Marriage. It can be one of the most rewarding relationships in your life, yet one of the most challenging. Tragedy and grief can put an extra strain on marriage that can leave a couple desperate, searching for answers and healing. When grief enters a marriage, it has a way of exposing and uprooting a couple’s foundation. Grief will stir up and shake one’s foundation to expose what a couple’s feet are really standing on. It will reveal what your relationship is really about.
Four years ago, when our son passed away from a fatal kidney disease, our lives changed forever. We never imagined how many levels and depths grief would take us after his death. Even a year after his passing we realized grief was a lingering beast, prowling around and could attack at any moment. We didn’t know how powerful grief really was until we experienced it. It’s so powerful, the statistics show that over 90% of couples get divorced after a child passes away. Grief will rob you of your joy, destroy your marriage and leave you with nothing, if you let it.
Your marriage is worth fighting for. The enemy is strong, but God’s love is stronger. Trust in it. Believe it is enough. God does not want bad things to happen to us. He grieves and hurts along with us. He is the exit plan to our pain, He is what brings whole-hearted healing, if we let him.
Here are three things to stay away from once grief enters your marriage:
- Blame. When a child passes away, we want answers. Why? We want to justify their death, but really it goes beyond our understanding, because how can you justify a child passing away? You never will, not in this life. Blaming your spouse or yourself will never bring you closer to an answer, only further away. It is what the enemy will use to rip you apart. Don’t even go there.
- Viewing your spouse as the enemy. You may fight more after grief enters your marriage, but please know this what the enemy wants. When you are fighting with your husband, you are fighting the wrong fight. Our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood (against each other), it is against the dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (see Ephesians 6:12 NIV). When you come together as husband and wife and fight the fight together with God, you have a fighting chance and won’t become another statistic.
- Pushing your spouse away. You may want to run, hide, avoid, push away anything that reminds you of your child, just to escape and get a break from your grief. This is normal, but not a long term solution. It is important to recognize how each other grieves. Men and women grieve in different ways, and that’s okay. Allow yourself and your spouse to grieve in your own way, in your own time. Women like to talk it out. There may be a time your husband cannot lend a listening ear anymore, and that’s okay. Your husband will reach his limit where he can talk about it, because most men internalize more. It is important to seek out women groups of other women who have lost a child or a group like grief share. Pushing your husband or wife away will not accomplish anything in the long run. It doesn’t create a solution for the grief and only adds more grief upon your grief.
The best thing my husband and I ever did was to continue to love and support each other after our son passed away. We recognized that we grieved differently and allowed each other to grieve how we grieved. It wasn’t wrong or bad, just different. Give each other lots of hugs, space, time and most importantly, pray together. Stay connected with God. When tragedy enters life, it can either drive you further away or closer to God. Don’t allow the enemy to defeat you, to define you or take away the person you are. Sometimes the fear becomes too much to bear. The good news is, we don’t have to do it alone. God is with us. He has gone before us. The victory against death has been won and no amount of evil can change that. And He has armed us with the power of prayer that helps keep us together, even when grief threatens to tear us apart.
Need some ideas for what to pray? Here are 5 things to pray for your marriage:
- Truth– Pray that God’s truth will be the way, instill life in your marriage and set you free from the heaviness of grief (John 14:6).
- Protection- Pray the armor of God over your marriage from Ephesians 6:10-19. Pray for the belt of truth to be buckled tightly around your waist so you may stand firm against the devil’s schemes. Pray for the breastplate of righteousness to be worn around your chest to guard your heart, pray that your feet will be fitted for readiness so you may be in a position of readiness when grief comes crashing in, that the shield of faith will be an extra layer of protection to shield you against the flaming arrows of the evil one, the helmet of salvation will guard your mind to keep the defeating thoughts out.
- Strength– Remind yourself this is a spiritual battle battle only to be fought with God’s strength. Be strong and courageous the Lord our God will be with you wherever you go Joshua 1:9. Pray your marriage will have a strong foundation like the man who built his house on a rock so it may withstand any storm that comes your way Matthew 7:15-23.
- Wisdom– Ask God to help you to trust him with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding Proverbs 3:5. Always seek God and ask him for your needs so he may give you a heart of understanding.
- Healing and Love– He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds Psalm 147:3. We can rejoice because of what Christ has done for us, by his stripes we have been healed (Isaiah 53:5). Pray that God will heal you wholeheartedly, which only God can do. Pray that your love will be an example of God’s love to be a marriage how he designed it to be, to show others that God’s love is greater than anything in this world. When God is all you have, you discover he is all you need.
Hold on to God’s promises and trust in his love, it will keep you safe and protected against the enemy. I don’t know where my husband and I would be if we didn’t have God on our side. Fight for your marriage. Keep praying. Keep fighting the good fight, it will reap rewards beyond measure that will last eternally, for evermore. Amen.
Heather Gillis works full time as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at a surgery center. She is author of “Waiting for Heaven: Finding Beauty in the Pain and the Struggle,” and founder of Bowen’s Hope, a ministry that helps kidney disease kids and their families. Heather was a participant and finisher of the 2013 Boston Marathon. She has a heart for women’s ministry and currently serves on the Protestant Women of the Chapel Board in Alaska. Her husband Mac, is an Oral and Maxillo-Facial Surgeon serving in the United States Air Force. She and her husband live in Alaska with their two living children. Contact her by connecting here: