“No, babe, you never told me we had a meeting today.” My husband’s tone was firm and more than annoyed.
“Oh, yes I did,” I snapped back, throwing my hands into the air. “I talked about it the other night while you were cooking dinner!”
“Babe,” Lucas fired back, as if using the word “babe” would lessen the weight of his rebuke. “You know if I’m cooking dinner, I’m in the zone. If you’re telling me something, you have to make sure I respond to you. Otherwise, you can’t hold it over my head if I don’t remember! I didn’t know about the meeting!”
“Yes, you did!” With arms crossed in an obvious funk, we both sighed deep sighs. . . .
This has been happening a lot lately.
When you lose a child, you lose a piece of your heart, as well as a bit of your mind, or so it seems. With the weight of grief still as fresh as the day our daughter, Luca Gold, left this earth on March 5, most days, our brains (and hearts) feel a bit like scrambled eggs in a hot skillet. And the little arguments we’ve been having lately have proven nothing short of this fact.
I say something . . . .and he swears I didn’t.
He asks me to do something . . . and I swear he never asked.
I get angry and controlling . . . and he feels disrespected.
He gets angry and silent . . . and I feel unloved.
Before we know it, all the miscommunication, forgetfulness, accusations, and the constant swirl take their toll, and we find ourselves in tiny, unnecessary tiffs that – if we’re not careful – blow up into bombs that could have been avoided.
After Luca died, a friend mentioned how she had heard a statistic about divorce rates for people who have lost children, and how that rate is higher than normal. As our little family tries to figure out how to heal from the gaping hole slashed in our hearts and home by the absence of our baby girl, I can see how this statistic might be true.I can absolutely see how the side-effects that come with tragedy interfere with intimacy and relationship – and if they’re not uncovered and recognized, can cause permanent damage.
But not in this family.
Lucas and I have made a promise to one another in the loss of our daughter. We can either let the pain drive us away from one another, or we can use it to draw us closer – and we’ve made a conscious decision to choose the closer route. We need each other more than ever these days as we help each other heal. But in order to heal together, there are a few things we’ve had to learn quickly over the last few months in order to maintain peace in the home. And these aren’t just tips for those who have suffered loss. They’re great tips to remember when any storm comes against your family!
I’M NOT ANGRY AT YOU – I’M JUST ANGRY
One of the greatest things I’ve come to realize in my grief is how healthy it is for me to be angry about the loss of my daughter.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, but do not sin,” giving me God’s stamp of approval in the anger department. I just have to make sure my anger doesn’t project in the wrong direction, causing me to do or say something that causes more damage. And we all know where projected anger usually ends up – sliming those who happen to be closest to us.
There are many days that Lucas and I are just angry. And because we both process anger differently – I get snappy and controlling; he gets mysteriously quiet and brooding – it’s been important to acknowledge our differences and be on the lookout for them. So far, my gracious husband has a relatively good track record of recognizing the source of my anger,instead of focusing on my less-than-stellar behavior. He knows that when I go into “control-tornado-pick-up-the-house-finding-something-wrong-with-everything” mode, I’m notreally angry at him, or the fact that the house is messy. I’m angry that I’m not holding my baby girl. And that makes all the difference in the world.
We’ve had to learn not to take things personally – which is much harder for me than for him. But after several unnecessary arguments that didn’t fix anything, we discovered the fastest way to maintain peace is simply to “uncover the beast” and confess the real issue.
The other morning, after snapping at Lucas about something irrelevant, I stopped. “Babe, I’m sorry. It’s just a tough morning in the heart department.” He nodded, backed up, and immediately gave me space. I’ve had to learn that when my husband gets angry, there are entire days where his internal processor simply goes quiet. Instead of wondering what I’ve done wrong to merit the disconnect, if he can simply give me a heads up, I can provide the grace he needs to have his silence. Nobody fights, we both get to fully explore our process of anger, and everybody wins.
IF WE ARGUE IN FRONT OF OUR SON, WE RESOLVE IT IN FRONT OF HIM
It’s completely unrealistic for our son, Moses, to be unaffected by the loss of our daughter, so we make sure to talk about what’s going on every day. On many occasions, while the heavy emotions of grief rise to the surface, Moses has come up to me with his big, blue eyes, crawled up in my lap, and said, “Aw, Mommy is sad because baby sissy Goldie is in heaven.” He’s trying to process what’s going on as much as we are, and we’re making sure to involve him as much as we can. Which means, he’s seen more little arguments than usual over the last couple of months as we’re wading through the waters of loss and sadness.
In Brain Rules for Baby, John Medinawrites: Even in an emotionally stable home, one without regular marital hostility, there will be fights. Fortunately, research shows that the amount of fighting couples do in front of their children is less damaging than the lack of reconciliation the kids observe. Many couples will fight in front of their children but reconcile in private. This skews a child’s perceptions, even at early ages, for the child always sees the wounding but never the bandaging. Parents who practice bandaging each other after a fight, deliberately and explicitly, allow their children to model both how to fight fair and how to make up.
We’re not pretending there’s nothing wrong in our home right now. That would be an exhausting house of cards to keep standing. But just as we’re including Moses in our process of grief – and the little moments of anger that come with it – we’re also making sure to include him in every part of our healing. And that means apologizing, kissing, and making up in front of him.
By the time we get up, make breakfast, get dressed, take care of Moses, head to work, write, work out, cook, eat, play monster trucks, go to the grocery store, do the dishes, the laundry, clean the house – all while experiencing the many colors of grief – by the time we lay our heads on the pillow, we realize we’ve gone an entire day without truly connecting. At all.
And in this season of hurting, we need to more than ever.
So every night, I lay on Lucas’s chest as we pray together – blessing our family, our son, our marriage, and our future.
We make more intentional eye contact when we’re speaking, and we stop and give each other kisses and hold each other for no reason at all.
We try to stay off our phones as much as possible when we’re alone together at a meal.
My husband knows my life is easier when food is taken care of, so he researches recipes and spends hours in the kitchen. And I know his life is easier when he’s working out and hitting the chiropractor, so I make sure the schedule is clear so he can do what needs to be done.
We text each other “I love you” out of the blue.
I reach over and play with his hair while he’s driving, and he reaches over to grab my hand.
And at least once a day since Luca passed, my hubby has asked me, “Babe, how are you doing?” He knows I’m a verbal processor and has consciously made sure to check in with my heart, letting me know he’s available to listen if I need to get something out.
We know in this season of the storm, we need each other more than ever. We also know that this is when most marriages are ripped apart, so we’re doing everything we can to move toward one another, instead of away. We’re doing everything we can to choose one another, instead of choosing to rip each other’s head off.
The little arguments have begun to die down, once we realized what was happening. And just like any change in life, we’ve finally hit a rhythm that’s working to bring harmony back into our home.
When tragedy strikes, the last thing anyone needs is more pain. Which is why inside of this unavoidable pain, we’ve decided to help each other heal.
Used with permission. Christa Black is a popular blogger, speaker, and multi platinum-selling songwriter whose songs have been recorded by artists such as Jordin Sparks, Passion, Kari Jobe, Kim Walker-Smith, and Michael W. Smith. Visit christablack.com to learn more about Christa and read the first chapter from her book, God Loves Ugly.[schemaapprating]