Guest Post By Samantha*
I lost my babies.
Then I lost my husband.
I know the statistics of marriages that end in divorce after a couple loses a child is high. We lost two within a few weeks, after struggling with infertility, the emotional journey of IVF and after praying for and expecting to bring home miracles, losing our babies was a test in faith that neither one of us knew how to pass.
I fell in love with my husband for a thousand reasons; high on the list was that he was my best friend and we just fit. We had a great time together, we shared the same hopes and dreams, we laughed together, we had a really good life.
I don’t think you can know the strength of any relationship until you face struggle. It’s easy to love someone when it’s easy. Loving someone when it’s hard isn’t something that a lot of people are comfortable with, even when the cause of the hurt is something black and white. When it’s something as confusing and ugly as grief–when the cause of the grief is the loss of a child–or in our case, was multiplied by losing two baby boys, it goes beyond confusing to devastating.
I spent the months after our loss trying to keep my head above water. I tried to navigate through the desires and hopes of being a mother by the reality that our babies had died. I thought I was doing well to make it through a few hours without crying. And then hours turned to days that became more manageable. I found healing how I handle everything. I reached out to others;I talked about my hurt. I blogged through my grief and I found support from others who understood the pain that my heart felt, from mothers who knew what it meant when I said I just needed to remember to breathe.
Where was my husband? Where he had always been–through the conversation at the Dr telling us we would have to resort to IVF, the IVF transfer, finding out we were pregnant with twins, the gender reveal of boys, the hospital stays during a complicated pregnancy, the weeks in the hospital and 2 separate deliveries and deaths of our babies–he was by my side. He never left my side.
If only it were as simple as him physically being by my side.
It wasn’t that simple. Nothing is simple or easy or makes sense about grief. It would be too fair to expect life to make sense while you are trying to live with your heart broken.
I grew up in a family of talkers. We talked to each other; we talked about what was going on in our lives. Showing emotion wasn’t just accepted but encouraged, and there was never any shame in showing your vulnerabilities.
My husband grew up in a very private family who never discussed anything and emotion and feelings were better left hidden because talking about anything that might be seen as weakness was out of the question.
So what happens when a mom who is grieving her sons finds healing in talking while her husband who is grieving his sons decides the only way to get through the loss is to move forward with no allowances for grief? There is no place for feelings and certainly taking time to heal is something that is not only not understood but causes bitterness, resentment and anger.
What happens is you are so busy trying to keep your head above water that you can’t, no matter how badly you want it, to be of much help to your spouse. Suddenly the person who should be the one who understands your loss better than anyone, is the one who makes you feel guilty for still hurting. For still being upset. For still crying.
I was used to the judgment I faced from strangers, from friends and from some family. It hurt and was confusing but it didn’t cut me as deeply as being judged by my husband. By my sons’ daddy. For 2 people who loved each other so much, shared the same hopes and dreams, laughed more together than anything else, to become strangers was heartbreaking in a way I never expected.
After months of struggle, of fighting, of being lost in the brokenness of loss, he left me. I had spent the past year finding healing, getting to a place where I could finally breathe. I was finally at a place where I had joy back in my life; I was excited and ready to live life once again and he left.
While I was healing, while I was talking, while I was sharing the hurts in my heart, he was building up walls. He was eaten up with resentment and hurt, directed at me with no idea how to deal with his feelings.
We were both drowning. We both were devastated. We both were lost. We didn’t know how to come together in grief when we found out, during the worst time of our lives, that the way we cope and process things was completely different.
For a few months we barely talked. He moved out and we were left with the option of divorcing someone we loved or figuring out how to move forward in a new life neither one of us wanted to be part of. Both options sucked and were unfair for a couple who, aside from this major barrier, loved each other.
We found our way to a marriage counselor. She helped us both see, realize and understand that while we both lost our sons, it was so profoundly different for each of us. As their mom, I remember the physical pain of labor and childbirth, twice. I remember feeling them inside me. I grieved for them in an entirely different way than he did. He realized that he never really let himself grieve. We both forgave ourselves and each other for the missteps, for the hurts, for the confusion we were living in for too long with no guidance or direction on how to get out of the maze of pain we were in.
What have we found over the past few months? We love each other. More than either of us realized. We want each other, more than either of us wanted to admit. We needed to forgive each other. We didn’t set out to intentionally hurt the other even though we both were hurting deeply.
When someone is drowning and you try to save them, panic often sets in and they fight you. They know that you are trying to help them but fear takes over and they may lash out on the very person who is there to give them what they need. What happens when two drowning people try to save each other?
There’s a lot of panic. There’s a lot of lashing out. There’s a lot of fear that while you’re trying to save the other person, you’re not going to survive yourself.
That pretty much sums up our marriage after we lost our boys. Through a lot of prayer for open hearts, for willing hearts and for a wise counselor, we are finally able to come together with a common heart and mind.
We love each other. We gave each other the best we could which on some days was nothing. We have made a conscious decision to leave the grieving spouse and their actions that caused so much hurt in the past. We had to. But we also realize that hurt and sadness will always be around the corner and we have to let each other work through the hard times. In an effort to love each other as we are today, we are focused on what we know to be true and are more forgiving with each other.
We loved our boys. We lost them. For awhile we lost each other but we have found a love that is stronger, a hope that is greater and a bond that is deeper than anything we have ever known. We lost the boys we loved and wanted, but we couldn’t do anything to change that. And while we lost each other for a moment, we have fought with all we have to get back to each other.
Losing our boys was the worst thing I’d ever faced. Until I lost their Dad. I’m thankful that we both were willing to open our hearts, be honest with each other and make the decision that our baby’s story would not end with their parent’s divorce. I didn’t want anything negative to be associated with their short lives and I’m thankful that their daddy was willing to reach into a place that wasn’t comfortable for him, to feel, to talk, to heal and to let himself take down the wall and love me again. And to let me love him through this.
We lost our boys but we found each other again. And for right now, that is our happy ending.
***In the interest of privacy for her husband, this guest author asked to use a pseudonym and we understandably obliged.