Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vows

My husband and I married alone. Just us and a minister we had never met before. I took the day off for an "appointment." We stood in one of the oldest churches in Philadelphia. Just some stained glass and dark wood, and we said our vows together, crying all the while. We struggled with our wedding a great deal...it was an invite everyone or no one kind of choice, and we decided to buy a house with the money we would have spent on a wedding. We often said in those early months, we will throw a wedding at our forever house in our yard with our babies all around. We will be barefoot with flowers in our hair (okay, maybe not--we dream hippie, but act nerdy). If we wait until our tenth anniversary, we will be able to enjoy ourselves in a way we couldn't back when Sam was in graduate school and we were saving for a house. I wore a tasteful black dress and a Indian wedding wrap, even though I am not Indian, and Sam wore a grey suit and his grandfather's beautiful tie. We walked out of the chapel husband and wife, a couple of blocks later we hit a low-key wine bar for a glass of champagne. We posed in rain in Rittenhouse square for pictures with a timer. Later, we had a beautiful dinner together. That night was amongst my happiest.

Looking at our picture in the park, I would never have imagined that our marriage would be challenged with the loss of our child. I imagined we would lose our grandparents, and then our parents, since that is the way of the world...the old are supposed to die before the young. I imagined we would grieve for those losses, and we have. It feels helpless to watch your partner grieve the loss of their parent, even as you grieve the loss of your in-law. It is a relationship of which you are not a part, whose in and outs you are just beginning to know. It is simply you partner deeply missing one of the two most influential people in their lives. You can only listen, hold them and sit in their sadness.

There was a time in this last nine months where I wondered how couples survived this loss. I feared for my marriage. It wasn't hysterical or nasty between us; we just went in our separate corners to lick our own wounds in our own ways. How do you maintain your relationship through the solitary process of grieving? I couldn't figure out how to get out of my own head and back into our marriage. Somehow, nine months later, we have grown more loving, more forgiving, and more attached. We have eased back into each other arms. And it wasn't a vacation, or a therapist, or long revealing talks in the middle of the night...it was just time--patiently waiting for the other person, not freaking out at our distance and the ebbs and flows of our connection. When I was very new in my grief, I loathed when someone told me time would be the great healer...you are so early, people would say. It just takes time. I mean, I knew it was true, but it meant I had to move forward in great suffering to an undisclosed location in time and space.

My grief felt dismissed by cliche, and yet time does change grief, there is no doubt. But it wasn't just time. It was patience. We just didn't assume that our distance meant something more than what it was (grief), which I can only assume helped. I know, for me, I try very hard not to think of my deep love for my husband as fated, storybook, magical, untouchable or special. That might sound weird, but I need to be reminded that we are susceptible to the same shit as everyone else. We want approval and love. Acceptance and understanding. In the midst of raw grief, you just have no energy to devote to someone else's ego. In some ways, grief is a grabby bitch--she just forces you to be self-absorbed and needy. We talked about how this suffocating grief and our distance was not symptomatic of a larger problem with us--it just meant we were missing our daughter, and figuring out how to live in this world without her. I think we are stronger now by not taking it all personally. We just gradually came back to center, not because of one event or one conversation, but a thousand little gestures of normalcy.

A few weeks ago, we went to a wedding. When the vows were read, Sam and I held hands and cried. After the ceremony, when we were sipping drinks, he said, "They just don't know in what ways their marriage can be challenged." And I nodded. What I wanted to say to the bride and groom is simply this: You never know, on one of the best days of your life, your wedding day, what "for better or for worse" is going to mean in your marriage, but you can only hope you are with the person who brings out the best in you at the worst moment.

29 comments:

  1. You are so right Angie. I often think back to my wedding day and how it was the happiest day in our lives. I think about us dancing and laughing, not knowing the sh-tstorm that awaited us. And then I wonder if I would still do it if I knew what we were in for. I always think yes though because I love my husband that much, even with this pain. But weddings are forever different for me now. I pay attention to those vows, and wonder if the people saying them will really truly stick around for better or worse. Because it's hard to imagine that the worse will ever happen to you.

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  2. So true Angie. At the time we married, we thought we had overcome the worst - my own mother's opposition to our "mixed" marriage. Never could we ever have imagined the challenges that the Universe had in store. And yet we're all the stronger together for it.

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  3. This post is bringing tears to my eyes. So glad you found each other- and found each other again.

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  4. this is a beautiful post, angie, and i love that pic! i have a number of girlfriends who are unmarried and trying to figure out who the right guy is. what i want to say is, "is this someone who you would trust to be there with you, for you, waiting on the other side for you, if the worst happened - if your baby died?"

    but i don't, because it's unfair, and they would think it's creepy. and it's the toughest standard to judge by. none of us knows how we will respond in this situation until we are in it. like you said, we can only hope.

    my husband and i will have our first wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. it has not even been two years since we met. we are hanging in there, but many days I wish we'd had a few more years under our belts before this happened.

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  5. Beautifully written Angie. I can very much relate to this post. Losing our twins has made us much stronger as a couple. We have survived their deaths, we can survive anything. I think it is absolutely beautiful that you were married with no one else there. That truly speaks of your committment to one another. xx

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  6. This is a powerful post, Angie. We just celebrated our fourth anniversary and I found myself remembering my dad's words to us on that day, "May today be the least happy day of the rest of your lives." I wish it had been and I wish he could've said this at my brother's wedding last month, but he didn't.

