Something Nathan and I learned early on in grief is that we both have different ways and times of grieving. My need to grieve was immediate. His was too, but in a sense he grieved early on by taking care of me. That is how he showed his love for Caleb-by stepping up and taking on the load of both of us while I fell apart. And it was hard, especially when I had to quit work, leaving him as the only one with an income. In that first year he took care of just about everything-cleaning, cooking, shopping, laundry, etc. And I don't know what I would have done without him. He allowed me the space to attend grief groups, go to counseling, and spend hours in prayer just crying. All while he just kept going on in life as usual. At times there was anger inside of me because he could function and I couldn't. I would watch him get up every morning and get ready for work and be jealous that I simply could not get it together like he could. I had to remind myself over and over again that we are very different, so it shouldn't surprise me that our grief is different. (easy to say, hard to live).
Now we are 18 months out from our loss. And I am doing better. I can function again and typically have more good days than bad. This has created the space for Nathan to start grieving. I was surprised to learn that on average most men don't start grieving their loss until 2-3 years after it occurs! I am astonished at this, but at the same time thank God for it. God made men in a way that they can push the loss to the back of their mind and not deal with it until the situation is stable. This allows them the space to take care of the woman. Nathan often said in those early days he felt like we were both in a war, both badly hurt, but he needed to get me to safety first before he could tend to his own wounds.
Well, now I am safe and he needs to start tending to his wounds. It is hard. Lately we are dealing with his grief more than mine. It is not just a "sad" feeling like I would have thought as an outsider. No, he is dealing with anger,anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, numbness, bitterness, exhaustion from the last 18 months of holding it all together. Slowly, he is beginning to fall apart and allow himself to be broken.
Since I am in a better place, I am able to help him work through this season of his grief. But its hard, and I don't want to do it. He asked that we not plan any social things for the weekends from here until January because he needs that time home from work to really relax and de-stress. This is so hard for me because I am finally doing better! I spent the last year as a hermit and I am ready to be out and about. But no, I will stay in. I will love my husband and tend to him the way he tended to me.
The temptation is to get frustrated with grief and the time lines it presents. Nathan and I have yet to be on the "same page" in our grief. Rarely have we both been doing well at the same time. And this new season of tending to his grief is another opportunity to serve him and love him. Both of us get annoyed and just want to be done with this. My counselor reminds me that it is called "grief work" because it is such hard work. I think the most bothersome part is still having to attribute things to grief. Still having to "blame" our inefficiency,moodiness, irrational fears, and tiredness on our son's death. But its real and as much as I wish our feelings and inabilities were "just because", I know they aren't. I know that we will spend a lifetime mending from the death of our son. I know it might sound extreme to some who haven't walked in our shoes. I would have thought so once too.
Please continue to pray for us. We will get through this phase of grief the same way we got through the others-one day at a time. Try to remember to pray for all fathers who are grieving the loss of their children. They often get looked over and minimized.