The loss of a child can draw a husband and wife closer than ever, or it can cause a strain on the relationship to the extreme of divorce. Your marriage is grieving along with you. Because grieving is so personal and much of the time you are not on the same page, it can be difficult to retain the closeness of your marriage.
What can you do to maintain your relationship through the grief process?
1. Do not point fingers.
Watch what you say and how you say it. Listen & speak without being judgmental.
2. Communicate and share your feelings.
“She thinks he doesn’t feel anything because he won’t talk about it; he thinks she’s too emotional because she won’t talk about anything else.”
3. Accept your differences.
Grief is a very personal journey, and each person goes through it in his/her own way and at his/her own pace. Men and women see things very differently. (See lesson on Grieving Differently.)
4. Be flexible.
Both husband and wife need the freedom to express a wide range of emotions.
5. Be kind to one another.
Do special things for one another. Spend time together. (Your marriage is a critical source of strength.) You may try to carve out time for the two of you to spend alone- vacation, date night.
6. Give time to spend alone with our feelings.
Just as a couple needs time to grieve together, each of you needs time apart to feel your feelings and sort through your thoughts.
Here are some communication tips that will help during the stressful time of healing as a couple:
Listen with your whole being. Look at each other. Touch each other. Respond with empathy.
Be encouraging. Make your spouse feel important. Validate their feelings.
Help draw the other person out. Ask questions. Rephrase what they said saying, “What I hear you saying is…”
Do not be judgmental. Accept your spouse’s feeling. Try to be open to what your spouse is saying.
Be responsive not reactive. Take time to process what you hear, then respond thoughtfully. Stay calm. Do not react with anger or judgment.
Know yourself. Avoid words or situations that can be explosive for you. Set parameters. Ask for help.
Agree to disagree. Show respect for your differences. Try to find areas of agreement or compromise.
Focus on one another. Discuss what attracted you to your partner in the first place. Attempt to restore intimacy.
Make an “appointment.” Set aside time for a grief chat. You can even set a timer.
Here are some caring tips that will help comfort your grieving marriage:
Set aside a time each day to ask, “How are you doing?”
Talk about how you met and fell in love.
Hug/kiss every day.
Go on a date once a week, even if you just take a walk and hold hands.
Make a list of everything you love about each other, and share them.
Call your spouse just to say, “I love you.”
Send your partner a loving card or surprise, maybe even a weekend away.
When you try to evaluate how you and your spouse are doing, allow yourselves to make mistakes. You will not be perfect. Emotions run high and can get in the way. Know that the process of making life meaningful again is slow and painful. If your relationship is valuable to you, now is the time to nurture it. Remember other parents have survived the pain of losing a child, and you can too.
Get a calendar page for the month you are in. On each day jot down one thing you are going to talk about and one thing you are going to do for your spouse. Both spouses are to complete a calendar page. You are to work together to choose one thing to talk about each day. Then you are to work individually to pick the act of kindness you will show your spouse each day.
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