The Bereaved Marriage: Mel Erickson

HEALING THE GRIEVING HEART
The Bereaved Marriage
Host: Dr. Gloria Horsley
With guest: Mel Erickson
February 16, 2006

G: Hello. I?m Dr. Gloria Horsley. Welcome to Healing the Grieving Heart. There?s a myth abroad that those who lose a child are at high risk for divorce. In fact, some say that divorce is inevitable. It?s not enough for us to lose our children but we may also struggle to keep our marriage together. Twenty-two years ago, I was warned by friends and professionals alike that after Scott?s death, I would be the lucky exception if our marriage stayed together. ?Well,? I said to myself, ?let?s face it. All of us who take marital vows and sign the contract are at 50% category for potential divorce anyway, so isn?t it just human nature to try to find a reason for that divorce?? Hence, my friends and colleagues, not meaning to, but scaring me by telling me that Scott?s death would be the end of my marriage. Well, it?s been forty-five years, twenty-two since Scott?s death, and Phil and I are still together. I have been a marriage and family therapist for twenty-five years and I can tell you that the fact is, we don?t know why people stay married, let alone why they divorce. Dr. John Gottman, who studies marriage extensively, can predict with a 90% accuracy by watching couple?s behaviors which couples will divorce. But he cannot tell us why couples stay married. He says that the best he can figure out is that some people are just good at marriage. So the myth that research has shown that there is a direct correlation between the death of a child and divorce is just a myth. The data that death equals divorce is just not there. That is not to say that the death of a child does not cause couples to rethink their lives. My guest and I are here today to tell you that, sure, losing a child is hard on a relationship, but we have made it and so can you. Your marriage can survive over time and even thrive. Please join us on our show today. If you have internet, if you want to email me during the show, I?ll be able to take those emails. You can email me at gchorsley@aol.com and remember all these shows are archived on www.thecompassionatefriends.org website and you can also go to my website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org or you can pick them up on www.health.voiceamerica.com and you can listen to them day or night. And I wanted to talk about an email we had today regarding the archives. I had an email from Howard who said that he listens to the archives through The Compassionate Friends website. I look forward to listening to your replays for your shows every night. I find them very comforting and I especially enjoyed the conversation of when sadness becomes depression. Keep up the good work. Your radio show is a lifesaver to a bereaved parent like myself who has lost his way in life now that my daughter has died. And thank you, Howard. And Howard did have a concern. He wanted to make sure that the archives were up as soon as possible and we realize that and we?re working on having the archives up within 24 hours of the show.
Then I have another email from Linda and Linda talks about that her son won?t express his feelings. He?s an adolescent and she emailed me about this and I emailed her some information that is from our new book. My daughter, Heidi, and I have a book that will be coming out in a couple of months called Making the Best of the Worst: A Book of Hope for Grieving Teens. Linda, keep strong with your son. I told Linda that the reality is that a 14-year-old, which is what her son is, it?s a difficult time to lose a child. That?s how old my daughter was and she went around with headphones on. But she all these years later is doing very well. So Linda, take heart.
We also received an email from a student, Sandi, who goes to Columbia University. She says she is currently in a social work class with Greg Christ who does the 9/11 study at Columbia University with the firemen families from 9/11 that I?ve been working on and she said she?s been listening to the website because it was given to her by Dr. Christ as part of an assignment for her college class and she said that she?s working at Mount Fiori hospital and she listens to all the different topics covered on the radio show. She said it?s allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of grief and also helped me to become more effective in helping my young patients and their families deal with loss. I think Dr. Gloria does an amazing job on all the shows, which is wonderful. My guests are so great and I hope you?ll tell everyone about the show and keep the emails coming. And also if you have friends that are working with bereaved families, I think it?s a wonderful way, especially students, for them to hear where families are coming from.
