I am an introvert. I think I always have been. Pete has known this about me from the beginning and it is okay. There are times, though, when I would much rather just pull into myself rather than risk the hurt of sharing a part of me. Losing Arlynne made me do that even more.
I have seen so many statistics about the divorce rate after the death of a child that I don’t know what to believe. What I do know, from personal experience, is that there are a lot of things that can hurt a marriage. From addiction to a child’s special needs to a loss of any kind, the enemy is ready and waiting to attack our marriages.
I believe that marriage is close to God’s heart. He is about relationship with us but He has also given us the beautiful gift of marriage and family to carry us along. I am awed by how God has used my husband and kids to pull me and change me into someone better. He is still using them.
One of the wisest things that Pete ever did, after Arlynne died, was to grab me and to start praying. I wish that I could say that we were the type of couple who spends time in the Word and on our knees together every day. I am sure there are couples like that out there and I admire them. That isn’t us. We do both strive to read our Bibles and pray everyday but between all the demands of the kids, Pete’s job working midnights, university (for him) and exhaustion (for me), it just isn’t a reality. I am comforted knowing, though, that when things get really tough, Pete will pull me to my knees. I believe that Pete’s prayer that God would be in the centre of our loss aligned us both with God and with each other.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Losing a child is awful. You are left feeling beaten and bleeding. God didn’t just remove those feelings. There would be no purpose in them if He had. But by centring our thoughts on Him, we had peace. Unnatural peace. Divine peace. Peace for both of us.
Anyone who has been married for any amount of time could testify to the fact men and women are wired differently. I believe God made us like that to be able to compliment each other. This is true in grief also.
While I curled into myself, Pete supported me. He was scheduled to work the night that Arlynne died and he called in as soon as he had a chance to so that he could be there for the kids and me. He ended up taking a month off after her death. He picked up a lot of the slack while I grieved. But he also grieved.
Men like to fix things. They like to find a solution to the problem. In this case, Pete was powerless. There was nothing that either of us could do. My understanding of how he thought allowed him to work through his feelings.
In those months following Arlynne’s death, we really worked at keeping ourselves open to each other. To share the stories and the memories but also the pain. That is not easy for me. In fact it was incredibly hard. Loss made me very selfish. Being able to share the loss, though, made us stronger together. We had both lost something. I was Arlynne’s mom but Pete had embraced her as a dad. He had been a part of her life since she was three and he felt her loss as keenly as I did. We both needed to remember that.
There were times that we both went and did our grieving separately. While we attended a grieving group at our church together the fall after Arlynne died, I attended another one the following spring by myself. Pete didn’t feel a need to attend another and he also gave me the freedom to go by looking after the kids. I didn’t feel like he had abandoned me and he gave me the freedom to do what I needed to do to move forward.
Arlynne spent the last week of her life in a Christian camp way up north. I could see from the pictures and the stories that others shared that she loved it there. She loved the kids especially. The next summer I found out that they needed people to come and work with the same group of kids. I really wanted to. I wanted to be with the kids that Arlynne had passionately served and loved. I wanted to be with the people that she had spent her last week on this world with. Pete encouraged me to go. We were right in the completion stage of the sale of his parent’s house and it was very busy. He also had the twins to look after (the next 2 older kids were going away to camp) but he blessed me to go.
The week that I spent in that camp was one of the times I will never forget. God truly orchestrated the whole team. We were a group that had each experienced life in a way that made us sensitive to the kids but also to each other. It was probably one of the most exhausting and amazing weeks in my whole life. I can’t believe how much I was stretched and how much my heart was broken for these beautiful children. I believe that God meant for me to be there that week and Pete was sensitive enough to His leading to send me.
One of the things that Pete has had to deal with has been anger. Justifiable anger but anger just the same. It is natural to want to find someone to blame. Neither one of us blamed the circumstances under which Arlynne died but Pete was understandably angry at some of the reactions that we received. I haven’t been angry. The events have grieved me but I am not angry about them. What I have needed to do, however, is acknowledge Pete’s feelings. They are legitimate to him. I can also pray for him. While I can’t change Pete’s heart myself but my God can. He can soften and heal it in His supernatural way. That I can rely on.
I am so blessed that we could stand together in the loss. Pete is the one who understands when I just have to go to the cemetery. He is the one who has cried with me as we stood at the place where we buried her. It hasn’t been easy but I believe that our relationship has become more solid because of losing Arlynne. I don’t ever want to experience anything as difficult as this again but even if we did, I know that Pete and I would be okay.
I don’t believe that we came together by chance. I believe that God put us together. Together we have a purpose that is greater than our purposes apart. And for that, I am truly thankful.