Experiencing Loss Together

When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, so did death. In our lives today, we accept that death is a “natural” part of life and we will not only face our own demise one day but also the passing of our loved ones.

Three weeks ago today a very dear friend of ours, the man who married us before God and our families, passed away very suddenly. Frank was a full time missionary to Uganda and South Sudan and lived here in Alaska for 6 months out of the year. He had a kind voice and a gentle touch with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. The work he was doing in Africa was truly the work of God; he taught at and helped start the South Sudan Theological Seminary where young men are molded into Godly examples, which has enabled countless people in villages and towns to come to know Jesus. In 2012 he raised the money and obtained necessary paperwork to purchase a four-wheel-drive truck in South Sudan for traveling into villages that have no roads. In late 2011/early 2012 he assisted in opening a medical clinic in memory of his late wife Adelaide – a wonderful woman with just as much love and passion for the Lord as Frank!

When I first started dating my husband, Andy, Frank was staying at my in-laws home. He was so incredibly welcoming and accepting right away, it was as if I had known him my whole life. Since he had been there to see the beginning (and even took part in teasing Andy about this “girl” he hadn’t brought home yet!) it only made sense that he be the one to marry us when the day came. And we are so incredibly blessed to have those memories.

Although this isn’t the first time that one of us has had someone we know pass away, it was the first time that we had to learn to grieve together. Learning to grieve together is not something I had ever thought about prior to marriage. The morning that we woke up to the news Andy was about to leave for work and I was just getting up to get ready. Of course I cried and he held me tight for a few minutes before leaving. We talked a little that evening about Frank but it wasn’t until a few days to a week later that I asked him if he had been thinking about him and the family. It was in these moments that I started learning about how we grieve. Andy doesn’t feel the need to talk about it and is content thinking and praying on his own. For me, on the other hand, talking about it together a little bit and reliving all those good memories is an important part of my grieving process.

We both understood each others needs, and during this short grieving process we took good care of each other and did whatever the other needed to feel okay. A suggestion I can offer for you is to ask your spouse if they’ve ever experienced a loss in their life. A family member maybe? A friend? And especially ask them how they dealt with it. What is their grieving style? It may sound like a morbid conversation, but one day as a married pair you will experience a loss together. And as a married pair you will grieve together. Understanding what your mate needs from you (or doesn’t need from you) will help you both grieve in a healthy way.

I think I said it best on the morning of Frank’s passing: “The world has lost a great and amazing man today. Our hearts are broken with his family and dear friends. But we rest in the promise that he is home with the Lord and his wife. To his entire family, we love you all and we’re praying for you in this time of great loss.” That truly is the greatest comfort. I will still definitely miss his occasional “Gardner’s Goings” emails, the surprise phone calls, and the few dinner dates we were lucky enough to share. To the family, we’re always thinking about you all, we love you, and we hope you’ve found peace and comfort in this time.

 

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“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 ESV)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4 ESV)

Photos by Jenna D Photography

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Weathered

“Waiting for the sunrise, waiting for the day. I’m waiting for a sign that I’m where you want me to be. You know my heart is heavy and the hurt is deep, but when I feel like giving up you’re reminding me…” These are words from The Afters’ song Lift Me Up. These are words I can’t stop singing.

Here is where I start my married life blogging. And I can promise you it isn’t always going to be pretty.

Whoever first said “the first year of marriage is the hardest” was onto something. One of my sister-in-laws told us in the weeks before our wedding that getting married and having children makes you realize how selfish you are. I think she was onto something too.

My husband and I have struggled tremendously in these 7 months. There has been no “honeymoon period” and we have been seeking help for a little more than a month now. I in no way wish to spill the private details of our imperfect marriage out into writing, but I have advice that I hope can spare some other couple out there the hurt, abandonment, shame, and unbelievable stress that I have felt over the past few months.

Communication is so important, as cliche as that sounds. Lack of it can destroy your marriage. I don’t mean sending text messages throughout the day or coming home in the evening and giving your spouse an entire recap of your day. I’m talking about discussing each of your needs, telling one another [calmly] when you’ve been offended or are upset about something (and listening when your spouse does this in return), and actually talking about your future – children, a house, career paths and choices, etc. Just because those things aren’t happening tomorrow or next month doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t discuss them now.