So today, again we are going to talk about the bereaved marriage. I have a wonderful guest today. Her name is Mel Erickson and Mel is a registered counselor, a certified thanatologist, co-founder and program director of GriefWorks, a bereavement resource for education and support in Auburn, Washington. At age 15, Mel?s son, Don Paul, died after a 22-month battle with a brain tumor and seven years later her son, David, survived leukemia, thank goodness, and Mel and her husband recently celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. Welcome to the show, Mel.
M: Thank you very much.
G: It?s great having you on. And where are you?
M: In Tacoma, Washington.
G: Can you tell our audience about your program? GriefWorks, right, in Auburn?
M: Right. We for anyone who is grieving the death of someone important to them, we offer education and support, understanding of the grieving process, and then companionship in walking through that process through support groups, individual and public forums.
G: That?s great. And do you produce publications at all?
M: We do have a quarterly newsletter.
G: Would you like to give us your website for people?
M: Our website is www.griefworks.org.
G: That?s great. Okay. So if you have anything you want to email or look at the web page, can you pick up the email from there.
M: Yes you can, and you can email me at mel@griefworks.org.
G: Great. That?s a nice offer. Okay, Mel, so we?re talking about the bereaved marriage today. You had the loss of a child years ago in your life. Could you talk about how you see things going with marriages in your own experience and with your clients?
M: Well, my observation, Gloria, is that grief is an incredible stressor on even a good relationship. I call it teeter-totter grieving. It?s very difficult, I think, in a relationship to coordinate your down times or your snuggle times.
G: The idea that when you?re up, they?re down, and when you?re down, they?re up. I like the teeter-totter idea because I have sure found that true.
M: Exactly, and it?s kind of a built-in guilt factor there because if you?re up, you feel guilty if your partner is down. And if you?re down, you feel guilty for reigning on the parade of your partner who?s not.
G: I remember working so hard to be up and just being so annoyed if Phil was down because it was taking everything I had to be up and then if you have somebody cheery around when you are really in the blues, you?re like, oh, this isn?t okay.
M: It isn?t. I didn?t even approve of the sun shining. It was disrespectful for the sun to come out. That?s grief. Grief is crazy.
G: Absolutely, and I think that one of the things Dr. Sims and I were talking about is that you kind of walk separate paths for the first couple of years or maybe even year. Has that been your experience with families where the husband and wife were kind of in their own zone?
M: Indeed. And I think that might be the key to healthy healing through the grieving process for married couples and that is an incredible amount of tolerance for each other?s style of grieving. Giving each other lots of space to do what they need to do with the goal that you will be back. Maybe not the same person. Probably never the same person, but our mindset is we?re each working on it and our goal is that our marriage is under reconstruction and we?re going to be better than ever.
G: When do you think people are able to get their handle around that, though? Reconstruction and better than ever? That sounds like
M: an impossible dream?
G: Well, for the first year, I think you?re in such shock that even thinking of those words sound complicated.
M: Yes, the first year is survival mode, isn?t it? Just putting one foot ? just staying cleaned and dressed and having food on the table is major.
G: Yeah, depending on what you do. Going to work. If you?re a stay-at-home mom, getting food on the table. If you?re the traditional working dad and stay-at-home mom, for the man to get out to work and for the woman to make the meals and then if you?re doing multi-tasking which many of our audience are and I was, you?re going to work and trying to think about the kids and trying to think about meals.
M: It leaves you so very depleted and tired. Your going through the motions of living and holding yourself together to do all of the things that are expected of you leaves you totally depleted, and if you have two depleted people and maybe children in the house as well as a needy partner, whoa. It?s a recipe for trouble, isn?t it?
G: I think as a therapist and for also either women or men who are the one in the couple where the other one likes to talk a lot or is kind of the nurturing, if you?re in a little more nurturing position, it can be really stressful to have the other person counting on you a lot. Pat Loder talked about how she counted on Wayne so much and he said to her one day, which I thought was so wonderful, Pat?s the Executive Director of Compassionate Friends, and her husband said to her, ?How can I send you a life raft when I?m drowning.?
