You have most likely heard the saying, “Everybody Grieves Differently”. This goes for couples as well.
Even though Char and I had been married for 21-years, the way we grieved after the death of our two daughters, Jenelle-age 19, and Amy-age 9, as well as my mother, Jean, was like night and day.
- I cried often—Char didn’t cry for four months.
- I knew instantly that I would never see them alive again. She thought their deaths were a mistake and she would see them again soon.
- I was angry with God for not protecting them. Char knew they were in a better place—heaven.
Coping with grief as a couple is difficult. We were told that the divorce rate for couples after a significant loss was much higher than normal. We chose to not let our tragedy ruin our marriage. Instead, we chose to:
After a tragic loss, couples need something to “look forward to”. It can be something small—like a dinner date at a new restaurant—or something big—like a trip to Alaska.
It took us around seven months to even consider our future without Jenelle and Amy. In January 2004, we started talking about adoption. We had more love to give and were not ready to not have any children at home. We realized the process would take a long time, but we started looking forward to October 2005 when we would have a young child in our home again. Although the process took longer than expected, we first met our new daughter, Melissa, in Guangzhou China, on Christmas Day, 2005.
The second thing that kept us going was planning a family trip to Disneyworld in Florida. Mom had always wanted to take the entire family—five children, five spouses, and eighteen grandchildren to see Mickey Mouse. We scheduled the trip around the first anniversary of the death of mom, Jenelle, and Amy.
Don’t focus on what you lost, focus on what you had!
It was nearly impossible to not think about our loss. It drove us crazy until we started thinking about the amazing nineteen and nine years, respectively, we had with Jenelle and Amy. Those years were amazing. Thinking about the good times helped us to be thankful for the years we had with our daughters and gave us the peace of mind to go forward with our lives. We also knew that our daughters would want us to have a good life, even without them. Ask yourself—what would your loved one want you to do?
Be Patient with Each Other
Couples need to support each other through this awful thing called grief. Understand that there will be good days and horrible days. Your job is not to make each other happy. It is to simply be there and let your partner know that you will be with them throughout your life together and that you can imagine a happier future together.
Write it Down!
Sometimes it is easier to write down our thoughts and feelings vs. trying to express them orally. If you are struggling with how to say what you are feeling and what you need from your partner, put it in writing instead. He or she will appreciate your effort and have a better understanding of exactly how to help.
Randy Stocker is a survivor of the worst kind of loss—the death of a child—two children and his mother, in his case. Randy and his family live in Rochester, MN. He is an author, a professional speaker, and a realtor. He is active in his community via civic organizations like Rotary, BNI (Business Networking International), the Chamber of Commerce, and his church. Randy is the author of the book, “Hugs Help”. His goal is to provide practical advice and to help people understand grief—as a griever, as a comforter, or as a friend.