It has been said grief is so personal that no two people experience it in the same way. This is especially true when it comes to those who have lost a child. Husbands who had been able to finish their wives sentences suddenly find they haven’t a clue what their wife is going to say next; wives who had teased their husbands about their predictability now find them a total mystery. It’s no wonder that so many grieving couples split up – not only is their home missing an irreplaceable member, but their partner has become a total stranger.
Heather and my marriage has survived, but it hasn’t been an easy journey for us. We are both, in many ways, very different today than we were before our loss. I no longer always know what Heather is going to say next; she often can’t predict how I will respond to things.
Each night, before we go to sleep, Heather goes to the table beside our bed that holds framed photos of Maddie, keepsakes such as a lock of Maddie’s hair, and Maddie’s urn. Heather touches the glass of our favorite photo of Maddie, then leans over Maddie’s urn and speaks to her in hushed tones – sometimes for just a few moments, sometimes for many minutes – before kissing the urn goodnight.
Recently Heather asked me why I don’t say goodnight to Maddie’s urn each night as she does. I thought about this for a second, then told her that it just isn’t how I grieve. It’s not that I don’t talk to Maddie, I do everyday, but I don’t have one set way of doing it. I talk to her in many different ways – sometimes out loud, sometimes in my mind, and sometimes by letting my thoughts drift to an earlier time when Maddie’s laughter rang in my ears and her kisses wet my cheeks.
Heather, after hearing my explanation, nodded without judgment and kissed me goodnight. It is in this way we move forward together through this grief – by accepting the changes in each other and the fact that we can’t understand each other as perfectly as we once did – but loving each other just the same.