THE husband of slain honeymooner Michaela McAreavey still feels "very much" married to her, almost two years after her brutal death.
ohn McAreavey has spoken for the first time since a trial in Mauritius saw the two men accused of her murder acquitted.
The 27-year-old Gaelic footballer said: "Whenever you hear people talking about marriage and all the ups and downs of marriage, all I had were ups. I cherish those days so, so much."
He recalls how the young honeymooning couple enjoyed "12 brilliant days of marriage" -- adding that "people forget that".
Mr McAreavey revealed how his faith in God gave him the resolve to carry on, even as he faced distressing allegations levelled at him in court when he returned to the paradise island where his wife was killed in January last year.
And speaking about the daughter of Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte, he said: "She's my wife, and it might be difficult for people to get that.
"But that's the way I feel, and thank God for it, and long may it continue." Mr McAreavey was speaking on a DVD produced to encourage vocations by the Catholic Archdiocese of Armagh which was launched by Cardinal Sean Brady last night.
In the footage, he can be seen visiting his wife's grave in her home village of Ballygawley, Co Tyrone. At her graveside, he says: "I would still say I am still very much in the grieving process. I know I'm on a long journey.
"I miss her a lot. But I just have to try to accept that I have Michaela in a different way now.
"Our relationship has changed, but I still have her. Nobody will ever be able to take that away.
"To be married was a wonderful experience and thank God I had that chance.
"People look at me now and always see me on my own, but I still feel that I am very much married to Michaela."
Speaking on the DVD 'A Calling for Everyone', Mr McAreavey said that, despite his wife's violent death and the ordeal of the trial, "I never questioned my faith".
"In fact, it was probably the opposite. I found great resolve in my faith. Thank God that I had, because I would have been absolutely lost."
Mr McAreavey and his wife's family underwent a torrid ordeal this summer as two hotel workers went on trial accused of killing her during her honeymoon at Legends Hotel.
Ultimately, the two men, Sandip Moneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon, were unanimously acquitted by the jury after a botched police investigation.
Throughout the trial, defence lawyers for the two men made upsetting allegations insinuating that Mr McAreavey played a role in his wife's death.
This was despite Mauritian police ruling him out as a suspect in the early hours of the investigation.
According to Mr McAreavey, after his wife's death, his faith is helping him with the grieving process.
He said: "I was able to go to quiet places and visit Michaela's grave and go into church and just sit there and try to make sense of everything.
"Sometimes, he would give me signs, and I just have to take them for their value and I know that's God and Michaela saying 'We're here, carry on, we're going to get you through this'."
The Director of Vocations for the Armagh Diocese, Fr Peter McAnenly, explained that the DVD was made to show how ordinary people, not just the clergy, could have a "vocation" in the church.
He said the diocese approached Mr McAreavey to "in some way acknowledge the struggles and brokenness that can be a part of life".
He describes the widower's contribution as "powerful" and said "his faith has been his rock" since Michaela's death.
Following the acquittal of the two men accused of her murder, Mauritian Police have opened a new investigation into Mrs McAreavey's death.
A security guard at the former Legends Hotel, Dassen Naraynan, is due to appear in court next month on provisional charges of conspiracy to commit larceny in the McAreavey's honeymoon suite.
His lawyer is trying to have the case thrown out after the acquittal of his alleged co-conspirator, Mr Moneea.