lost a spouse, but as the season revolves around hope and love, widows and widowers should have hope for the future and may find love in unlikely places. Such was the case for Spanish Fork residents Randy and Melanee Bronson, who in 2007 each lost their first spouse to pancreatic cancer.

Randy's late wife Gayle and Melanee were roommates at BYU. Randy and Gayle moved to Alaska and Melanee and her husband Kev moved to Connecticut, but they continued to keep in touch with Christmas cards every year.

When both spouses died, Melanee continued to send a Christmas card to Randy, and he reciprocated. A year and a half after both their spouses passed away, Melanee and Randy began to correspond and date. Randy had moved his children to Utah, and he and Melanee -- who still lived in Connecticut -- endured a long distance relationship for eight months before they tied the knot. Combining Melanee's four children with Randy's five made for a real Brady Bunch scenario, but it wasn't always bell-bottoms and smiles in the Bronson home. It took time, compassion and love to merge the two families.

"My girls had a little bit of a tough time with everything," Melanee said. "They actually cried at the wedding ceremony, and were really having a tough time, but I knew time would heal. Right now they're doing really well, because Randy and I, our main goal is that our children and grandchildren are OK. We wrap our lives around our kids and grandkids. That's just what we've done."

There is a source available now for those who may be dating a widower, just as Melanee did a couple of years ago. Eagle Mountain resident Abel Keogh's latest book, "Dating a Widower -- a Guide to Starting a Relationship with a Man that is Starting Over," analyzes the mind and actions of widowers who have dived back in the dating world, giving women dating widowers insights into their motives. Keogh taps into his personal experiences as a widower as well as research and case studies from widowers around the country.

Keogh started blogging about his experiences as a widower back in 2002, while recovering from his wife's death. The blog's popularity grew as women dating widowers sought advice and insights from Keogh.

"I decided to write the book to get the most common issues and concerns out there," he said.

Keogh's blog,, continues to have Widower Wednesday, a column addressing issues regarding widowers, dating widowers, and moving on.

According to Keogh, some widowers simply are not ready to commit to healthy relationships. Randy remembers when he tried re-entering the dating scene again, and immediately retreated from it.

"The singles thing is awful," he said. "I was not interested in dating. At one point, I said, 'I do not feel single. And until I do feel single, I am just not interested in dating or the single scene.' "

For those who aren't sure how they feel after the death of a spouse, or for those who are dating a widower, Keogh offers warning signs. Some red flags include not telling anyone he's dating or introducing you to family and friends, and not changing anything in the house.

Melanee and Randy Bronson agree that family introductions are important in a committed relationship.

Keogh also addresses how depression is common in a widower around the holidays. Widowers should expect to feel blue, but if dating someone new, these feelings shouldn't affect the new relationship.

"Is the widower moody and depressed to the point where it interferes with the relationship and can ruin the holidays," Keogh said. "That can be a red flag that he still has some issues to work through before seriously dating someone. That doesn't mean he's not ready to date, but he's not ready for a serious relationship."

Released on Sept. 26, "Dating a Widower," published by Ben Lomond Press, is available as an eBook or hardcopy. Keogh is also author of a novel, "The Third," and a memoir, "Room for Two," about the long journey to recovery from his first wife's tragic suicide.