M: Eloquently put. This morning when my husband left the house and I told him what I was doing, he said, ?So you?re going to talk about amputated families?? Wow, Dave.
G: Now what would you make of that?
M: When our son died, Dave?s first words were ?I feel like an amputee.? A part of him was gone, was cut off, and so clearly he?s applying the metaphor to the whole family. A part of us was cut off, is gone, and that?s pretty much how it feels, isn?t it? Part of you is cut away, gone.
G: Well, certainly the life you knew that you thought you were going to live is changed. And the marriage you thought you had.
M: Well the dynamics change when there?s an empty chair.
G: Could you talk about your thoughts about divorce? Do you see your couples as at risk for divorce, separation, affairs, all that kind of thing after the death of a child?
M: That?s a good question. I?ve seen both in my work and this is just so simple it sounds silly but the people whose marriages are fragile before the death of a child are at risk for complicated grief and their marriages are certainly at greater risk because the underlying assumptions aren?t there. The underlying commitment is already fragile and for those people, they truly need to seek professional counseling.
G: We need to go to break now and when we come back from break, I want to continue this conversation about how we see marriages at risk and also get some ideas for couples on what they can do about this. I had one person who was on the show whose daughter had Hodgkinson?s Disease for years and then their marriage was very shaky and then their son was killed in an automobile accident and they did separate and eventually divorced but they had a very shaky relationship prior to that.
M: I firmly believe that a couple who chooses to work through it can work through it.
G: What do you think through it is?
M: My definition of healing, if we think of grief as a wound, using that metaphor, my definition of healing is we come to the place some day where we aren?t experiencing the anguish and the overwhelming intense intrusive pain and we have energy to invest in living and loving again. We can even find purpose and meaning in life and that is on a transition, a scale that continues I think until the end of our life on this earth. But the quality of grief changes to the point where we realize we?re living again and our entire life isn?t dominated by the pain of the loss of our child.
G: So are you thinking for the couple the first year, the domination of pain is difficult?
M: It certainly can be. I think what is difficult is we have two needy people who probably have very different styles of coping who do not have the energy after meeting the expectations of daily life to be very fully present for each other.
G: That?s a wonderful way to put it. There?s no possibility of being fully present that first or maybe even second year.
M: So I think it?s very essential to have a healthy chicken soup friend or even a professional relationship to do the hard and painful work of grief ?on your own time.?
G: Where a person can have it on there. I think one of the risks that we can run or some of the couples I?ve seen can run is finding a friend who you start confiding in who may be of the other sex and having them become your support person and moving your energy in that direction.
M: A good rule is to have a friend of the same sex.
G: And also going to something like Compassionate Friends, a group, or GriefWorks, going to some place like your organization as a couple even though you don?t connect. You can go and you?re just going and maybe you?re not talking about it or anything can also be a way. And then having one person in the couple go to a safe place like Compassionate Friends or GriefWorks or something like that where they can just be with a group for that reason rather than having a one to one.
M: My friends don?t always understand, and we can wear our friends out and, of course, our fear is that they won?t want to come play with us any more if we?re sad and mad all the time. And I am surprised at Compassionate Friends how few couples there are. There are more half couples at Compassionate Friends, at least at the meetings I?ve been to through the years than there are couples. I clearly remember my husband saying to me when I was going off to a Compassionate Friends meeting three years after our son?s death, he said to me, ?Why do you want to wallow in it?? And my response was, ?I need to. It helps me. I feel better.? Ten years later when I was speaking to a group about the bereaved marriage, I looked at the back of the room and my husband had tears rolling down his cheeks. So he was still carrying a lot of his pain. We can still tap into it.
G: So I think there?s a good message here. You?ve been married for how many years?
M: Forty-one.
G: Yeah, and I?ve been married for forty-five, and I did some grieving with a therapist, going to Compassionate Friends alone, you?re right. My husband did it differently and we were able to come together and what was for me wasn?t for him and vice versa. So that?s important to realize. And I was much more public. It sounds like you are, too. And he?s much more private, and it can be the other way where you have a wife that is very private. We?ve had people on the show talk about that, and where the husband wants to be more public. We have to figure out how to do the see-saw; however, talk about how to get your see-saw even. It seems to me if you?re going to keep your marriage together, you do have to have some contact, some connection, maybe a date night occasionally.
M: I encourage couples to establish some ground rules. We have minimum energy but here are our priorities. First of all, one of our ground rule assumption is that we?re on leave of absence from our normal for we don?t know how long, but we know we?re working to get back to create a new normal. Rees Randall calls it marriage under reconstruction. So that?s the first assumption. The second ground rule, I think is, I learned it from the Shots, the one Barbara Shots years ago, the bereaved marriage. They propose that you have unlimited take backs because grief vomit happens. Our grief lashes out. We shoot from the lips with our ?you gun? at each other ? you never, you don?t, you can?t, you always, you won?t, you should, you ought to ? you know, the you gun thing.
G: And the grief vomit, called both.
M: That is grief vomit. So one of our ground rules is when it happens, the recipient gets to say, ?Ouch,? and then the ball?s in the shooter?s court. The shooter can choose to say, ?I?m sorry,? or ?May I take that back, it was grief vomit.? And that goes for the kids, too. I know that the nurturing person in the family is often the target for the you gun because unconditional love is assumed. That unconditional loving target can become more and more depressed from being the target every day so that?s an important ground rule, and another ground rule that I think is so important, particularly when there?s children, other children surviving is that we hate this reality. It hurts. We?re all a mess, but we?re in this together and we?re here for one another. Eventually, we?re going to work through this.
G: So the belief that it?s going to work out. And that?s that hope, and that?s really a lot of what this show?s about is saying, ?You?re going to make it. We?ve made it. You?re going to make it. We can do it.?
M: It?s hard. It?s awful. We hate it, but we?re going to do what we need to do and be fully present for each other to get through this, and that?s so reassuring to children who truly are afraid of divorce. Another loss.
G: I?m sure they?re afraid of the grief vomit between their parents that they haven?t seen before or the silence by one or the rejecting. It?s got to be very nerve racking for them to see that happen.
M: That?s right. And one of the questions of grief is who else am I going to lose? And so that?s there for each of us and we want to reassure children over and over that there isn?t anything we can?t talk about.
G: And the best way to do that is working on your relationship with your spouse because we know from all the marriage work that?s been done, the stabilization in the family begins with the couple.
M: Yes, the children heal in direct proportion to how their caregivers are healing.
G: So now what would you suggest for people to give them hope in their marriage even though they?re hating this, the feeling that their marriage is under reconstruction. It?s not the marriage they thought they had. It?s going to be different. Let?s take a break again and when we come back from break, let?s talk about that. Let?s give people some ideas about what they can do with this marriage that?s under reconstruction. Can you give people your website again?
M: Yes, it?s www.griefworks.org. You can email me mel@griefworks.org.
G: We have been talking about the bereaved marriage and one of the things that we?re talking about now is intimacy for couples when we went on break. We wanted to try to give our audience some ideas of what our thoughts were. Both Mel and I have been through the death of a child and been through that year and maybe two where you?re moving in different directions than your spouse and we wanted to give you a few tips today on maybe how some ideas on how we and you can connect with your spouse a bit more. One of the things that I mentioned earlier was maybe doing a date night or something like that. Mel do you have any thoughts on this?
M: Well, I like to encourage people to make a date for verbal intercourse where they?re listening and truly trying to be fully present in hearing what each other is saying and talk straight about sex. What are your needs?
