Saturday, April 10, 2010

Other Things I Know

There are some other things I have learned along the road through the Valley of Grief, and some things I'm probably yet to find out to their fullest extent.  Among them:

Relationships Will Change

I have mentioned before, or think I have, that I've read in some of the literature about grief I've come across that a large majority of marriages fall apart after losing a child, no matter what the age.  The percentage I've read varies, but it's at least 75%.  That was scary to me early on when I read it.  I didn't know how my husband and I would react to all of this as a couple, but I knew I certainly didn't want that additional trauma for either of us!  However, the veterans of a lot of family counseling to help support our daughters' recovery efforts we had a good foundation built to keep us steady as a couple, and I think we've done pretty well under some really wild ups and downs, mostly downs.  Yet, I understand the statistic, and I believe it.  Begin with the fact that 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, then add a wallop that strikes at the heart of both partners like losing a child, and right there, just based on cold, hard statistics, you can believe it.  Now, step inside the shoes of a couple in the throes of deep grief, and you would be amazed that anyone ever survives it.

I got a taste of that on Easter Sunday actually.  Tired to the bone, an emotionally shallowed out husk, I couldn't garner the enegry for anything, certainly not my poor husband.  My husband, on the other hand, had spent the day before hosting two work events for residents in the communities he manages.  He endured a solid day of watching happy parents delight in their small little darlings hunt for Easter eggs, chase ducks and bunnies in a petting zoo, and run into the arms of their parents or grandparents.  He knew it would be a hard day for him, so I had told him I would volunteer to help so I could be there to support him (plus be able to chase ducks and bunnies myself), but instead I was traveling and there was no one there to help him absorb the emotional hits he took all day long.  So, on the actual holiday, he was knee deep in a quagmire of grief and bitter memories of happier days when our kids were in their Easter best, searching around for candy filled eggs.  I couldn't support him.  As a matter of fact, his sulking just got on my nerves.  Badly.  And, I was fairly certain he wanted me to comfort him, and was a little sullen that I just left him alone in his grief.  At one point in the day, I glanced at him sitting, shoulders rounded, in a rocking chair off in a corner of the living toom, and I knew that if we were always this disparate in our feelings, we would not last either, no matter how many hours of therapy we logged.  I really, really got the truth of those dire predictions.

Most days are not like that for us.  Most days we're okay as a couple, if not okay with everything that has transpired over the last nine or so months.  But, we are different.  Things have shifted slightly.  Anyone who watches Fringe will know when I say that it's like I'm watching into that other world.  That's me I see, but things just aren't quite the same on the other side.  Enough events have happened differently that my actions are altered from what they would have been otherwise.  I'm not the same person, neither is my spouse, so it's natural that we have to re-assess our relationship and learn anew how to relate to one another.  Now add a second trauma with Mother passing and all the incumbent chaos that comes along with it, and we have to factor that in to the equation too.

I think if someone were to ask me how to do that:  how to recalibrate the scales to try and rebalance a relationship in the wake of deep grief, the first thing I would say is just to acknowledge that it has to happen.  That things will not go on just like they did before, and then try to be honest with one another about what you need and expect from the other one.  And be patient.  It's hard to help mend a broken heart when you're still picking up the pieces of yours.

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