PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff's Lieutenant Chad Brackman's widow Melissa knows the heartbreak of losing a spouse all too well.
“Surely you wouldn’t do this to me again. There’s no way. I’ve already been through this. There’s no way you would do this to me again,” said Melissa. That was her conversation with her higher power as she drove to the hospital three weeks ago.
“Unfortunately, I kind of know what to expect from my healing," said Melissa. "I feel like I know what not to do this time around and I’m learning that you can be human in front of people and it’s okay. Whereas before I was so scared to let people see me break or see me cry because I felt like that wasn’t going to help them.”
She lost her first husband Scott Ponder tragically at the hands of a serial killer in South Carolina in 2003. Then tragedy struck again when Chad was killed while on an off-duty traffic control shift in Scottsdale. Melissa never thought she'd marry again until she met Chad.
“It’s not something I thought I wanted because I felt like life had been too traumatic and this isn’t something for me," said Melissa. "He completely created his own space in my heart and did so beautifully. To have love once is beautiful but to actually have it twice is almost miraculous.”
In a 2016 interview with People Magazine, she said she was finally able to heal the first time after authorities arrested 45-year-old Todd Kohlhepp for her husband's murder.
“We are all going to heal differently,” Melissa told the court after Kohlhepp was sentenced.
Melissa was given another chance at love after meeting Chad. The two married in 2015, eight years after Scott's death. Together they shared two children and two stepchildren.
“He was a quiet giant of a man; probably why we balanced each other out. I’m loud. I’m crazy and obnoxious at times, and he always went along with my crazy ideas which I so appreciate that,” said Melissa.
To cope with the loss of Scott, Melissa created Surviving Life After Tragedy, a personal blog on Facebook.
In a Nov. 6 post, Melissa wrote a post in honor of the 18-year anniversary of Scott's death saying that she was "deliriously happy" during their marriage. She went on to say that she felt the same married to Chad.
"One day Scott would wrap his arms around Chad and thank him for taking over when he couldn’t,” she wrote.
Just days later, she wrote a new post. This time sharing the grief of losing Chad.
“My heart is broken in a million pieces. To do this once is tragic but to do this again is unimaginable. Keep all of us in your prayers. We will need them. I do feel the love. Thank you,” Melissa wrote.
Melissa says the pain of losing Scott has given her the strength to grieve Chad.
"I do feel in my heart he (Scott) was one of the first people to greet him (Chad),” said Melissa.
The two men will be forever connected to Melissa and their family. Melissa says grieving is a process and is a part of her purpose to care for other's who have experienced a tragedy she knows all too well.
“We have a choice," said Melissa. "We can let it destroy us or we can figure out the best way possible to gain something from it and help other people.”
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