G: Now sex is a tough issue. It?s difficult because sometimes my listeners and people that I?ve counseled say that one person is so depressed that they?re not interested and that?s a problem. It seems like its oftentimes women more than men that I hear that they?re really not interested or you can have a husband certainly who?s not interested. So that?s something you need to deal with. Maybe get some counseling if it goes on and it?s a problem, but I?ll have to say that having sex early on is difficult because early on it is a kind of total forgetting or giving in and moving into a different space than you have not wanted to do because it means that you?re going to forget your child. It takes you into a whole different world, a different space. Is that your thought about that, Mel?
M: That you feel guilty for feeling good?
G: Yeah, right.
M: But it also can feel good to feel good when feel good is hard to come by. So it can be a solace. It can be a respite from the pain.
G: Absolutely. And one physician I had was talking about it and he said that for him as a male, if he did not have a wife who would at least put her arm around him or kiss him or sit by him or hold his hand, that he felt a tremendous amount of rejection.
M: Yes. I think it?s important to find creative ways to express our love if sexual intercourse is not part of what we?re able to do in the moment. We need to talk about a plan B and for most women, the physical lovemaking is an extension of conversation intimacy so hopefully, we can create intimacy in other ways.
G: And what would you suggest? I think that?s great. For women, it certainly is a gradual process of feeling cared for. I?m thinking just like this doctor saying having his wife put her arm around him or let him give her a kiss on the cheek or we have different ways that we turn away from people and, by the way, if you?re not ready to actually have sexual intercourse, you can still accept those moves towards you. That?s part of what happens, I think, is there gets to be some rejection feeling because a person doesn?t want to move in to the ultimate act of actually having sexual intercourse and make a deal with your spouse that you?re not ready yet but you will hold hands and it doesn?t have to move into anything else. I think that can make a huge difference.
M: Yes, cuddling is legal and so is band-aid sex.
G: And band-aid sex would be?
M: A temporary fix, a temporary feel good.
G: I don?t exactly know what you mean by that. Actually having sex and viewing it as temporary and you may not want to do it soon again or what?
M: If it?s planned and premeditated and negotiated and, let?s say for the woman, her heart isn?t fully in it because her heart isn?t fully anywhere except for in pain, she can agree to be cooperative and loving knowing that this is a love gift that she has to give.
G: Oh, that?s a lovely way to put it, a love gift, yes.
M: Josh McDowell says love is a verb and I like that. Love is a verb.
G: It?s an active thing.
M: Yes, we act loving and eventually the feelings follow.
G: That?s nice. I think that?s exactly what we have to do. They call it in those first few years, fake it ?till you make it. And there we are. Act loving and it?ll come even though you?re maybe not feeling those feelings right now.
M: And you mentioned setting a date, a coffee date or a talking date or a sit-by-the-couch date. I think that?s important. I think it?s very easy because we each need so much space to process our grief, it?s easy to feel that you?ve lost each other when in fact you haven?t, but it feels that way.
G: Absolutely. I think it?s important to realize that some people can?t take long. It?s like if I give you the opportunity to talk, you?ll never stop, so instead of that, I say, you know what, let?s spend fifteen minutes, and then let?s go out and get an ice cream cone, a walk around the block.
M: A measured dose.
G: because again, grief vomit. You can?t every time you sit down. One of the things my husband used to do that absolutely drove me crazy. I just want to put this out and see if you have a thought about it is that he is a numbers guy and I am not. So he has all the numbers. He said to me, in three minutes it?ll be two weeks since Scott was killed. That just absolutely infuriated me. But he was a numbers guy, he was thinking in numbers, so now I realize that that?s how he was processing the information. Or the other thing he would do is he always remembers every date and I barely remember any dates especially around the death. One of the ways that I cope is I guess not remembering, not thinking about it, but he would remember and then he would say for instance, ?Did you know that yesterday was Scott?s birthday?? You know, it?s been twenty-two years. I finally said to him, ?You know what, tell me the day before. Don?t tell me when it?s happened.? Because it?s like, I don?t know why he didn?t want me to feel sad but why he did that. So there are different things that drive us a little crazy. Did your husband do anything that drove you a little crazy.
