We cannot be everything to everyone, even to the person that we are married to. For us, there is no better reminder of this than when we are facing grief. Because as much as we want to be there for us, neither of us is particularly good at consoling the other person. As we have just lost a very dear friend, the question of how we as people, and how we as married people, manage grief is weighing on me. Because what does it say about my marriage that my husband and I aren't very good at dealing with each other and raw, inconsolable grief?
Some people are good at managing other people's pain. My sister, for one. She is always funny when you need her to be, reassuring when you need her to be, and she never, ever says the wrong thing. Myself, I am pragmatic, hysterical, and blunt. I usually can be counted on to say the wrong thing. I usually take the approaching of feeding people when they are grieving*, and trying my darndest to make myself useful. I have learned, through much trial and error, that it is much better for me to just hold a person and say nothing than to try to console them, or to pick up the slack in other areas of their life so that they can focus on their own stuff.
My husband is equally bad, if not worse. He is generally happy to hold me when I am sad, but he also falls asleep when I'm sobbing in bed after somebody I love has just died. He listens while I talk about whoever I've lost, but he also doesn't understand when I don't go back to normal right away. When I called him two weeks ago to give him the news, he told me he would leave work if I wanted him to, but otherwise he would stay and meet me in the evening wherever I was with my family. I told him to keep working**, partly because I didn't want him to have to take the day off, but also because I knew he wasn't going to be nearly as helpful at helping me deal with the pain as my sister would be. The next day, after making sure our friends made their flight and picking up the pieces, I called in the reinforcements and my bridesmaid (once a bridesmaid always a bridesmaid) came over for dinner and listened to me and said all the right things while my husband made us dinner.
And while I recognize that we all grieve differently, and handle grief differently, and neither of us is trained as a grief counselor, and I fully recognize that we cannot all be everything to everyone, I feel a bit concerned that neither of us is well equipped to deal with the other person when they are facing grief. I don't really know how to improve this skill, because it's not really something I can, or want, to practice, but when we got married, we promised each other that we would be there for each other in the tough times, and I think we would both like to be there emotionally as well as physically. So how do you and your partner handle grief? Do you do everything together, like go to the hospital and the funeral and the services? Do you have any tips for us when we face this in the future?
*I called my sister on the way to the hospital and said, "should I bring lunch?" and she said, "they aren't us...they don't have inappropriate food-grief relationships."
**In retrospect, this was a mistake, because I could barely drive the car, and we have decided in the future, when something bad happens and I need to get somewhere fast while trying not to sob openly, Mark will drive me.