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Learning To Greive With Your Spouse

Each of us grieves differently.
Our grief is unique to each of us alone.

Learning To Honor ~ Each Other's Grief ~

The stress of grief causes many couples to break up. I realized that if we were to divorce now-a casualty of the loss of my child-then there would be two deaths, two losses and a grief compounded. I somehow consciously knew at that very moment that we would work hard to remain together.

Though we share smilarities, the differences in how men and women express their grief may be dramatic. Societal conditioning affects and may contribute affects and may contibute to the way each of us grieves.

As a woman, you may cry frequently and talk openly about your pain. You may need to memorialize your child or carry something of your child's at all times.

As a man, you may appear withdrawn, angry, depressed or silent. You may assume it is your role to be strong for your wife and surviving children. Fathers are protectors, and frequently you may feel a sense of failure that you were not able to protect your child from death. You may need to give yourself permission to grieve.

The differences in how we grieve may lead to misunderstanding, even anger, as we try to "interpret" each other's grief responses.

How Grief May Affect You

Grief may take many forms. It can be experienced in the strong feelings of anger and sadness. It can scramble our minds so that we can't seem to think straight or concentrate for very long. It can invade our bodies, producing headaches or a empty feeling at the pit of our stomachs. It can change our behaviors, our sleeping patterns, even how we manage small, everyday problems. And grief can raise profound spiritaul issuses, challenging or strengthing our fundamental values.

Mourning is often described as the process of trying to cope with loss and grief. Effective mourning seeks to live in healthy ways in the aftermath of an important loss. Death robs our lives of persons whom we valued, but it need not take away from us all that is meaningful in our lives and in our relationships with others who remain alive. Above all, nothing can take away all that the person who died has left with us - the memories, the legacies, the enriched remembrances and the love tucked away securely in our hearts. For many of us, grief is not something that ever ends. We do, however, slowly learn to go on living without our children.

Smoothing The Journey

Just as a worn country road has large holes that car wheels bump over and perhaps fall into, so these tough spots exist on your journey of grieving. Being alert to them may help make your journey smoother. There are many pitfalls, such as:

~ Sparing Each Other Pain ~

Your spouse may perceive that if no more mention is made of the child who died, the daily pain and tears of grief will subside or become more bearable. In fact, many of us simply want to be able to talk about our child.

~ Solitary Grieving ~

Being unable to discuss your pain may intensify it. Emotional and/or physical distance may develop between you and your spouse-creating yet another sadness: you always used to be able to discuss everything together and now you are left alone with your grief, loss and sorrow. Couples who grieve apart from each other may create a "grief void" - a chasm between them that distances and possible separates.

~ Anger ~

Anger at the loss of a child is typical and usually appropriate. Children are not suppose to die. We expect them to follow us in death. Frequently, we lament, "If only it had been me. My child had a whole life left to live." Loss of our child and his or her potential is painful, perplexing and very difficult to accept.

~ Misplaced Anger Towards Others ~

We may look around and see those who do not appreciate their children, abuse their bodies, fail to approach their potential, or exhibit criminal behavior...and we become understandably angry. "Why are these people alive and my child dead?" Many days there are more questions than answers.

~ Misplaced Anger Towards Each Other ~

Anger at your loss is appropriate, and sometimes you may misdirect this anger towards your spouse. Repressing anger or ignoring it will often intensify it. Working through your grief will include expressing and dealing with your anger. Instead of being angry with your spouse, encourage each other's creative expression of anger. Be gentle with each other through this painful process, avoid angry outbursts toward each other and talk often about your feelings. Some effective ways of venting anger are to:

punch a pillow
throw lumps of mud against a blank wall
scream your anger into the vastness of an empty field
run or exercise.

"People Treat Me Differently Now"

Losing a child is often unexpected. Family and friends may be very uncomfortable with the reality that children can die. It's scary to think about their own child's mortality. Experiencing another's pain and sorrow is diffcult and they may not know how to react.

As bereaved parents we are usually wrenched to our very souls. Our pain and grief are very real and may last a very long time. The world may "think" that we should be over our intense grief much sooner than we are.

Friends and family want you to feel better. The world seems to be screaming "Life Goes On" as you long find understanding and acceptance.

Our relationships with our children do not have to end...they do live on in special remembrances, memories and love. Cherish each memory and share it with the only other person who completely understands your relationship with your child.