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Marriage 101: Times of Grief and Loss

Jennifer Hallmark,

e’ve been talking about commitment, fun, adventures and spending time together. However, I remember in my wedding vows, words that said “for better or for worse; in sickness and in health.” Today we need to discuss the important subject of how to help your spouse during times of loss and grief...

I mentioned in an earlier article how my husband’s father died before we had been married a year, a victim of cancer. Since that time we have experienced several losses, my father suffering an aneurysm and dying within days and Danny’s mother dying suddenly from a heart attack. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. We have suffered through job losses and loss of health. Since loss is something we must all inevitably deal with, how do we keep it from tearing the marriage apart?

Everyone handles grief differently. Some people want to be left alone while others cannot stand being alone. People go through stages of anger, shock, denial, grief and bitterness, to name a few. Loss might not be your spouses fault but as someone close to you, they feel the brunt of it.

Since loss is something we must all inevitably deal with, how do we keep it from tearing the marriage apart?
When my dad passed away, I didn’t want to be around anyone. I was afraid I would start crying again if anyone mentioned him, so I avoided people. When Danny’s mother died, he wanted me around all the time. He needed me to be there when the grief cycled again. One way we helped each other during this time was to see the needs and meet them. Danny respected the fact that I didn’t want to go to ball games and community events for several months. After a period of time, however, he began gently nudging me back into society. He knew I had to eventually face people but he didn’t rush me. At the same time, we did everything together after his mother died. After a period of time, I suggested events for him to attend without me, giving us both the breathing room we needed.

A different type of grief that I dealt with was aloss of health after surgery. In 2007, I had gall bladder surgery, a simple out-patient procedure. This turned into a five day hospital stay. Two years later, I am fighting my way back to health. My body has not wanted to adjust to the surgery and I have changed medicine many times. This season of poor health caused strain in our marriage. We had to make adjustments for my work and what we could do together as a couple and a family.

I experienced grief, anger and hopelessness over
When my dad passed away, I didn’t want to be around anyone.
this unexpected situation. Not feeling like my health would ever improve, I pulled away from the people trying to assist me. What finally helped me was accepting the place I was at in my health and believing it would get better in time. This loss of health had stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to rely on others to encourage me, especially my husband. It was for the better, in the long run, and I learned some valuable lessons during this season. My health is probably eighty percent back to normal, still improving.

There are three things to remember when helping your spouse deal with loss.
(1) Try to be understanding. Recognize that your spouse needs to grieve in their own way. Be open to their needs without being pushy.
(2) Don’t take things too personally. People dealing with loss and grief say and do things that are out of character at times. Realize that this is normal.
(3) Love them. Spend extra time thinking of ways to ease the burden of loss, such as helping with chores or adjusting your schedule. Simple things say “I’m there for you.”

We have gone through difficult times during our twenty-seven years of marriage, times of grief and loss. Oddly enough, many of these times brought us closer together than I would have ever thought possible. I keep this in mind as we go through each struggle, believing our relationship will grow deeper and more intimate. Next time we will talk about positive people, how having good friends can make your marriage better…simply Marriage 101…

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