“For better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part.”
There are days when I wonder why on earth I ever stood up in front of God and 300 witnesses that included our family and friends and said those words to my husband. Talk about a SMH moment….sheesh! And on top of all of those promises–I had the nerve to promise my husband that I would even follow him no matter what….even if he were going in the wrong direction. *Insert my raised eye brow and twisted lips here.* I mean, don’t get me wrong–my husband is a sweetheart and he’s worth being committed to but I don’t think I had any idea what I was promising on May 28, 2011. Some days I want to put all of those words back into my mouth, say, “Sorry–my bad” for ever saying them and return back to my life pre-marriage.
But it doesn’t work that way.
My husband and I have been married for five years and three months. And in that time, we have lived through the first three vows that we agreed to and we aren’t rushing towards the until death do us part clause.
In the last three years we have dealt with job loss, an MS diagnosis, a surgery, car accidents, having more than enough money in the bank-to having no money in the bank (like none), a fire occurring at the house we were supposed to move into, which resulted in a very traumatic move, our son dying and a slew of other “adventures.” (“Adventures” and “adventurous” are the words I choose to use instead of some other words that I could use to describe our tough times.)
Child loss is the type of adventure that can truly shake a marriage and sadly, in some cases, completely rip it apart. There are so many different emotions that the both of you are dealing with individually and then there are emotions that you are dealing with collectively. In the midst of our loss here are some things that Chris and I have done to help us stay married. They may not work for everyone but they’ve worked for us. I hope they encourage you as you go through the journey of child loss.
1.) Make the decision to stay together. In our son’s final minutes of life, with both of us crying very hard, my husband turned to me and said “No matter what-this will not tear us apart.” I, through tears, shook my head yes and agreed. We knew that our son’s death was the hardest thing we’d ever been through–and hopefully it would be the hardest thing we’d ever go through. But we made a decision on that day in room B7 of the NICU that we would not divorce because of that hardship.
2.) Go to counseling. There is nothing wrong with going to counseling. In fact, in my opinion-everyone needs counseling. Keeping everything bottled up is good for no one. And not dealing with a situation is still a way of dealing with the situation. Choosing to not cope with a situation is a form of coping with a situation. And neither of those options are effective. Counselors can provide a different perspective. Plus, they get paid to lend a listening ear–so they tend to be really good listeners. And they can refer you to outside resources that can help you.
3.) Be patient with one another. All of us have something about us that drives our spouse crazy. Marriage by itself and dealing with those issues is hard. But in the midst of tragedy, those issues seem to be magnified even more. Tensions tend run high and patience runs low. Chris and I committed to being patient with each other. Sometimes we get it right and a lot of times we get it wrong. But–at least we try. Patience with each other will go a long way as you walk through the loss of your child together.
4.) Remember that you two are the only two who will forever be completely and totally tied to your child. Your child may have passed away but the two of you are still here. When you see your spouse and when you touch your spouse, view it as seeing and touching a part of your child. This perspective may cause you to love your spouse a little bit more because if you love your child, chances are you love the other person who helped you create the child.
5.) Understand that just because your spouse grieves differently that you, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t grieving at all. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person does what they need to do to comfort themselves and to let their feelings out. I’m more social than Chris and for me, spending time with friends and expressing myself on social media have been a part of my grieving process. Chris is more introspective and for him, talking to me about how life would be different if our son were here has helped him.
6.) Be honest with each other. Tell each other when you’re having a tough time. Tell each other when your days are hard. Tell each other when you need to be left alone. Tell each other when you feel like screaming. Tell each other when you feel like you’re losing hope.
7.) Talk about your child to each other. You may get sad when doing it-but you may also find that it helps you.
One of the core pieces of marriage is the commitment to unity. You are on this “life journey” together. There will be high highs and low lows. And losing a child is one of the lowest of lows. But if you hold on to one another and promise to stick through every experience together, you will make it.
Written by: Danielle Jones