In the past three years, we have lost six family members and several close friends. Some were expected; some completely caught us off guard. Some we walked with through their illnesses, praying and believing God for healing. Some we held hands with while they took their last breath. It has been a lot to process, to grieve. I believe in many ways, we are still grieving.
Have we done this whole process well? I am not sure, to be honest. I have had many emotions these past few years: deep sadness, anger, questioning God, complacency, grief, joy amidst the pain.
Marriage is strengthened by storms. I didn’t waver in the knowledge that God is still sovereign through all of it, but the grieving process has taught me much about my marriage and myself.
We have learned that we each grieve differently.
While we are grieving, we tend to look at others and judge them because we don’t understand why they are not processing the same way we are; however, there is no wrong way of grieving.
It may be beneficial to discuss how you process your grief with your spouse before you are in the midst of it. For us, it was a learn-as-you go process. We didn’t do it perfectly. There were definitely times we looked at each other and declared, “What is the matter with you?!?” I wondered why he wasn’t expressing more grief externally. He wondered why I was crying, again. I tend to express my grief outwardly with words and crying—a lot of crying. He tends to process his grief inwardly, more of the silent, stoic type.
If there is anything I have learned in the past few years is that everyone grieves differently and everyone grieves for a different period of time. How you grieve and process is unique to you and your walk with Jesus.
Our grief has taught us to communicate with each other better.
There were days after losing my father-in-law when I thought I was going to lose it from all the pain I was feeling inside. I would look at my husband, and he would appear to have it all together. That would make me feel guilty for falling apart—after all, it was his daddy, so if anyone should be losing it, it should be him, right? I have learned that is not necessarily the case.
Again, we all process differently; there is no right or wrong way. What does matter is that we communicate with and support one another. We have to be intentional in not shutting each other out during our times of grief. Showing grace to each other and accepting that grace is a huge part of grieving together.
Have we perfected this? Absolutely not, but we are learning—learning to read each other better and to understand when the other needs some space or when they need to talk it out.
Our grieving has taught us the importance of showing up for others who are grieving, too.
We are thankful for the fact that we are surrounded by friends who have showed up when we need them. They watched our children when we needed to go sit with a sick friend. They weren’t afraid to sit there and listen and allow us to be real, even when life is not pretty. They weren’t afraid to look us in the eye and say, “No, really. How are you doing?” They have rallied around us in prayer, they have been present, and they have brought us much-needed laughter on dark days.
We could have easily said, “We are fine,” and rejected our friends’ help—but allowing others to join us in our pain and saying “yes” when they have offered has only strengthened our relationship with them.
If you’re not in a season of grief right now, do what you can to be available for your spouse, family, and friends to help them through the season. Show up for them, even in the smallest of ways.
If you are currently in a season of grief, let me encourage you to take the opportunity to grieve in your personal way, but also to be open to others’ expressions of grief. Most of all, know that Jesus grieves with you.