Marriage After Loss

There is this saying…you know, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I never liked that quote. I don’t know why. Maybe because it seems like a nice way of summing up all of the pain someone endures and wrapping it up into a prettier package. Like it’s an honor to endure such adversity. The quote may be true in a sense but I never hear those words spoken from people who have been through or witnessed tragedy. What if something has killed you, not in the physical realm but in other ways? Are you not stronger? Our journey has been agonizing to say the least. A huge piece of our hearts are permanently crushed, “killed” if you may, only to become alive again once we are physically dead. There’s some irony for you.

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I think people worried about our marriage after we lost Jake. Not because of specific reasoning but because of the obvious reasoning…some couples do not survive such a loss. People grieve differently. People sway in and out of good and bad days on different days. Grieving changes people. It changes a marriage. Praise God for holding onto us, we are stronger than ever even though a piece of has certainly been “killed.”

After we first lost Jake I believe we were on the same page of emotions. Shock, disbelief, anger and indescribable sadness. We wanted nothing and nobody around us except one another. We would hide in our house for weeks and avoid phone calls and door bells. We could only find solace in each others arms. A few months later, Bret carried me through the worst time of my life. I saw little purpose here, besides him. I wanted out. I wanted my son. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted my sobs to come to a silence. I wanted to die. But he carried me. He rubbed my back each night as I sobbed myself to sleep. He pulled me close when I seemed lifeless. He sat with me, no words to try and “make me feel better.” He just waited patiently along side me until I slowly began to wake up from that nightmare. It comes and goes now. Some nights I fall back to that place of utter disbelief and shock at what this journey has looked like. I will spend hours in my son’s nursery holding his onsie and sobbing at the emptiness of it. And Bret, well he is right there with me.

You see we’ve learned a lot about what marriage is about. We’ve always had a good marriage. We rarely argued and when we did it was resolved quickly and without leaving scars. We’ve always made each other laugh. We’ve always enjoyed the same things. I really didn’t think I could possibly ask for more. But I got more, without asking. Our marriage vows have put us to the test this past year. And I am so grateful we have only grown closer. There is an unspoken understanding between us that nobody in the entire world will quite understand. Our love and pain for Jake. It’s unique. There will only be one Jake in this world and we will forever be his only parents.

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But it doesn’t just happen. It takes work. Intentional effort. It takes patience and and forgiveness and the ability to know when to speak or say nothing at all. We are mastering how to fine tune the complex orchestra of grief. We have learned to calm one another out of panic in the dead of night. We have learned to laugh at ourselves. To love one another regardless of how we acted that day or if we even managed to brush our hair. We’ve learned to cheer each other on when good things happen and allow the tears to come when they need to. We have learned when to apologize and when it’s not necessary. We’ve learned to give one another physical and emotional space when needed. We encourage one another to do things that will bring us happiness in the midst of chaos. We have learned and we are still learning.

A new path is upon us. We are still uncertain which one to take. This time I think it’s my turn to help carry him. This time I think he needs me to help him to fall asleep and carry the weight. It all brings me back to my dream a week before I lost Jake. The dream where we learned that we would soon need to rely on each other for strength, to know when to take hold of the wheel for one another.

I am your wife. I will take hold.

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She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Proverbs 31:25-27

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