Marriage after the death of a child

There is so much to say about the subject of marriage after the death of a child.  Anyone who is married knows that marriage is a challenge in and of itself, without facing a tragedy every single day.  Every marriage responds differently to losing a child, just as every marriage would respond differently to most every challenge in life: a new child, the loss of a job, the purchase of a home... I know that, for me, as soon as Max passed I began to worry that my marriage would end too.  I mean, I literally started worrying about it in the hospital next to Max's death bed.  The blow was just too large.  I wasn't sure we could handle it.  Many marriages don't last through something this catastrophic.

In many ways, for us, the whole point of getting married was to start a family.  If we weren't eager for the next stage, we could have just kept living together "in sin".  We were really happy with that arrangement actually.  But I was getting "older" and I was worried that I was losing valuable baby having I started putting the pressure on Ted.  I felt it was time to get married.  Eventually, he did too.  Max completed our happiness.  He brought us so much closer together.  We saw sides of each other that we didn't even know existed.  My love for Teddy grew exponentially when I would see how Max looked at him.  I fell so much deeper in love with Ted after we had Max.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that I think that the same thing happened for him with me.  It was a really beautiful time in our lives and in our relationship.  I loved how our lives were moving forward with our new family.  I couldn't believe how lucky I was.  I had to remind myself all of the time that I actually had this beautiful life - these two wonderful boys.  I can't believe how hard it all came crashing in on us.

To be honest, I wondered what our purpose was after losing Max.  Obviously, I still loved Ted deeply but I felt too broken to give my love to anyone.  And, somehow I was already aware of the terrible statistic of 90% of marriages ending in divorce after the death of a child.  At a certain level, it made sense.  We couldn't really do anything to help each other.  Each of us were having a hard enough time wondering how to possibly go on living.  I remember telling my sister-in-law, Beth, how scared I was that I was going to lose Teddy and that most marriages split after the death of a child.  She told me that that statistic included all of the crappy marriages out there.  That 50% of marriages end in divorce anyway and plenty of couples stay together who shouldn't.  The death of a child would surely break up those marriages that weren't all that strong to begin with.  She assured me that Ted and I would be different.  Ted assured me as well.  I needed their assurances.  I am so grateful for them.  It wasn't until months later really that our grief counselor convinced me that I had too much to worry about to keep worrying about my marriage.  Ted promised we would be fine, I just needed to trust it.  I was having trouble trusting anything but I went with it.

The fact is that there was nothing left to give each other...except a promise that we would stick together.  People kept telling me how wonderful it was that I still had Teddy and that we should lean on each other.  Super Moronic words - even though I recognize that "they didn't know what to say".  Ted and I both felt that if we had lost each other, it would have been easier.  We even told each other that.  And, if he had leaned on me, I would have fallen over.  I hardly got out of bed.  If I did, I moved to the couch where I laid silently, staring at the television all day long until it was time to go to sleep.  That is the reality.  The reality is that I when I finally stopped being catatonic, I spent all day and night crying my eyes out, asking why, screaming at god, yelling "I miss Max!" and "This is NOT living"....and Ted hardly spoke (and you were offended that I didn't want to have lunch with you.  Is this picture becoming clearer yet?  Do you finally realize how much pain I was in?).  I can't even tell you exactly what was going through his head...because men don't really share.  I only could see that his spirit was absolutely decimated.  I can still see that broken spirit when I look into his once gleaming and joyful eyes.  There is so much pain in those eyes now.  When I would say, "I can't go on without Max!", Ted would say, "You have to" and then turn away from me.  He wasn't being cold, he just couldn't help me.  And, anyway, he needed to help himself.  He threw himself into work, the football season, and our bathroom remodel.  I thought that the remodel was something that was helping him take his mind off of his pain, but I guess it was really just causing him more stress.  I can remember crying and screaming and Ted turning up the volume on the football game to drown me out.  It isn't pretty but that is the reality.  My pain affected his pain.  In order to help himself, there were times he needed to shut me out.  And, the truth is that I couldn't have helped him get through his pain if I tried....mine was too deep.  In the hospital, he had mentioned the idea of leaving this life together "Thelma and Louise style" and I brought it up incessantly.  I wanted to be done.  He felt the need to keep going. He insisted that I keep going with him...and somehow, our love grew.  We saw (and still often see) the very darkest and worst sides of each other.  I guess if you can get through that, you can get through most anything.  

 Almost a year and a half later, there are things that are much easier now.  I hardly ever feel the need to scream out loud even if my feelings are just as strong.  When I do need to cry, Ted often is able to comfort me.  Ted expresses himself more easily these days, but still keeps most of it to himself.  We don't NEED to lean on each other because each of us has found the strength within ourselves to lean on.  But, I think we both find it easier to lean on each other in the darkest moments where are own strength isn't enough to carry us.  It is tragically hard every day and probably will continue to be for a long time.  I think we have made it through the worst part.  We know that our future is together.  Nobody else can come close to understanding who we each are without having known Max as a parent.  He is a big part of who each of us is.  I think I speak for both of us when I say that despite having the greatest challenge imaginable to carry each and every day, we are stronger and more in love.  I think we both know that we are lucky for that.  I know that I feel very, very lucky for that.


Seeing Each Day said...

You've described some scenes here that are so raw and so real. I'm nodding in agreeance about the solidity of your marriage, which is slightly funny in a presumptious way to be doing seeing as I've never met you or obviously seen the two of you relate together, but it's just the fact that you are able to write " I think we made it through the worst part" - because by now you know what the definition of 'worst' is and you know what everday heartache is. In my long winded way I guess I'm saying because you've said it, I believe you because I know you'd know. So when you write that you are both stronger and more in love, then I have complete confidence that that's the case.

Jessica Sawyer said...

I just stumbled upon this blog post and I am grateful I did. My husband and I lost our 11 mo old baby boy 8 months ago. Your post describes our struggles so well. We are definately struggling but trying to hold on. Life is so hard sometimes and I just dont understand what God is doing in our marriage. We are dealing in different ways and at different times but love each other so much. We will keep hanging in there, just wanted to write and say I am a fellow wife and mother that can relate to your experience.