Dispelling Marriage Myths Surrounding Child Loss

Today my husband and I celebrate 33 years of marriage.  

Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.

Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far:

hector and me 29 anniversary

This is us on our thirtieth anniversary, at our oldest son’s wedding -holding one another up as best we could:

IMG_2151

This is us last Christmas:  

beach hector and me and boys in sand

We are definitely the worse for wear, but we are still here.

Together.

There are a lot of myths floating around about what happens to a marriage on the other side of child loss.  The one tossed out most often cites a “study” reporting 90 percent of marriages fail after the death of a child.  

It’s just not true.

But the danger is that if you believe it is true, you may stop trying.  You may stop reaching out across the painful abyss that threatens to keep you apart forever.  You may decide that living alone with your broken heart is better than living alongside someone who may be broken in very different ways than you are.

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The truth is that child loss is no more likely to destroy a marriage than a list of other terrible life events-even though child loss is the most terrible.

A child’s death shakes a marriage to its foundations and reveals the weak spots. And EVERY marriage has weak spots.

So the challenge in this season of marriage-like every season of marriage-is to turn toward one another instead of away.  Choose to do the work necessary to make it:

  • Do the best you can to take care of your own emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual health so that you can come together stronger and better able to help one another.
  • Assume the best and not the worst about your spouse.
  • Allow for different grieving styles and different ways of honoring your missing child.
  • Get help from others.
  • Don’t expect your spouse to carry your load of grief as well as his or her own.

It takes energy and commitment right when we don’t have any to spare. But at least in this, we have a choice.

I have already lost so much over which I had no control.  

I will fight for what I CAN hold onto as hard as I know how.

wedding rings

 

 

Stages of Grief ? Nope.

Ever since Elizabeth Kubler Ross published her best-sellling book, “On Death and Dying” both professionals and laypersons have embraced her explanation of the “five stages of grief”.  

The model has been used as a faulty standard to measure grievers’ “progress” for decades.

Trouble is, she got it wrong.  

And it is especially wrong for bereaved parents or anyone who suffers traumatic or sudden death.

Grief does NOT look like this:

Kubler-Ross

It looks like this:  

 

mixed stages of grief

 

Closed For Repairs

Oh how I wish I could hang a sign for just a single day, “Closed for Repairs”!

I keep thinking that tomorrow or next week will be the little bit of respite I need to catch my breath and to do a few things I really must do for my own mental wellness.

But life has conspired to make that impossible.  

So here I am, hanging on by a thread again.  

Just barely managing to get by.  

Just barely managing to not scream in the middle of the grocery store when I can’t lift the case of Powerade bottles into the cart.  Just barely able to contain my panic when I reach for my checkbook and can’t find it in the bottom of my purse.  Just barely able to keep from crying when the bag rips putting it into the truck.

If the people around me knew how close I am to falling apart or breaking down, they would run away in fear of what might happen if I blow.  

Yes, it’s been three years.

But Dominic walked with me on this earth for nearly 24 years. Three years isn’t long enough to adjust to his absence.

I need a day off.

Or a week.  

Or a year.  

 

 

 

 

 

Missing Milestones

Another friend has a new grandchild.  

It makes my heart so happy to see families grow and prosper.  I love the fresh sweetness of newborn wrinkles and chubby fists.

If I’m honest I have to admit that for every smile that spreads wide across my face in response to posted pictures, there is a tear that slips down from the corner of my eye.

I wish I could feel unadulterated joy like I used to.

But I can’t. 

It is impossible for there to be any progeny bearing his smile, his laughter, his brown eyes and overgrown eyebrows.  The rhythm that filled his head and tapped, tapped, tapped down the bannister is buried underground.

And that is hard to bear.  

Losing a child is not a single event. 

It happens over and over and over.

future has changed

 

 

 

 

Repost: How to Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

Read the rest here:  How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

True Truth

 

I will not get used to the fact that my son is beyond my reach.  I have come to a certain acceptance of it as fact, and acknowledgement of the truth that I cannot change that fact.

The pain hasn’t become less painful, only more familiar.  It doesn’t surprise me as often when it pricks my heart anew.

The world goes on.  I am a tiny speck in the greater scheme of things and my heartache hardly merits any pause in the machinery of the cosmos.

I have learned to put on the face I need for everyday tasks and to look the part of a functioning human being.  But just beneath the surface is a cauldron of emotion that can be exposed in a heartbeat.

I miss my son.

I miss the part of me that was reflected back from the mirror of Dominic.

I miss the family we used to be.

I miss the past when there could be a whole day of laughter without a single tear.

I miss the children I used to have-the ones who knew nothing about irrevocable loss and breathtaking heartache.

I know I’m indulging in selfish introspection and that I should be looking with faith-filled eyes to the glorious future God has promised through Christ.

But today I just can’t.

I won’t be guilted into trying to pretend that I don’t miss all this.

Because I do.

 

changed for life

Please Share!

I realized after I wrote about the recent incident where someone plagiarized my blog there was a good deal of confusion about HOW to share it appropriately.

I wanted to clear up the confusion.  So here’s how to do it:

  • I post every blog set on “public” on my personal Facebook page.  You are always welcome to share it like any Facebook post which means it will include my original comments and the link to the blog;
  • I post every blog on the public page Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child and it can be shared from there the same way;
  • You can click on the LINK to the blog and use any of the social media buttons at the bottom of the blog to share to the social media platform of your choice (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc.);
  • If you are a WordPress user, you may reblog any post by clicking that button-you will have the option to add personal comments and then the blog will show up on your site with a link back to my original post.

I also post the blog on several closed bereaved parents’ sites on Facebook.  

If that’s where you see it, please click on the link and share from the blog itself to protect the privacy of those sites and the people who belong to them.

A great way to be sure you never miss a post is to sign up to receive blog posts in your email.  Just click on the “follow blog via email” button on the right hand side of any blog post.  

You get the whole post-not just a link that makes you click through.  That’s an easy, fast way to get it every morning without having to get on Facebook.  You can forward the email to friends if you like.

Really the only way NOT to share the blog is by copying and pasting the content and then posting it as your own.

I love, love, love when I get feedback from another bereaved parent that says what I’ve written is what they feel or have experienced.  Not because I wish this pain on a single soul, but because I know others share my pain and I am thankful that sometimes MY words help them put THEIR feelings into a form they can share with others.

So, if a particular post is helpful to you-please DO SHARE.   ❤