Grief is a very individual thing. When most people think of grief, they think of the loss of a loved one through death. Where couples are concerned the death is sometimes a child. But there are many different types of life events that can lead to grief and the need to go through the grieving process.
A loss of a home, a job or a substantial financial loss can lead to grieving for both spouses. No two people grieve alike, so when a couple is grieving after a loss, it's an even more difficult experience.
However, just because each is doing it differently that does not mean the couple can’t still go through the grief process together. Stages of Grief
Grief comes in waves and several stages: shock and denial; anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. A healthy grieving process requires a person to go through all the stages. There is no set time period for each stage, some stages might last longer than others and these factors vary by person. So when you have two people in a relationship grieving in different stages and for different periods of time, this can cause problems in the relationship.
The couple has to respect each others' grieving processes and help one another through each stage. The couple should also make sure their partner is going through each stage and isn’t trying to avoid the grieving process by abusing alcohol or drugs.
For the grieving process to really work, all stages must be experienced, sometimes in excruciating detail and levels. For couples who are at different stages of the process, it's important that the partner who is “ahead” in the grieving process not try and make his partner “hurry up,” or otherwise feel bad about grieving. On the other hand, the partner who is “trailing” should not feel bad about not being as advanced as his or her partner. The process takes the time it takes. Communication Is Important
Even though a couple might be grieving at different stages – if this issue is acknowledged and discussed that can lessen the stress the process can exert on the marriage. Being honest about what each is feeling can help both people understand that the actions of each person are not personal and are not deliberately being directed toward the other person.
For example, a person in the anger stage might rail against his or her spouse and question his or her part in the tragedy that occurred.
This isn’t usually a legitimate feeling, the person is looking for someone to blame and there is no one more convenient than a spouse. But if the spouse is aware of the stage the other is in, this can help the spouse to not take what is being said to heart, and hopefully stave off feelings that could eventually damage the marriage. Keep the Relationship Going
Grief is an all-encompassing experience. There is a good reason some marriages cannot survive the grieving process; a person has only so much energy so when a person is grieving, most of that energy is spent just getting through the day. There is very little, if any, energy left to spend on maintaining a relationship. It’s not a lack of love or willingness, the ability simply isn’t there.
If both spouses are aware of this, they can often find low energy ways to stay connected while still grieving. Quietly sitting on the porch together, holding hands and even small talk during meals can keep the connection together. Sharing feelings can also strengthen the bond between husband and wife as they work to recover from a tragedy. When to Seek Help
It is possible for a person to get “stuck” in a stage of grief. For some, it takes a long time for the shock to wear off, others remain angry for an extended period of time and still others struggle with the depression that comes with grief. There is no official “stuck” time, but when a person seems to be struggling it might be time to seek professional help with the grieving process. When a spouse gets stuck in a grieving stage, this can be hard for the other partner, especially if being stuck is preventing the other spouse from living a productive life.
For example, a spouse that stays in bed, quits going to work and can’t function on a basic level leaves the other spouse to pick up the slack. This puts an additional strain on the relationship. Seeking counseling for the stuck spouse can help get him or her unstuck and help the spouse and the marriage recover.
Grieving can be one of the hardest things a couple has to endure.
But if a couple is determined to see it through together, one tragedy doesn’t have to lead to another.