Even the strongest marriage can’t prepare you and your partner for everything life can throw at you. Sometimes tragedy strikes at the heart of your marriage and your life. This is often through the loss of a loved one, but can also mean a serious illness or disablement.
When tragedy happens, your marriage can suffer a great deal of damage. Even if you and your partner are an excellent team, it’s hard to know how to handle deep personal tragedies. You may end up blaming each other, growing apart, or taking your pain out on your partner.
However, your marriage can survive tragedy. Here are some ideas to help you with staying together when tragedy strikes your marriage.
When you’re dealing with a tragedy, you need some space and so does your partner. Being there and supporting each other is important, but some alone time is vital too. Time alone lets you recharge and be completely raw and unfiltered. Take some time for yourself, and make sure your partner does the same.
Everyone deals with tragedy differently. Some people cope best by throwing themselves into work or hobbies. Others need time to just be and not deal with more than necessary. Acting normal and having fun are important coping mechanisms for some people, while others find normalcy too stressful. Acknowledge that you each have your own way of coping, and that’s okay.
It’s easy to skip over the hard conversations rather than let your partner know your true pain. However, trying to deal alone or even protect your partner can drive a wedge between you. Don’t let the distance grow – be completely honest with each other, even when it’s hard.
How is your partner doing? Check in regularly with each other about how you’re doing. Take a few minutes over coffee in the morning or before bed at night to let each other know how you’re doing.
You’re both going to have a lot of deep, painful and changing emotions as you come to terms with tragedy, and that’s natural. Being open and honest with each other will bring you closer, but you do need to listen to one another without judgment. Your partner will need to express some hard feelings – don’t judge or interject, just listen and support them, and ask them to do the same for you in turn.
Don’t go it alone – find someone you can both confide in. You might turn to a trusted friend or family member, or perhaps seek out support from a charity or support group that understands your situation. Loneliness and isolation make tragedy harder to bear. Give yourself and your partner the gift of loving support from outside when you need it.
Having therapy either together or separately will help you both navigate the scary, uncharted waters of tragedy. A professional therapist can help you unpack your feelings an figure out the healthiest way for you to deal with them right now.
If you’re dealing with grief of any kind, be that a death or a big change, an outlet for your grief will help you cope with it. You might find the best outlet is something that lets you work out your physical tension, like playing a sport or getting outside. Some people need a way to safely express anger. You might find it beneficial to journal, paint, write, or even sing or use movement to express your feelings.
Tragedy is big and intense and it can soon feel like everything you do together is focused on what you are going through. It’s unavoidable at first, but as time passes the healthiest thing is to find the parts of your marriage that aren’t focused on what happened. Take some time out together or even get out of your home town or city for a day or two. Exploring the shape of your marriage outside the tragedy will help you move forward together.
There’s no time limit on grief or tragedy. Don’t be hard on yourself or your partner if things are taking longer than you want them to. Grief needs to run its own course. Be patient with yourself and your spouse and don’t try to push things forward. If one of you is truly having trouble moving on, consider talking to a professional.
Dealing with your own feelings and your partner’s takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. Practicing self care is important for your own healing, and it also helps you feel stronger and more able to support your partner. Be aware of your feelings and know your limits. If you need a time out or you can’t offer support, be honest about that. Take some time out to look after yourself regularly.
Tragedy changes the people who live through it, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. Be gentle and patient with each other and be honest as you move through this hard time together.
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