Monday, August 10, 2009

Marriage and travel

It is so freaking difficult to maintain a relationship and marriage through the very solitary act of grief. It is so achingly hard to feel alone next to someone you are in love with and like so very much. Sam and I often fall into bed, and forget to say goodnight, or 'I love you'. And I think, “Did we even kiss today?” There was a time when, if we went to bed with just a peck, I was disgruntled, tossing and turning all night imagining arguments we never had. I suspect all parents, grieving or not, go through this at some point in their marriage.

Many people thought our first child made it easier to deal with the death of our second child, that we could just focus on her and not our loss. It is partially true. We did just focus on her. Sometimes I think the only reason we spoke out loud was because we were talking to Bea. But how does that bode for a marriage? Even date nights, which seem so essential to the vitality of a marriage with kids, were forced. We didn’t want to leave Beatrice, not because we didn’t want to spend time alone together or we didn’t trust the babysitters (we do implicitly), but because losing our child made us keenly aware of how fleeting it all is. We just wanted to stare at her aliveness, her smile, watch her. Our children, grieving one/reveling in the other, has trumped our marriage these last eight months.

We tried to maintain as much normalcy as possible for Beatrice. People would stop by and see us being normal parents to Beatrice, teasing her, chasing her, getting her milk and think we were doing great. This didn’t seem like a choice to us, to try to be the best parents we could despite our grief and sadness. And maybe it speaks volumes to our partnership that Sam and I could come together between sobbing and screaming, and guilt and getting angry and feeling shitty and recovering from birth to parent.


Parenting and discipline takes so much psychology, higher brain power, and patience. I sometimes do not feel up to the task. All my emotional energy is spent keeping my grief from engulfing my life. Our grief frequently came out early on in anger and impatience at each other, at the dog and at Beatrice. We are not violent people, or even screamers, but it all would erupt in that exasperated, annoyed voice. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeatrice: the path of irrational punishment and snapping. While frequently the easiest path unfortunately leads to the ugly town of Guilt. Now the impatience, squarely focused on my husband, is palpable. Our grief has changed, and our reactions to it have changed too. It isn’t the constant sharp daggers in my heart like the beginning. It is a general malaise, a suffocating sadness, and even some days just a crippling ennui. A “Well, fuck it” attitude. All my patience ends up completely spent on mothering Beatrice, caring for Jack the dog, and navigating the waters with my father. When Big Daddy comes home, I pick at him. Tell him off. Stomp off and pout. I can see it when it is happening and I cannot escape the Siren’s call of the quick, sarcastic, nasty snap.

I am not proud of the wife I have become.


"Let's go to the zoo!" Sometimes that actually works. Gritty nights followed by mornings of forced fun. We end up, more often than not, having a nice day, feeling lighter. Parenting together gives us a sense of bonding, of talking, of checking in, of supporting each other. We often smile and laugh telling each other stories of our daughter, even though we were both there watching the same thing happen. More often, we are so exhausted emotionally, physically, and spiritually that we do more of a tag team kind of parenting. When he gets home, I can go cry somewhere, or write, or cook, or read blogs...Sam resents that my online life sometimes gets the best of me. That I talk more here than with him. It sometimes worries me too, frankly. When I try to be true to how I feel on this journey, I don’t always trust I know what is best for me. Writing to a mostly nameless audience doesn’t seem better than talking to my husband, and yet, some days it feels so vital to my survival.

I am both terrified and ecstatic to leave my fortress of solitude for our vacation. I suffer from both wanderlust and homebody-itis. I haven’t really traveled with my grief--folded it into my heart, and tried to get it through customs. I only know how to travel happy and carefree. I imagine I will be a mess some days, blissful others. Just like at home. But I am scared to leave Lucy’s house, her candle, her ashes, the little reminders throughout my space that she existed, and I’m also nervous to leave this on-line community, my blog, my daily ritual of reading and writing, my support system. But I know that this time away will be good for Sam and I. A time to reconnect, to come together without all the daily life, to talk again…maybe beautiful places will bring out the beautiful in us.

I can only say, every couple of weeks we stay up late, and really talk...those nights will save our marriage. Lately, those nights are fewer and further between. Sometimes we catch each others' eyes across Bea's little head, and smile. And he, Sam, has the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. I am optimistic, and downright enthusiastic, that we will spend our time in Panama getting to know each other again, reconnecting, enjoying our family, but most importantly our marriage. Despite all this, I think that I have a good marriage and I know that I have a good man. We are just so deep in grief that I am not sure what we will look like on the other end. I hope stronger.

