Today’s question is pretty heavy, but it’s a part of marriage for a lot of couples. We talked to Sandy Wise (Episodes 25 & 26) about what to do when you lose your spouse and that was an amazing conversation.
This week, our discussion is about what to do when your spouse has lost a loved one. Most people don’t think about what to do until they’re in the middle of it. It’s never easy, but there are ways to process.
There will be times in our marriage when our spouse will experience a big loss.
Ted: I do have some experience with loss. I lost my mom when I was 10, suddenly. After going through that, I thought I had “paid off the grim reaper” and it wouldn’t happen again. My dad raised us, but my mom’s sister helped raise us after my mom passed away.
She had a son who struggled with drugs and alcohol starting at 14 years old. In his mid-twenties, he overdosed and passed away. He was more like a brother than a cousin to me. Then a couple years later, the same aunt got an odd infection and passed away.
I didn’t do so well. I was very quiet and withdrawn. I wept a lot and did odd things, like call her phone and leave her messages. But I could do all those things with Nancie. A lot of times, well-meaning people and spouses do things that unintentionally hurt the other person. But Nancie would just tell me she was sorry, that it was crazy and that she couldn’t believe it. That helped me, and it drew us together
How you handle their loss can connect you or disconnect you from your spouse?
- Listen and don’t fix. People say, “I don’t know what to say.” Good. Don’t worry about what you say. Just listen and sit there.
- Run from clichés. They don’t help at all. Stick to a couple of phrases: “I’m so sorry” and, “For what it’s worth, I’m praying for you.”
- Realize every day is different. Grief is like an ocean more than it is steps. It still hits me (Ted) at weird times—like when my son graduated high school.
- Let them grieve in weird ways. I (Ted) would call my Aunt’s cell phone and leave messages.
- Stand in the gaps—for example, take the kids where they need to go for them.
- Be their advocate.
- Let them cry.
- Let them repeat themselves.
- Take care of you. It will drain you when you have to be selfless for your spouse through this. Make sure you have a friend you can share with too.
Your one simple thing
If your spouse is in the middle of this, there’s one question you can ask, “How are you doing?” Then, just listen.
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