M: No, I would guess it?s probably the other way around.
G: And how did you do that?
M: Well, my faith is extremely important to me and I think it?s not important to him and so he had to tolerate me in my pursuing my faith as comfort when it offered absolutely no comfort whatsoever to him.
G: Now would that be talking to a priest for you?
M: I was in the Word, reading scripture, listening to music, mostly when he wasn?t home, that ministered to my, that soothed my soul, and attending church and bible study.
G: Right. So you had this group that you were going to and he was basically not part of that group.
M: Right. But he didn?t want to be.
G: Exactly, so it?s so interesting the way that happens how we do different things. Did he lose himself in work?
M: I don?t know if I would say he lost himself in work. He chopped wood and he read a book that was written by Terry Pringle whose six-year-old had died of leukemia and Dave and Terry Pringle began a correspondence. He did a lot of his grief work in letters with this other man whose child had died.
G: That is so wonderful because I think one of the things that can really give men support is if they can find another man who they can connect with.
M: And they can find safe support on line these days. I think that is totally cool. There are chat rooms where dads can talk.
G: Do you know what the chat rooms would be for that? I don?t know if Compassionate Friends has a chat room for that. I?m not sure.
M: I?m sorry I don?t have that information. It?s at the office on my desk.
G: Well, if you want to know about that information, you can email. Give us your email again.
M: Yes, please do. I?d be happy to give you several ideas. mel@griefworks.org.
G: I don?t like to be saying males do this and females do that but one of the things that we see a lot is that males do like to do things. They want to be active, they want to chop wood, wash cars, go to work. That they?re kind of doing.
M: Literally work out their pain.
G: And working at that rather than talking about it so much so having another male that you can talk to is really a wonderful thing. And as a couple if you can get support and figure out how to support yourself, then you can come together with a little strength, too, rather than doing the grief vomit thing or being so needy with your partner.
M: You mentioned going to get an ice cream cone, and I want to underline that because I think it?s important to budget fun.
G: I like that. Budget fun.
M: Yes. Literally budget fun. It seems very contrived but it?s important to our total well-being.
G: And some of that budgeting fun like going for a walk around the block. My in-laws used to take a walk around the block every night. It was a wonderful thing. They got a little exercise. They walked. And when you take that walk around the block, folks, you can set a little guideline that maybe you talk and maybe you don?t talk or maybe you take that walk as your break from your child?s death where you talk about something else.
M: I love walking together because when you walk together you?re in sync. You?re matching your rhythm, your pace, and so symbolically there?s unity. That?s really important.
G: And you?re getting that marriage under reconstruction with movement together. And you might want to think about even holding hands if that?s okay or not. You can decide. It?ll be interesting to see if you?re walking together if you do hold hands or not, where you are in space at this time.
M: You said you can decide and, Gloria, I think the choices we make are so very important because every day, every hour, even every moment we?re making choices that can move us forward in our healing process.
G: It?s time for us to take a break. Is there anything you feel like we?ve missed or any areas that you?d like to cover?
M: I would like to point out, Gloria, that grieving with words and grieving by working out our grief are two different styles of grieving. Ken Doca has called them instrumental grieving and intuitive grieving and they?re not necessarily male/female. So I just want women to know that they might have to grieve by doing. That might be the way they literally work out their pain and there may be men also who, as you said earlier, need to talk and need to feel and need to use words.
G: During break you said that you knew someone who because they wanted to do and they were a woman felt like they weren?t grieving right.
M: Exactly, so that?s why I wanted to mention that.
G: And we want to tell you all out there that there is not a wrong way to grieve.
M: Yes. There is not.
G: You just have to ? what is it they say in the old sixties? Go with the flow or whatever. You really have to do
M: Follow your heart.
G: Go with your heart and that is good. But sometimes you do need to get out with other people, go to a professional group. It?s difficult if you sit home and go with your heart or just lose yourself in work completely. It can come back to kind of bite you later on. Since we?re talking about working with marriages and you and I both have long-term marriages, can you talk about being comfortable for a couple to grieve clean and be comfortable with their child?s absence? What would that bring up for you?
