Today is my tenth wedding anniversary. While I normally write just about Alex and how I feel since he died, today I am writing about marriage. When you lose a child, there is no other person in the world who understands what you feel like. Except… Your spouse.
Because they lost a child too. As time has passed since Alex’s death, I now understand how important marriage is to the healing process. As much as we love our children, our spouses were there first. Remember them, cherish them. You will always make time for your children. Make time for your spouse too.
So here is a letter to my husband, Happy Anniversary!
When we first got married ten years ago. I looked forward to a life that we would build together. I had a generally optimistic outlook on our life together and felt relatively certain that life would be as charmed as it had been for the 7 years of our courtship. As I walked down the aisle and saw your sincerely earnest enthusiasm for our wedding, I thought to myself, “I choose you.”
Looking back, I now have the wisdom of someone who has been married for ten years. Life isn’t always easy, and things don’t always work out the way we had planned. Marriages fail. Friends disappear. Jobs are lost. Parents die. Children die.
Marriage is hard work and it’s not easy. The first year is the hardest. Even if you lived together before, there are assumptions and expectations you both had before you got married. Everything takes on a more serious tone. You start to see if you both want the same things in life. You see if you really are working as a team. You put the money together.
There is so much joy to be had in marriage, but it isn’t easy. You learn that life going forward is going to be a compromise. Every day. Every decision. That means at any given time, in any given circumstance, you’re never going to get your way entirely. Succumbing to that means that you understand that your needs are not as important as ‘our’ needs.
Once you understand, accept and embrace that, life gets really good. There is joy in sharing your life with someone who shares your hopes and dreams. Someone who shares your fears and disappointments. Someone who shares your life in a way that you never before understood. Someone who is your friend, companion and partner. That’s what it means to really hit your stride in a marriage.
Then you have children. Children test you as people and as parents more than you ever thought possible. You learn to adjust. You celebrate the small moments as a family. Even a trip to Target can be an adventure! You start going to the zoo.
Your family grows and you learn to shuffle the demands of multiple kids. Life becomes that storybook picture you had imagined. The Christmas card picture in front of the fireplace goes out on time and all is right in the world.
Then your child dies. Your world changes and you see what your marriage is really made of. We didn’t choose for Alex to die. But we choose to live in a way that honors his memory, but still permits us to go on. As parents, as a family, as individuals. Our marriage is strong enough to help us move on.
Our life isn’t easy. It isn’t perfect. I have learned to expect happiness and contentment instead of perfection. I’m still learning. Through everything though, I choose you.