Listening when your spouse has things to say about these issues, and responding to what they’ve said, not only shows that you care about them and value their opinions, it helps you to function more as a team and less as individuals. And yes, it is normal and healthy to come home and talk about your days since you didn’t spend them joined at the hip. Just make sure you aren’t neglecting the other important communication aspects.

Love through your actions, not just your words. Saying “I love you” twice a day will not fill each others ‘love tank’ (term courtesy of two old friends of mine). The idea of “never stop dating” goes along with this one. Hold hands in the car, in church, at the movies, and when you’re out around town. Send each other cute or sweet messages throughout the day and say those things when you’re in person as well. Sit close to your spouse on the couch, even if you’re just watching TV or chatting with each other. Kiss your spouse every chance you get and enjoy it – they’re the only person you get to share that with. Surprise one another with a nice meal, at home or out at a restaurant. Be spontaneous! The list could go on forever. Do these things every day, pursue them as your pursue your spouse. Forgive me for being upfront, but don’t wait until you want to have sex for these things to come out. That may and most likely would have a negative effect on your spouse, making them feel used or only wanted when it’s convenient for you.

Leave and cleave. Yes, your parents raised you. Yes, your parents are wonderful people who will always love and support you no matter what. But when you take your vows and say “I do” you are leaving them to form a commitment with your spouse and start your own family. Your parents did it. Your grandparents before them did it. And so on. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). This in no way means that you essentially shun your families or never speak to them! It simply means your spouse is now number one, most important in your life. You have your own home and family now. Your marriage comes before all other relationships. We recently learned at a marriage seminar that your spouse is also now your number one ministry. Their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being are now a top priority. Both spouses should strive for this.

Want to talk to someone? Talk to your spouse. Have questions about a life choice or anything else? Ask your spouse. If you have news – whether it’s good or bad – make it a habit to tell your spouse about it first before telling anyone else. No matter how big or small. Not only is this considerate, but it’s also a part of functioning as one unit. Also, don’t be so quick to bring your parents or other family members into your marriage troubles; this means anything from financial disagreements or health insurance right down to abandonment or worse. Always always always try to fix things together and involving just the two of you. There may come a time to reach out for help, but only when it becomes clear that you can’t do it alone…

Be considerate. Your spouse is a human being, designed by God, and possesses emotions, opinions, and desires. I guess you could also say here “don’t be selfish” and “never stop dating” (again). When you were dating was it acceptable to be rude or cut corners or be a slob? No. And it isn’t anymore acceptable now that you’re married. You also didn’t have to think about anyone else’s needs or opinions other than your own prior to “I do”, but guess what? Now you do. Think of it this way: You are now one body. You don’t take care of only the right side and neglect the left do you? No, because your body would break down and die if you didn’t maintain both parts equally. Your marriage is the same. You can’t focus on yourself and neglect your spouse. Your marriage will suffer and may ultimately fall apart.

So be considerate of your spouse. Pick up after yourself (your spouse is not your mother), value and respect your spouses wishes or opinions, listen to the things they have to say, and most importantly apologize when you upset, offend, or have a spat with your spouse. Not apologizing when you need to is just as hurtful as the words or actions that were said or done to cause the upset in the first place. (Sarcastic and insincere apologies are just as bad if not worse…) Both spouses should do these things.

Some of you may be wondering “But how do I know that I need to apologize?” Get in the habit of apologizing anyway. If your apology isn’t necessary, it’s likely your spouse will respond by saying something similar to “No hun, you don’t need to apologize.” It’s as easy as that.

Something all married couples must come to terms with is that things will not always be perfect and easy. Each of you will stumble. Each of you will make mistakes. You will fall short of the commandments God has given to husbands and wives. But by recognizing that, and asking for Him to help you and give you strength to pursue that goal, you’re taking a step in the right direction.

I think that’s all I can say for now. I understand that not all folks are going to agree with the things I have to say, but I hope that some of you will find this simple advice helpful and valuable. Although I may keep most parts of our marriage private, I would like to ask for your prayers. Pray for wisdom, for healing, and that the love of Christ will saturate every inch of our being together.

 

“Those who sow in tears will reap a harvest of joy; for though they may weep while going forth to plant their seed, if they persevere, they will undoubtedly return rejoicing — bringing their sheaves with them.” (Psalms 126:5-6)