For the Shemwell family, finding love after loss opened a lot of new doors.
Eleven, to be exact — that’s how many children that Utah-based couple Erica and Spencer have between them in their blended family. The crew of 13, with children ranging in age from 3 to 12, stars in TLC’s latest reality show “The Blended Bunch,” which premieres March 16th at 9 p.m.
“When we go camping, most families can have one tent; we have three tents. Everything is just amplified when you have a lot of kids,” Erica Shemwell, 33, told The Post.
Erica and Spencer met as young windows after both losing their first spouses.
“I had been a widow for two years when Spencer and I got engaged, and he had been one for a year,” said Erica, who was a stay-at-home mom to her seven children before meeting Spencer. Her kids are Landon, 12; Emma, 10; Lily, 9; Sophie, 8; Tanner, 6; Amelia, 5; and Caleb, 3.
“There is no hard and fast rule about when it’s appropriate to start dating [after losing your partner],” she said. “Some people start dating almost immediately, other people have some really intense grieving for five to 10 years. I think it’s up to that person and what they feel is best. They’re the only ones who can make that call.”
Shemwell married her first husband, Tony, when she was 20 and became a widow at 29 after he died of brain cancer in 2016. She met Spencer, 32, in a Facebook group for Mormon people who lost their spouses, and they married in 2019.
A father of four who remodels homes for a living, Spencer lost his first wife, Aimee, in 2017 to a car accident. His brood consists of Brayden, 12; Harper, 8; Avery, 6; and Bexley, 4.
Erica said that being open to each other about their former spouses has been an “important part” of their relationship.
“We talk about Tony and Aimee all the time. I had been widowed for over a year when Spencer and I met, so I had done a huge process of my grieving already and I was in a good place. Spencer … was trying to find someone with common ground who understood what it was like to lose a spouse and be a single parent. We were both 29 years old and were widowed with several kids. There are not a lot of people in the same situation!”
The children now share four bedrooms in their Lehi City home. Still, it hasn’t always been a smooth transition for Erica to go from parenting seven kids to parenting 11.
“You’re just always on your toes. The kids are all growing so much, especially our pre-teens, there’s always something new to figure out. It’s a constant emotional roller coaster with them.”
The biggest adjustment? Making sure that she gives the kids all equal attention.
“When I had just my seven, I knew them really well so I knew what to expect. So having Spencer’s kids come in, I needed to get to learn who they are and establish that relationship.”
A key part of not letting anyone get lost in the shuffle (and keeping their house as chaos-free as possible) is making sure to stick to a strict schedule, and designating one-on-one time for each kid, she said: “Like, ‘It’s Harper’s turn to stay up late tonight, so she’s going to come sit up and talk and spend some time.’”
While their large family makes the Shemwell’s situation unusual, looking for love after loss is more common — especially after the pandemic.
Erica’s advice to anyone in a similar tragic circumstance is, “[It’s about] just being gentle on yourself, allowing yourself time to heal and grieve and go with what your heart says. If you feel like something is a right fit, do it.”