“Marriage is a gift of love that you give to your spouse everyday, with a never-ending promise that you’ll walk side by side.” – Darlene Schacht
“Let your faith be bigger than your fear.” – anonymous
“Relationships don’t last because of the good times; they last because the hard times were handled with love and care.” – anonymous
During casual conversation about marriage, have you ever heard people say, “Oh you’ll have your ups and downs,” or “You will have your struggles,” even the comment, “Marriage is HARD!” I think it’s safe to say that we all have heard these in some form. When I would hear these comments during our engagement season I would always think, what are you talking about? I love my fiancé, we are not going to struggle OR have hard times! However, right after that thought, two scenarios came to mind that I thought could cause us to struggle or have ups and downs. They were: a sick child or the passing of one of our parents. Even then, I knew those days were far from us….so I thought.
After only six months into our marriage, my biggest fear came crashing down. My husband lost his dad…his best friend. WHY? WHY US? HOW? HOW WILL WE GET THROUGH?! WHAT? WHAT WILL I DO TO HELP HIM?
We just got married! I felt like I didn’t have enough time under my belt to best know how to help him? It shook me far more than I could’ve ever imagined or knew how to handle. I was heart-broken. I was heart-broken for my husband for losing his father and his best friend all at once and I was also heart-broken for the loss of a man I had quickly come to love and admire. His dad was a special person and all who knew him would tell you the same.
I had NO idea what to do or how to help Kevin, my husband. I asked our pastors, my friends, my family….anyone I trusted for their advice and help. Looking back now, I was basically in search of a step-by-step ‘how to’ manual about helping your spouse heal after losing a parent. The advice I got was: pray for him, just be there for him, ask him how he’s doing. All of which came from a sweet place but didn’t seem to help in the way I wanted to or hoped to. Kevin played professional golf when we first started dating and I felt like I learned quickly how to help him or cheer him up after a long practice day or after a tournament didn’t go how he wanted. It took practice, but this….this was BEYOND the hardest thing to figure out and I wanted to know RIGHT then! I couldn’t go another day feeling like I couldn’t help him or at least cheer him up. That’s my job, I’m his wife now! I found myself asking him “Are you okay?” about 100 times a day. I quickly learned….that was not helping.
It was after many, many trials and errors (on my part) that I found to be helpful and by I, I mean we. We found that the best thing was for me to stop asking him if he was okay 100x a day, but rather, “What are you thinking about?” This truly truly changed EVERYTHING for me. Someone didn’t tell me to phrase it this way, I didn’t read it online, I just figured it out on my own. He didn’t have to think or try to pretend or worry about coming across as frustrated with my concern/question. It was pure, present and in the moment and I would just listen. It wasn’t always about his dad. Sometimes, it was about work or his future plans, or his goals. I LOVED hearing his answers and listening….just listening.
It was in those listening moments that, I know now, helped him the most which at the end of the day helped me and both of our broken hearts.
What I also learned over time was HIS strength helped get me through. WHAT? I am supposed to be the one helping HIM and HE is helping ME!? I was so inspired by him. He didn’t let his emotions get the best of him and allow them to take him to a dark place. He was so strong and I am so blessed to be married to someone who focuses on the positive. He gets it honestly. He comes from an amazing family and we all feel closer than ever and for that I am also extremely grateful and feel so incredibly blessed!
In seasons like this, we all feel different emotions, and we process them differently. No matter what, there’s always something we can learn from and take away during these times. We can then share with others our experience, our struggles, or our steps to heal in hopes of helping others get through a little easier.
A year ago today, we lost his dad or as I called him, “Papa Pat” and even though he’s not here to tell me life lessons, the way he lived his life continues to teach me everyday. Thank you Papa Pat. Thank you for loving and honoring your wife, for raising three amazing boys and a beautiful daughter and for loving your friends well, for making everyone in the room feel at home, and for welcoming me into your family with open arms. We love you and we miss you every day.
XoXo ~ Laura Belle
Oh my goodness Laura! I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I think no matter how long you have been married (6 months or 16 years) the loss of a parent has to be one of the hardest things to go through together. Everyone grieves in different ways. I love your advice, and that a simple change in wording can make a big difference. Love to both you and Kevin.