There is nothing more challenging than the onslaught of pain. Healing is a difficult and challenging proposition. Especially when you are in a relationship.
We experience hurt differently. Pain is a very personal thing. Even if you are grieving over the same thing (the loss of a child, for example), the suffering plays out within each of us in unique ways.
This is why pain can be so destructive to relationships. The divorce rate skyrockets for couples who have lost a child or been through bankruptcy. If we are not careful, pain can tear us apart.
There is a real dichotomy to shared pain within a relationship. On the one hand, you want (and need) to hurt and heal together. On the other, pain is so uniquely personal.
It can be a challenge to do both. But it is not impossible.
The key is to understanding upfront that you do not have to heal in the same way or at the same speed. Unity is not conformity. A lot of times we create a narrative that says ,”if my spouse does not grieve like I do, they are not grieving at all”. Or, “they don’t care about my grief”.
The key to healing together is grace for one another. Pay attention to the uniqueness of each partner’s grief and leave room for it. Maybe even do it together. If she needs to take walks, take some walks together. If he needs a quiet place to think, spend some time where both go their separate ways and take some time to contemplate.
Another of grief’s ironies is that we heal faster by pressing into the hurt. I’m not talking about dwelling on it or allowing yourself to be crippled by it. I’m talking about not running from it. Naming and acknowledging it. Adults ask for what they need. Even if they don’t know what they need, they communicate that to their partners.
The key to healing together is communication. Two-way communication, which means you don’t just get to vent your frustrations and present your needs and hold the other hostage for not responding the way you want. It means speaking truly and listening humbly.
A lot of hurting couples drift apart because everybody is speaking and nobody is listening. Each partner “gives up” on the other. Each creates a narrative that says “they aren’t listening to me” even as they themselves refuse to truly hear their partner.
You don’t have to match your griefs into one conformed manifestation. But you do need to maintain unity and compassion for one another. You need to share openly how you are feeling and hear the truth of how the other is feeling. And what you’re thinking and doing and believing.
Communication is the mechanism by which we narrow in on the truth. The more the better. Communication is like tying two strings together; it brings the strings together and unites them into one. It is the only way we can survive hurt in community. The only way to heal together.