I remember him telling me some time after we lost her how he was in a different place than me.
His grief wasn’t where mine was because he didn’t know her as I did. He wasn’t with her every moment like I was. And I knew that he believed that. But I also knew, he was wrong. So I just waited.
I waited for it to catch up to him – to hit him like I knew it would. But he was too busy at first. He needed to hold us all together, to hold us up and provide and protect. Needed to gather intel and make us feel safe. Take care of our hearts the best he could. Pick up all the broken pieces and wrap us in his arms. Let us lay on his chest and crumble. Be the one that made us smile. And, dare I say it, even laugh. Busy praying over me, as I lay in bed before he went to work. Busy picking up fries and gravy to try to make me eat. Busy making sure the girls kept playing. Kept having a childhood. In the middle of us all, trying to figure out how to keep breathing.
And people would say, right after their condolences, how we need to care for our marriage because divorce comes easy when something like this happens. And then they’d list the people they knew that were no longer together.
And so I let him grieve in his way. And he let me grieve in mine. We became the new people that loss carved us into. He got quiet and started wearing shirts with flowers on them. Became the father with glitter in his beard from our simple acts of kindness. Who now climbed trees in cemeteries to hang wind chimes and always tried to fix everything broken.
I worked out to exhaustion and wrote all my feelings down on paper. I filled boxes with things that reminded me of her. I made my way outside every evening because I couldn’t stand to be in the house. But, he would always come and find me. Sit on the ground beside me. I would cry, and he would sit quietly, his hand in mine. Becoming new people together. Fighting to figure out how to live again. Fighting to stay together. I knew he loved me. I knew he was doing his best. And he knew I loved him, and that I was doing my best. And that was enough, in those bare-minimum days.
And then it finally happened.
I started being able to breathe easier. Started being able to function again. Started getting the light back in my eyes. It’s like his heart knew. It could now be held by mine. And just like that, one night his walls finally collapsed and he felt everything he had put away. Cried for her as I had in those first days. Felt all the heartbreak he had tried to glue together himself. Ached for all he could never be for her. All the moments and memories that felt stolen away. And finally, let me hold him. Let me be the one who wrapped my arms around him. The one who said all the comforting words he had whispered to me so many times. The one who prayed over him, with his head in my lap.
And when things subsided, I thanked him for letting me in, trusting I could hold him—allowing me to be the one who comforted him—showing me his love for his daughter, who was no longer here. How he was, in fact, exactly where I was. Missing her, exactly how I was—trying to cope, exactly how I was. And that, in fact, our grief was precisely the same.
And through it all, we fell in love all over again as these new people, standing in the storm.
We drew closer and held on tight. We gave grace and kisses and went on dates. Reached out to each other when things seemed far away. Fought side by side. Stood in each other’s corners. Picked each other up off the ground. Stayed. Even through the very hardest. Because there is no one that I’d rather go through Hell with than him.