(So much for that quiet until I get back thing.)


  1. Travelling with grief is ok -- sometimes it's exactly what you need. Something new and wonderful and breathtaking -- something awe-inspiring. It allows grief to get to the back of your mind and stay there for a while. It's different. I've always found it brings me much closer to my husband. Because we're away from the daily things.

  2. Marriage is hard at the best of times. Throw in grief and devastation and it's a wonder we're all still married. A trip away is frightening, you'll have moments where you'll want to be in the safety of your home, but it is also liberating. Our first trip was the first time I felt almost happy (or laughed anyway). I hope you & Sam can reconnect and enjoy. You deserve it. xo

  3. I haven't traveled very far from mine, but I have gotten away for a while and it was relieving. It isn't as easy to focus on such deep emotions when your mind s busy taking in the unfamiliar.
    I hope you and your husband do reconnect and it sounds like you're doing the best you can and have a man who thinks that's plenty. You two are lucky to have each other.
    I too have felt that people think it was easier for me to lose Zoe, because I had L.O. but I was a single, grieving mother with NO time to cry and grieve and not get out of bed. A post I read recently (someone else's) pushed a button for me on comparing grief. It alienates those who do it. It takes away from our feeling of unity. It takes away my right to be sad because I have a child that didn't die.
    I really hope you have a good time in Panama. Please be careful.
    You take us with you in your thoughts, as you will be with us in ours.
    Love Lindsay

  4. Yes. I recognised me in this post: parenting, "wifing" (is that even a word!) and grieving is HARD. I'm living in a state of malaise right now

    I so hope your travels are wonderful and reviving - even with the grief packed too.

  5. You have beutifully described a lot of what I feel, especially about parenting. I hope you have a wonderful trip; we will be waiting to hear all about it when you return!

  6. Yes, yes and yes. I could have written this same post Angie (albeit, not as eloquently)....navigating grief together is becoming a helps when I think that we must the only ones to be be so painfully dysfunctional, to understand that others are going through the same struggles to communicate, and maybe we aren't so unusual.

    Peaceful travels to you.

  7. I am dying to get away but finances won't allow yet. I'm also terrified of leaving my comfort zone.

    I hope this trip revives your wonderful spirit and lets you reconnect.


  8. It has become increasingly obvious to me that my marraige will be scarred from babyloss. How can it not be? Collateral damage, just like the rest of my life and who I am. We will all come out of this changed, I imagine. I relate to your comment about speaking to your daughter being the only reason there was any speaking. I think the commonality of having a daughter, and then having a son die, gives my DH and I something to stand on, but a lot of times we are only here because of her. We only speak, because of her. We only live, because of her. I have often wondered how our marriage would have been if not for her. We were together 12 years before her, but would we have both just shut down completely and walked away so as not to be reminded?? I'd like to say no, but I am sure it happens. I'm hoping your trip will give you enough distance from reality to be able to focus on each other a little more. There are no books on how to make your marraige survive once your child doesn't. I stared my blog mainly for my DH. I'm a talker, he's not. I thought he could read about where I was, and how I was doing with my grief, instead of me forcing it on him when he just can't handle talking about it at the moment. I think it has really helped. I think he reads my blog and knows why I snapped at him at dinner, or why I clung to him and cried the night before, or why I can't bare the thought of letting my MIL keep my DD overnight...because what if?? He knows my mind now with out me having to talk him to death, and then be dissapointed when he doesn't respond. I wish I could get him to blog too. Communication is hard enough pre-death. Now we are just both trying to hold on to each other because the thought of yet another loss is to great too bare. I didn't mean to ramble. I hope you and Sam find some peace and laughter in Panama.

  9. Angie, I so get this post even though my lc came after the dead one. It's really very hard. I hope your vacation is lovely and that you re-connect. My husband isn't a fan of the blogging either because I was immersed in it. But we NEED to be able to "talk" to people who get it. It's been a lifeline for me.

  10. ang, for what its worth, M and I forced ourselves away for a few days and those few days in Florida revived us. Renewed us. Really made us remember that we used to laugh together. And the memory of those days away still keep us going. The girls ashes and candles will always be here when we come back.

    Wishing you a very, very special journey.

