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A widowed dad shares how he got 'his mind right' for his three young daughters

Matt Accurso's wife Lauren died during childbirth in 2019. Their newborn son, Matthew, was taken off life support 18 days later.
Matt Accurso with daughters Ali, Naomi and Layne.
Matt Accurso with daughters Ali, Naomi and Layne.Courtesy Evergold Photography
/ Source: TODAY

Matt Accurso understands what it’s like to live with grief. In April 2019, Accurso’s wife, Lauren, suffered an amniotic fluid embolism and died while giving birth at age 37. Eighteen days later, the couple’s newborn, a boy named Matthew, was taken off life support.

At the time, Accurso’s daughters, Ali, Naomi, and Layne, were 8, 5, and 2, respectively. Accurso and Lauren, an artist and professional organizer, had been together since high school.

“She was my first love. My first everything,” Accurso, a holistic doctor in St. Augustine, Florida, TODAY Parents

Matt Accurso has been raising his daughters as a single parent since his wife Lauren Accurso died during childbirth in April 2019.
Matt Accurso has been raising his daughters as a single parent since his wife Lauren Accurso died during childbirth in April 2019.mjaccurso / Instagram

After Lauren and Matthew passed away, Accurso was angry and even began doubting God. He said he felt "like a rubber band that was about to snap." Lauren, the most loyal person Accurso had ever known, was dead, but evil criminals were roaming free. How was that OK? That's what Accurso wanted to know.

“Experiencing loss and trauma can make you hard. It can build a callous around you. You begin to wallow in self-pity. You think, ‘No one has been through what I’ve been through,’” Accurso said.

But the father of three quickly realized that his “resentment and bitterness” wasn’t just affecting him. It was hurting his children, who needed him more than ever. Naomi was having terrible nightmares. She was worried that her dad was going to die, too.

Accurso said he began leaning into his faith for strength just as Lauren would have. 

“You can allow yourself to be dragged into deeper darkness, or you can decide to be a vessel for good, and a vessel for hope,” Accurso said. “You have a choice.”

Matt Accurso joked to TODAY Parents that his kids love "bathroom humor" just like their mom did.
Matt Accurso joked to TODAY Parents that his kids love "bathroom humor" just like their mom did. Courtesy Evergold Photography

Accurso, who felt like he was drowning without Lauren, started by taking small steps — or strokes, as he calls them. His first stroke was having conversations with God before getting out of bed in the morning.

“I would say, ‘God, help my mind to be in the right place before my feet touch the ground. I don’t want to wake up until I’m practicing gratitude,” he said. “I gotta get my mind right for these little girls because need me.” 

Accurso said adjusting to life as a single parent took time. He tells other widowers to give themselves grace. Lauren had homeschooled the kids and was the resident nurturer. She kept track of the family schedule and did a majority of the cooking. Suddenly, Accurso was the point person for all those tasks.

“When Lauren was alive, I'd get home and play with the girls and we’d make messes. It was all about having fun,” Accurso said. “Now, I still play with my kids but I’ve got to put on all the other hats.”

Accurso sees his late wife in their three daughters.
Accurso sees his late wife in their three daughters.Courtesy Evergold Photography

At first, it was overwhelming, but things did get easier. Accurso said they are now in a good groove: After work he goofs around with the girls, and then gives them an art project or activity while he prepares dinner. Sometimes they’ll just have cold cereal and fruit — and Accurso has learned to be OK with that. What’s most important is that they’re all together. 

Ali is now 11. Naomi and Layne are 8 and 6. 

“Ali is almost a teenager and we have to work on all those things that come with being in that season of life,” Accurso said. “Some of her friends are having their periods and I want to have healthy conversations with her. I don’t want those conversations to be awkward for her.”

Matt Accurso with his late wife, Lauren.
Matt Accurso with his late wife, Lauren.Courtesy Matt Accurso

Accurso said he’s been turning to Lauren’s friends for advice. He also became active with a group for Christian widowers.

“When you get around men who have been through the fire, you immediately connect with them,” he revealed. Accurso said the group also helped him to forgive himself. After Lauren passed, he found himself dwelling on past arguments.

“Lauren and I had a wonderful marriage, but we didn’t have a perfect marriage,” Accurso said. “They were like, ‘You can’t live like this. Your daughters deserve more than that.’ Life is too short to live with regret. You need to move forward.’”

It’s been three years since Lauren died, and Accurso is dating a woman in the U.K. Accurso described her as “compassionate and understanding.”

“She doesn’t take it personally that part of me will always be in love with Lauren,” he shared. He’s slowly introducing her to Ali, Naomi and Layne. 

“I’m meeting with some mentors to try and ease them in. I don’t want them to feel pressure,” he said. “I’m being very careful.”

The Accursos honor and remember Lauren every day. Her artwork hangs throughout the house and her pictures are displayed prominently.

“She’s everywhere,” he said.

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