More than a decade ago now, the world lost beloved wildlife expert Steve Irwin to a freak stingray accident. The Australian conservationist best known as The Crocodile Hunter traipsed the world sporting khakis and contagious enthusiasm as he searched for dangerous animals… while simultaneously winning over hearts across the globe.
Last year marked the 11-year anniversary of Steve Irwin’s death, but his memory continues to live on through the ones he loved most.
His teen daughter Bindi first brought the waves of emotion surrounding his death rushing back to the spotlight in 2015 when she performed several Dancing With the Stars routines in his honor.
But no one could know that better than Steve’s devoted wife of 14 years, Terri.
The couple met in a chance encounter back in 1991 and instantly fell head over heels. They got married just eight short months later and remained together until Steve’s tragic death in September 2006.
And to this day, her beloved crocodile hunter is still the only man that has Terri’s heart.
“I think it’s wonderful when people who have lost someone find love again, but I’m not personally looking, and I haven’t been on a date in 27 years,” she recently told PEOPLE.
“In fact, it’s been so long, I’ve had a couple of lovely women ask me out because they figured that’s the case,” she added. “But I’m content. I have two beautiful kids, a really full plate. I’ve already had my happily ever after.”
In spite of her unshaken faithfulness to her late husband, Terri admits that coping with Steve’s death was still the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. Coming to terms with her “happily ever after” getting cut abruptly short has left scars on her heart that may never fully heal.
“No matter [what] the circumstances are that you lose someone, nobody’s truly prepared,” said Terri. “Steve’s accident was so unexpected, it was extremely challenging.”
She shares that one of the ways she and the kids have coped is by seeking out the good in each day, both in their surroundings and in their own acts of service.
“We’d each say our favorite part of the day, what we were most looking forward to tomorrow and a good deed we did that day,” says Terri of their nightly rituals following Steve’s death.
“You can’t focus on yourself,” she continued. “You need to focus on what you’re doing for others and then you can start to heal.”
Though the Irwins hearts will forever bear a Steve-shaped hole, Terri is grateful for the “larger than life” legacy her husband left for her, Bindi, and Robert to carry out:
“Steve was someone who was larger than life and really did live life to the fullest. Even though he died at 44 years of age, he lived such a full life and that’s what I want to do and share.”