  11. I'll say it again, I admire you so much for the wonderful parent you are to both girls. And especially to Bea, who is physically with you. It must be desperately hard some days when all you want to do is curl up with Lucy and the grief. Thanks for giving me an honest insight in to what life might be like for me in the months ahead. I am learning so much here.
    Angie, take your grief somewhere beautiful. I know for us, going away back in Feb, it was the best thing we did. Reconnect with Sam and come home re-charged.
    We will miss you.

  12. I also have been so impatient, so snappish with my husband lately. I feel angry, frustrated and have that "well, fuck it" attitude you describe. We don't talk deeply, it's more in snippets of conversation, like we don't have the energy to think things all the way through together. It's just so damn hard.

    I didn't find vacation travel a relief from grief but I did manage to enjoy myself anyway and our recent trop to Boston was a good way to reconnect. I hope it works for you as well, Angie.

  13. Angie much of what you describe sounds like me and my early days of my grieving. For me it did get better, much better. We worked on it and we made time for ourselves... it doesn't mean he still doesn't drive me up the wall but it has become easier to recognise irritability related to grieving as opposed to that normally experienced in marriage. Panama sounds like a lovely way to reconnect. I hope you have a wonderful time together.

  14. I love you. You complete me.

  15. cried when I read the comment below.

    Angie. I just felt like I read my own story.

    I love you x

  16. It's a tricky balance I think, when you are able to talk here so freely and feel you can't to your spouse anymore. I think mine was relieved that I had a place to vent and rage and begin to heal because he felt so helpless and he wasn't in the same place I was for very long.
    I wish I had useful assvice for you but all I can think of is that time, as always, does help to soften the edges of this and for me at least it helped me to let him back in to where I was, when I felt like I was ready to.

  17. though our stories are different - the parenting of a lc while grieving for the db, the marriage part of it is familiar.

    who else are we to take this all out on? but in the end, our partner is the only one who gets it so explicitly. we've learned to be more tolerant of each other's moods, thats for sure.

    we make sure to give kisses and say i love you every day. no matter what. even when we're snappy and impatient and angry. its chris who makes sure of this, not me. i am very lucky in that way. it won't solve all our problems obviously, but it helps.

    marriage is work, throw in a db and yeah, it takes it to a new level. i think this vacation will be exactly what you 3 need. lucy will be following your journey and be with you, even when you leave her *things* at home. you know that. reconnect and rediscover the reasons you fell in love with sam in the first place.

    lots of love angie

  18. oh angie i've missed you and your words.

    i can so relate to your feeling of wanting to leave your fortress of solitude and the anxiety that comes with leaving as well. leaving behind our babies things- even if they are just some little candle or stone or whatever. i decided to take a traveling altar with me on the road.

    and now being out here, i can say that it is different traveling with grief on my shoulder. i am not that happy carefree traveler i once was. i still carry the anger, sadness and bitterness most of the time. and being out in beautiful places and away from home has renewed some part of me as well.

    sending you and sam love and blessings on your journey

  19. p.s our marriage has been challenged more than anything in this past year. i used to think something was wrong with us because we didn't ever really fight...ha! i had no idea what was to come. and yet after the screaming and blaming and judging that grief has left us with, we come back to loving each other with all the messiness.


  20. First, and least important: Panama is awesome. We went there on our honeymoon and loved it. Watch out in Panama City for sketchy neighborhoods - we made a wrong turn somewhere and got mugged. Just keep your wits about you - we were way too relaxed and hippy-happy about the whole thing.

    Moving on: I know what you mean. It seems to me that we were already starting to stop saying "I love you" and bothering to kiss WITH TONGUE anymore (the all important tongue), before we lost the kid. Losing the kid made sex/love/romance even more muted, less important. It's been nearly two years and we're coming back to ourselves now through the same sorts of long talks you're referring to, long e-mails, communciating more than we ever have before. Even still, sometimes it's not enough. Goddamn, it takes work. Work like: going on vacation together. So good job, you - that sounds like a good step.

    OH - one thing we've been doing lately is Pricelining hotels and staying for a night in a fancy-shmnancy place downtown, drinking wine in bed at like 3pm (how decadent!) and having late afternoon sex with the hotel curtains open. I highly recommend it for adding some renewed spark. ;-)

  21. the opening to this post was like reading my own story. i love my husband, i am blessed to have him in my life, but grief has changed us and i dont think it is ever possible to go back to that happy place where we lived before hand, the one with smiles and open communication and good night kisses. there is no "right" way to grieve, but I find it so difficult that my spouse and I because of these differences in how we grieve are essentially doing it alone


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