Support is vital in a healthy grieving process.
The most important support (aside from God, of course) is our spouse.
They are going through the same turbulence you are, even if they appear to be riding it differently.
I remember the days and months following my miscarriage. I became quite disconnected from my husband. I felt as though he was not grieving at all, when really he was – just in a different style than me.
He seemed to be going about his life, while I was sobbing in the bathroom, or bedroom, or wherever. I felt as though I was in a never-ending nightmare that I couldn’t escape from, and he was carrying on as if life were normal. I don’t recall ever trying to connect with him in a healthy way, but rather blamed him for not ‘caring’ or grieving ‘properly’. This was not a healthy time in our marriage. And strangely, I’m grateful for that season.
I’m glad that I have learned how not to react or think when seeing him grieve differently than myself. I learned that distancing myself from him emotionally was not helping the situation, and was in fact making it worse. I needed support from him, but I didn’t let him in. I kept my heart closed, leaving me feeling isolated and alone in my grief.
Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is near
than a brother who is far away.
Proverbs 27:10 (ESV)
(Now, I know I’m not a therapist by any means and I don’t have all the answers, but I will share my own personal experience and what I have learned. Other couples may cope in different ways, but this post represents what I’ve learned through enduring hardships alongside my husband.
Also, I intended this post to be strictly between the relationship of a husband and wife, but as I’m writing here I’m realizing that not all of us have that relationship. Some of you may not be married, but nonetheless, still need a connection! If you do not have a spouse to connect with, find another loved one – a parent, a friend, someone who you’ve trusted in and know is safe. If you don’t have a marriage to maintain, then look to one of these other loved ones, just please don’t go it alone!)
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 (ESV)
It’s easy to have a strong relationship with someone when life seems to go perfectly. You get a promotion, celebrate! You get engaged, celebrate! You buy a beautiful house, celebrate!
But what happens when you lose your job? Or your car gets stolen? How is the relationship with your spouse affected? Do you comfort one another? Are you conflicted in your responses? Do you look at the bright side of things while your loved one thinks life is over?
The same question can be asked when you lose a baby. If it’s through miscarriage, there very well could be varying emotional responses from the mother and father. The mother is generally more attached to the baby because it was growing inside her body, while the father might not be as attached because he hasn’t physically held the baby yet. I understand that everyone is different, and it might very well be the opposite in regards to how we grieve, but it seems to be more common for mothers to feel the brunt end of a loss. This has potential to create a rift in the relationship. It’s easy to start aiming anger at the person closest to you.
This was what I went through. My grieving process should have been called my blaming process. I feel like I was busy blaming everyone most of the time – myself, my husband, God. I wouldn’t just accept what had happened and grieve the way that I should have… instead I tried to find a reason why it happened, which most often led the blame to my own body or to God. It was a sad time, and I built a wall between anyone who could bring peace and comfort to me, mainly God and my husband.
I wanted others to feel sorry for me.
Looking back at that season in my life, I realize that I was in such a negative state that even when others reached out to me, I was too calloused up to receive any of that goodness. I had chosen (somewhat unknowingly) to be disconnected.
So how do we stay connected? When we are going through the most brutal seasons in life and seem to be alone, we need to stop and quiet ourselves for a moment. We need to listen to those who are speaking or reaching out to us and turn off all the negativity in our minds. We need to make the choice to accept their comfort.
I’ve heard that when a couple loses a baby, their marriage is more likelier to end. Isn’t that sad? But let’s not sit on this thought… let’s also look at some marriages that actually grow stronger after a miscarriage! What’s the difference between these marriages? I’d like to say that the first group (more likely to divorce) decide to sit on blame and anger toward one another. They probably choose not to grieve together, but instead decide to do it alone. Because of this, they may start building up resentment toward the other, and live with some unresolved anger as time goes on.
On the other hand, the marriages that seem to grow stronger after a loss are probably made up of couples that decide to find comfort in one another and encourage each other through the process. Sure there still might be anger or some blame, but these couples don’t stay in those thoughts, but instead move forward in finding peace. They’ve chosen to stick together through thick and thin, and to be in it together for the long haul, so they will do whatever it takes to get through a grieving season in a healthy way.
After losing our daughter Briela, our marriage did grow stronger. We still grieved differently, but I had learned since my miscarriage that that was okay. We can still grieve together, even if it looks different. I chose to let Franklin comfort me, and I approached him when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I opened up to him about my thoughts and feelings, and let him comfort me in a way that only he could.
Going through the loss of a child is hard, but with both my experiences of isolating myself and opening myself up to my husband, I’ve learned that in going through one of life’s trials, choosing connection will always trump disconnect. It is all about choice, and I believe that that is the answer.
PS. Have you ever heard of the 5 Love Languages? If you find that your spouse is really having a hard day and you want to make sure they feel loved and connected, I recommend finding out what their Love Language is and expressing it. Some people feel most loved when they hear affirming words, or are given a gift, or physically touched, or are given your quality time, or if you do something for them (an act of service). Everyone is different and will feel deeply loved and connected when their Love Language is spoken. I encourage you to check it out! Knowing what your spouse reacts to can greatly enhance your relationship and connection.