So our dearly beloved Auntie passed away this October and off we flew to be with family in under 48 hours notice.
Auntie was on the Mr.’s side – and very close to his heart and family. Our parents had thankfully kept us in the loop while her health was failing so we were fortunate enough to pass the shell-shock of losing a loved one without any forewarning.
As soon as the story unfolded the hubs called me to book flights home and start packing. Good fortune and a great boss was on my side allowing me vacation time despite any notice. This was entirely my man’s decision – his family – his call.
Normally, I would have hummed and hawed over ticket prices, timing, work, and such… but my gut just told me to do as I was told and make everything easier on my man who’s heart was just broken.
48 hours later we were on the other side of the country accepting condolences from family and friends at her visitation. The whole trip there I was wide awake mulling over what I was going to say to not only my husband but to his immediate family whom we haven’t seen in years…
Outside of the travel part, I was intrigued that we had never really discussed how we would handle death in our shared families. Until now, it wasn’t a reality, not even a passing thought… So I’ve done a little bit of research to understand and share some advice for couples through the loss of a loved one.
To start, I think the most important aspect to remember when dealing with the death of a close family member is that we ALL grieve differently. This is not just because as men and women we deal with issues in our own ways, but our fundamental beliefs (what happens after death?), our ending relationship to the deceased and lastly our current daily struggles have quite an impact on how we chose to absorb and digest the event as a whole.
Generally speaking, the closer the family member the bigger the impact. This was our Auntie, not a parent/sibling or even a child – which I’m sure would have a much more profound impact on our marriage. So for now, I am going to try to just focus on the death of a loved one within your marriage’s now-shared family…
Honestly, I had no idea where to start with my man… I knew Auntie but not like he did. She was a second mother to him so all I DID know was to be careful and listen if he wanted to share his feelings with me. Each of his family members were absorbing her death in different ways too. I quietly just kept close and tried NOT to give any false support.
Interestingly enough, although many people shut down and keep it all inside, his family chose to celebrate the time they did have with her by sharing stories, reconnecting with distant family (aka us) and breaking bread together. They talked about the good times, her funny quirks and how we will never forget her.
Although we left in renewed spirits, I still keep a close eye on hubby – just in case. The process of grieving has no time limits, and there are many varying stages to boot such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.
Looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, probably the WORST thing you could do is diminish or even ignore the significance of it’s impact on your partner. So make a point to recognize the loss as REAL by sharing your thoughts with one another. Take the time to reinvest in your surrounding family – grief begets isolation, so show your support and re-sync your lives to accommodate the loss as easily as possible.
I’ve mostly learned to help the Mr. cope with his loss by sharing his sorrow and being patient. There are very few times when he leans on me – so I’ll pick up my post gratefully and support his needs – whatever they may be.
Have you shared a loss together with your spouse? What worked/didn’t for you?
Here’s some great related articles I found quite useful: