For better or for worse.
Once upon a time, in a small church in southern Iowa, my husband and I repeated these words to each other. Bring on the happily ever after!
Mike and I are no different than most couples. We’ve had our share of joyful times and milestones over the past 33 years. We’ve also experienced difficult challenges and managed fairly well, but nothing could have prepared us for the devastation that took place on June 6, 2010. Our 18-year-old son David took his life after smoking a synthetic drug called K2. Read more here- Our David
In an instant, our lives were changed forever. Will our marriage survive losing David?
God, I was scared.
The vows that effortlessly rolled off our tongues so many years ago, would be the very same promises we would need to cling to if we had any hope of survival. We would be challenged to love and trust each other and rely and trust God on a level we didn’t yet know existed.
No marriage is exempt from going through hard times. There are too many to count, and more will come. If you’ve experienced the loss of a friend, child, or other family members, you already know how all-encompassing and overwhelmingly emotional grief can be. I’m sure you’re aware of everything you should be doing. I thought we did too, but division can sneak up so fast, you won’t even see it coming. Don’t let that happen!
Every step you take today impacts the direction of your marriage tomorrow.
Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful…
Make a verbal commitment to each other that you’re in it for the long haul
Grief in marriage is not for the faint of heart. It’s consuming. It will challenge you in ways you’ve never experienced before, so first things first – You love each other. Make a commitment that you will persevere through your heartache together, no matter how ugly it gets and no matter how frustrated you become.
*Spoiler alert; you may have to repeat this commitment many times over. Hey, we’re human. We all need reassurance. Be prepared, and don’t complain. Reassure your spouse as many times as they need to hear it.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8
Are you angry at God? Indifferent or numb? It’s okay to feel all of these emotions and more, and still be able to trust Him in your heartache.
Cry. Scream. Pray. Repeat. God is with you.
Consider Christian Counseling
Reach out for help. No, this doesn’t mean your counselor will fill the time with hour-long sermons, but it does mean that he/she will offer perspective and encouragement through the lens of what God’s Word has to say. They will help you to navigate emotionally, mentally, and spiritually so that you will be able to grow stronger together and stronger in your faith. Trust me, getting help will be a Godsend. Pun intended.
Reach out to others who have experienced loss in their marriage
Why? You have questions, don’t you? Ask them to share how they’ve gotten through it. Ask them anything. Their survival journey will give you hope for yours. You need encouragement from others!
Be prepared to communicate
What are you thinking about? How does that make you feel?
Ask open-ended questions to avoid one-word answers. We know there is usually more lurking under the surface. Go long and go deep.
As uncomfortable as it is, allow yourselves to be vulnerable. This practice will further expose your emotions and struggles, but even so, don’t be tempted to retreat. Embrace it. Yes, this is required homework. Sorry.
Mike has always been the strong one in our marriage. You may be the rock in yours, but just because you’ve always been the “fixer” doesn’t mean you don’t need to be on the receiving end of these questions as well. Let your spouse be strong for you for a change. Open your heart. You don’t need to pretend you’ve got this when you know you don’t. Remember, you need each other.
*Be patient. Encourage your spouse to share but don’t force it. Give them space to formulate their emotions.
There is no statute of limitations on your grief
It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by. You will always miss your loved one. Don’t stop sharing your feelings, memories, or what-ifs.
Offer love, patience, transparency, and grace
Let’s add compassion as well. All-day. Every day. Look, you won’t always be on the same page emotionally or otherwise. Emotions can quickly go from zero to off the grid. Some days will be good. Some days will bring out the worst in you. Some days will bring out the worst in your spouse. Regardless, meet each other where you’re at, and practice all of the above.
Go to your spouse when you’re hurting or angry, even when, especially when you can’t find the words to describe what you are. Crash through the lies that prevent you from digging deep, and dig deep! It will ultimately help in your healing and moving forward.
When the time is right, reach out to others who are hurting
Only you can determine when the time is right. I would recommend there be some space in between your loss, your journey, and your journey as a couple. Then you’ll be able to share when your grief began, when the initial grief fog began to lift, when you began to learn and when you began to heal. Hindsight and all. And please, whatever you do, don’t not share your journey with others who desperately need to hear it! Your encouragement could give others hope. No, it will give them hope.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given to us.”
Marriage is easy when life goes our way. Not so easy when it doesn’t. The vows you exchanged on your wedding day are promises to strengthen and maintain your marriage for the long haul.
Be patient with one another, always ready to love, listen and encourage. Don’t give up! Fight for your marriage in the midst of the good, bad, and unthinkable. Lastly, don’t do it without God. Go to Him individually as well as together. You are not alone. God is with you through it all.
Sometimes you don’t know you have it in you until you have to have it in you. I believe you have it in you!
God bless you as you walk through this together.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”