    We are still working through our individual grief but where I once thought, several months ago, that we wouldn't make it, I now believe we will. The perspective that losing Cayden has brought to our lives, the focus of what's really important, will serve us well for the rest of time, hopefully a long, long time.

    The love and respect in your words describing your relationship are inspiring. And the picture is stunning. xo

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  7. What a beautiful picture, you both look so lovely. I think it is romantic that you married alone. I wish I'd had the courage to do the same, secretly I would much rather have spent the money on a house (hope nobody who knows me IRL ever reads this!)

    We'd been married for just over a year when we lost our daughter. It has taught us both some terribly difficult lessons. There have been times in the past year when we have been closer together than ever before and other times when we have been further apart than I ever imagined we could be.

    I think you are right, sometimes it just needs patience, to wait it out. xo

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  8. So beautiful, so wise. This is what it means to be "faithful."

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  9. "you can only hope you are with the person who brings out the best in you at the worst moment."

    Absolutely. If we only knew.....

    Great post, Angie.

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  10. Thank you so much for this post. I related to it immediately. I have been reading your blog anonymously for a few months now. I lost my baby in June to a cord accident. No one understands this new life better than those who have gone through it. Just thank you for your writing, and your thoughts. This post is so helpful right now. My husband and I married early in our twenties, and we have been together for 14 years. We know each other so well, and yet we had to go to our own "corners to lick our wounds." I am so hoping it is time that will bring us to a new place in our marriage. I miss him and love him to so much. Thank you, Kristin from Colorado.

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  11. Oh Angie that is so so true. I never ever imagined being tested so... and when there my hubby did bring out the best in me at the worst moment in my life.

    Stunning post.

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  12. So true Angie.

    We've only been together for 2 years and 3 months but the storm we've weathered together over the last year tells us that we'll be together through everything.

    It hasn't been easy holding US together but, yes, patience and time.

    I'm so glad you have each other. Beautiful photo too!

    xxx

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  13. What a stunning wedding photo. The love is painfully obvious, even if no one was there to see it. I can see it now.
    I too felt my grief was being mocked when I was told (constantly) "time heals all wounds". I didn't care about time or the future in those deep, dark moments, only about that present moment, and we had to survive them.
    What you say about marriage is so wise and true, Angie. I wonder if some people really DO have that person there they can cling to in the storms, as none of us ever really know just how bad it can get. We all do, and I thank the stars for the wonderful men by our sides.
    ps: if you ever DO have that big second wedding I'M SO THERE!

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  14. beatiful post angie.
    it is so true that time changes our grief. we too went into our own corners, and often still do. no two people grieve alike, i've been told.
    i have often thought back to the joy of our wedding day, the optimism and hope. i knew there would be grief and challenges, but really i never imagined our long awaited first born child would die first. never in my worst moments did i forsee this.
    and yet, it is amazing we are making it through this nightmare, and loving each other through it all.
    xox

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  15. As you know I'm going through a 'worst of times' right now.

    I've been thinking about this post for most of the day and I read the last paragraph aloud to David.

    I'm finding it hard to stay positive right now, but I draw a lot of comfort from the fact that we DO bring out the best in each other in our worst moments. I feel like I should wear that on a rubber band on my wrist and ping myself with it when I lose patience or lack compassion.

    Love to you, my dear friend xx

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  16. It's so true, we walk in blindly never thinking that indeed 'we' not 'them' will have the bad stuff happen to us. I don't think even if you had told me I would have believed it. Sometimes, even now, I don't.
    There is some comfort in finding the old you, at least bits and pieces of her, and knowing that some things do, in fact remain.
    Lovely picture.:)

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  17. Angie.... that was your best blog ever! I cried through the whole thing.... Much Love, Mim

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  18. What a lovely, lovely post Angie. x

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  19. Absolutely beautiful post, Angie. I don't think I'm ripping anyone off when I say that time doesn't heal shit, but it sure changes things. I'm glad to hear that you two are finding your center together again. Much love, Mol

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  20. Beautiful photo!

    And amazing post - the last paragraph rings so true.

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  21. So very true, your line about your partner bringing out the best of you in the worst times really touched me. I have had the same reaction to weddings recently, even they have lost that naive spark for me in this loss. Thank you so much for sharing such a great post.

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  22. we just celebrated 10 years on the 2nd.. its so hard to think how happy and young and naive we were back then.. sometimes I think, I am just going to leave...get a new start.. but who am I kidding.. its just my grief..sure can't run away from that.. everyone grieves differently..not right or wrong.. I think we just have to meet back in the center..that's what is important.. thanks for sharing your post..

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  23. your wedding sounds wonderful - before our two ceremonies, we got married at the courthouse. That was the best one.

    We just went to a wedding this summer, and we did say something alon the lines of sticking together through thick and thin to the newlyweds. You just never know what you are going to have to face.

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  24. Your post rings true for me, especially the final paragraph.

    I've reflected several times on the vows my wife and I made as we were married, and how we kind of mouthed them, because they needed to be said.

    We had no idea of the challenges that lay ahead.

    Great post, great picture.

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  25. Thanks for the thoughtful post. I agree that you never know what "for better or worse" really means until you go through something traumatic. It helps to know that there are others out there who have felt like I do sometimes.

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  26. That was a beautifully written post. You sound like you have an amazingly strong marriage. And the photo from your wedding day is gorgeous.

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