I recently spent 7 days on a mission trip to Nicaragua. It was an awesome trip. Cathy (my wife) usually accompanies me on these types of trips but due to the recent loss of her Mom, and the extra time she had to take off work, she was not able to go this year. I went with 8 incredible people from my church, but really missed my wife. When I arrived in Granada, the first night, I discovered that Cathy had placed 7 cards in my suit case. The instructions were to open the card that was assigned to that particular day. One card said, “Miss you, Want you, Love you….More than words can say” another said “Me? Miss you? Only all the time!” One card simply said, “You’re the best” Each of these cards also had a very special handwritten note that made me smile and think about how blessed I am to have such an awesome partner. Prior to my trip I called my cell phone company to determine how much international rates from Nicaragua cost. I learned that I had free texting and 20 cents per minute phone calls to the US. I called and texted home every day. Even if it would have cost $20.00 per minute, I still would have called daily. (We just would not have talked as long) One of the things that amazes me when I work with couples in crisis, is how little effort they put into staying connected when they are far apart. They say, “It’s only one night” or “Absence will make the heart grow fonder”. I had one person who was coming to me to help him save his marriage say, “I thought we were more secure than that and did not feel the need to call home when I traveled.” Cathy and I are extremely secure in our marriage. We have a phenomenal marriage and one of the reasons for this is that we made the decision a long time ago to stay connected even when one of us is traveling. I have found that this is one of the common denominators amongst successful marriages. It is not a chore to check in at home, it is not hard duty to put thinking of you cards in a suitcase. It simply requires a little effort, a little thought and a little time. This is the key to staying connected when you and your spouse are far apart. Even if things are not great between you and your spouse today, make a commitment that you are going to be intentional about reaching out to them, even when they are far away. It really does make a difference. And don’t forget the little gift that says, “Even though I was gone, I was thinking about you!”
On March 20th my mother in law was placed on hospice. She passed away the day before Mother’s Day on May 9th. My family and I had assumed that since I have been a hospice chaplain for 22 years, a marriage coach, grief counselor and pastor that I would be adequately prepared to help my wife and family though this crisis. After all, I had walked with hundreds of families down this similar path and have been used to help keep other marriages together in their seasons of grief.... I have counseled grieving people to lean into their grief, don’t let anyone rush you, give yourself permission to be sad for as long as you need. I remind them that they hurt so badly because they loved so deeply. I counsel marriage partners not to rush their spouses through the grief process. Be present to your spouse and don’t try to fix them. So I should have been well prepared for this loss. The truth is I was not. My wife has grieved as a women who absolutely adored her mom. She continues to grieve as she has lost her closest women best friend, her confidant and her parental rock. She is clearly grieving appropriately. But sometimes I find myself thinking, “Do you have to cry right now?” or “When is this going to be over?” I sometimes find myself thinking, “I just want my old Cathy back”. But then I catch myself. I know that this is grief, this is part of it, and for Cathy things will never be the same. This new reality has me on edge and to be honest I have surprised myself with my own reactions. I am blessed because I can talk to Cathy about these feelings of inadequacy in terms of how I handle her in the midst of her grief. Added to this quandary are my own feelings of loss for this woman who was very special to me. So here is the bottom line, Grief is messy and it impacts your marriage. It is the most difficult thing we have walked through together. We know we are going to make it, our marriage is not in a crisis, it is strong but for this season it has been different. The one thing I do know is that as we keep our connection, keep putting love first, our marriage will continue to be phenomenal.
It has been awhile since I have posted. I continue to do day long intensives and individual coaching sessions with individuals. The goal of St. Louis Marriage Coaching is to help 1 million people save their marriages. I will be re-launching the St. Louis Marriage Coaching digital newsletter in June and will begin posting weekly. Thank you so much for your kindness and patience during our season of loss.
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