M: That?s a process over time, a long time actually. I think including your child who is physically not here in your household, in your family, in as many ways possible is important to all of you. I think the message that we want to portray to our whole family, to our surviving children and each other, is that he or she may be gone but not forgotten. So we still have a picture out. We may have memorabilia on display somewhere in the house. We may have a scholarship fund going. We may have a special plant or garden going. I was given an angel Christmas tree ornament the first Christmas that Donnie wasn?t with us by a special friend and that was the beginning of my angel Christmas tree ornament collection. Not that Donnie was an angel when he was on this earth because he was not, but symbolically we?re including him in our holidays because in my belief system he?s dwelling with the angels now. So that?s just a way we include him still 23 years later in our holiday time.
G: Now one of the things that is a little difficult. I know some people have put millions of pictures up of their kid all over their house and that maybe bothers another spouse. So you need to negotiate a little bit, too, about what?s comfortable and be patient. Early on, you may want to do a shrine, but later on you may want to move a little.
M: Or change it. I have a friend whose son died 25 years ago and she till puts an ad in the paper on the anniversary of his death with his picture. It?s the way she expresses her love for him, for the whole world to know, this boy was loved, is still loved, and it?s important that we find ways to do that. Ritual is a wonderful way to do that. Having a bell on the mantle that anyone in the family can come ring as an ?I love you message,? just to send a message, and then everyone in the family knows someone?s missing?a brother or sister. Or a battery candle on the mantle. Same thing. When you?re missing him, want your love for him to show, just go light the battery candle, which is safe.
G: Oh, that?s a lovely idea and planting rose bushes during the holidays or balloons or whatever kinds of things you can do.
M: Blowing love bubbles. That?s a good thing to do with children.
G: If you had one piece of advice you could give a bereaved couple, what would it be? Let?s do a separation. What would your advice be the first year?
M: First year.
G: Tough year. We?re in shock.
M: I think the most important thing is to recognize that we?re a mess for a season. Together we?re going to work through it and give each other the space they need. We can talk about how much we can distance from each other before it?s too much, but we each need space to process our grief in our own way. I love you even though I don?t have energy to be as loving as I used to be. And I think that?s the foundation for making it.
G: And I like your idea that realizing our marriage is under reconstruction and that?s just the way it is. And you know what a mess a construction site is early on and what great things come up from it.
M: Indeed. I have a sign in my office that says, ?Every change is a mess in the middle.?
G: Okay, so we?re moving on. How about the second year for a couple?
M: Well, I believe those same ground rules apply. I think they?re good ground rules for ongoing, actually.
G: But then we might have a little more energy to maybe do a little more activities together.
M: To choose life and for many couples, Gloria, I?m sure you?ve seen, it?s a matter of reconstructing your social life, too, because if friends withdraw for whatever reason, and that would be a whole topic in itself.
G: Absolutely, and when you move on, it?s kind of funny, five years later, some of your friends come back.
M: Yeah.
G: And they were thinking about you but they couldn?t handle it.
M: Didn?t know what to say. Didn?t know what to do so they steered clear.
G: And you?ve developed new friends and new things going on.
M: And Compassionate Friends is a wonderful place for that to happen.
G: Before I close the show, I just want to run over some of the things that we?ve talked about marriage. Thanks to Mel Erickson. She?s done a great job as Director of GriefWorks in Auburn, Washington, and I want to thank her for being on the show, and I think some of the things we covered today, Mel, are the idea that you?ve got to have ground rules. You want to have some ground rules for your marriage. You?re under reconstruction. You need to have patience. You need to budget fun. And you need to just know that you can make it. Your marriage can make it. Don?t be afraid. You?ve lost enough. And just hang it there.
M: And love is a verb.
G: Thank you so much for being on the show. It?s just been great having you.

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