Grieving Differently

Growthtrac Marriagec Medic

Q

My husband and I recently lost a close family member. While I’ve openly talked about my grief, my spouse seems unwilling to discuss his feelings. He brushes over any attempts I make to get him to open up, changes the subject quickly, and bluntly tells me to butt out. I don’t know how to get on the same page with him as far as grieving is concerned, and it’s creating a big distance between us.

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A

Grief and loss will impact everyone’s life at some point. In a marriage, if grief affects you, it stands to reason your grief will impact your connection with your mate.

In your situation, you both lost a close family member. Your challenge isn’t only to attend to your feelings, but to your husband’s feelings as well, and to maintain your connection during your joint grieving process. Here are some ideas to help you.

First, realize we all grieve differently. Grief is, by its very nature, disruptive. We may have trouble concentrating, ruminate about the loss, and experience a myriad feelings about it. But don’t expect your mate to grieve the same way you do. You may openly cry and talk about your pain while he may process the issues quietly, alone. The key is to remember there is no right way to process grief. Don’t push your husband to express grief the same way you do.

Second, explore ways to talk about the loss together, taking your different styles into consideration. Ask your mate to be available to you as you express your loss openly. Then, gently ask him questions as you share your thoughts and feelings. Be curious and listen carefully, taking his cues into careful consideration. Your interaction could sound like this: “I’ve been having a tough day, feeling sad about what’s happened. How are you? Do you mind if I share my feelings with you?” Assuming your husband’s willing to listen, gently ask, “I’m curious if you have any feelings about our loss. Having you been thinking about him/ her?” Be willing to accept whatever he says, being careful not to judge how he’s grieving.

Third, be open to a time when your husband may be more open to sharing. Your spouse may be more open at certain times than others, such as in the morning before breakfast rather than after a long day at work. You need to be on the lookout for opportunities to connect. Be mindful of his best times for sharing.

Finally, use this crisis as a catalyst for increasing your spiritual and emotional intimacy. Sharing grief can be a deeply spiritual process. As the Psalmist shares, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18). Explore how this loss affects you both spiritually as well as emotionally.

Grief is an incredibly personal experience. It can draw your closer or create friction or tension between you. Don’t allow this loss to separate you. Be patient and sensitive to each other as you process it together.

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