A lot of writers keep journals. I’m not one of them. I haven’t kept one since junior high.
Well, with one exception.
It was the spring my husband Ted and I had to process our obstetrician’s words, “I’m sorry.” The spring when a new life within me unexpectedly died, rather than flourished.
I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do about it. So I bought a blue and white journal at Barnes and Nobles. And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
One aspect I wrote about was how Ted and I didn’t grieve in the same way or at the same pace. Just as we brought differences to the way we cooked, drove, and parented, we brought differences to our loss and the way we processed it.
It was hard to figure out how to grieve together when we grieved so differently. But we slowly – and often clumsily – navigated it. And, as we did, we continued to grow together, rather than allow the loss to tear us apart. How did we do this? One way was by allowing the other to grieve as they needed to, even if it wasn’t how we preferred.
If you and your husband are currently grieving differently and you’re frustrated or discouraged by it, here are three things to remember that helped us.
1. We’re Wired Differently
Not only do Ted and I have different personalities that influenced our response to loss, the simple fact that he’s a man and I’m a woman affected how we grieved.
In the midst of personal pain, it’s easy to forget that men and women aren’t just wired differently physically, but also mentally and emotionally. And, as frustrating as that can be at times, according to God, that’s a good thing. He didn’t design us to respond to everything identically.
When as a wife I realize and anticipate that Ted is by nature going to respond differently, sometimes even in ways I can’t comprehend, it prepares my heart to be more understanding. More patient. More gracious.
2. We Have Different Vantage Points
While Ted did mourn the death of our preborn baby Noah, he didn’t feel it as intensely as I did. Some of this had to do with his vantage point, or the position from which he experienced it.
I physically carried Noah those 10 weeks. As a result, I felt a deeper connection to her. Ted was more removed, especially that early in the pregnancy. My body also experienced the physical loss of her. Ted’s didn’t. His body wasn’t a constant reminder to him of death. These differences had a tremendous effect on the way we came through the loss of a baby.
3. Different Isn’t the Same as Alone
Even though Ted and I experienced grief differently, we still attempted to walk through it together. To confide in and listen to each other, even if we didn’t understand the way the other was wired or what things looked like from their vantage point. Remembering that our differences didn’t have to isolate us kept us united. We were still companions and confidants on what C.S. Lewis likened to a “long valley, a winding valley.”
It’s been four years since I wrote in that blue and white journal. Four years since Ted and I first discovered that we grieve differently. But you know what? Four years later our marriage is stronger not only because we managed to grow together through the grief, but because we gave each other space to mourn, differently.