Posted by: kathyhugs | February 23, 2008

Critical Communication

My husband, Rick, and I have worked very hard at keeping the lines of communication open during the life of our marriage. When the kids were small and he was traveling we needed to keep each other informed of all of the facts of life: when Sean lost his first tooth, when Tonia was in the school chorus concert. But it went way beyond just the facts. In order for our relationship to thrive as the partnership the God designed it to be, we had to talk about us; our emotions, our needs and even our frustrations and insecurities. There is seldom a day that goes by when Rick is traveling that we don’t talk at least 4-5 times in one day. We call each other to say good morning and good night. He calls when he arrives in a new city. I call to let him know what I will be doing during the day.

This habit has saved our marriage! On the day that Tonia died we went to church, had a meeting and then Rick left to catch a plane for California. I stayed at the church to run the youth group evening. It was during youth group that the phone call came into my cell phone from the Sheriff in Ohio. Devastating news: our daughter was dead, Sean was out with friends and Rick was on a plane! Communication just became the highest priority. I had to call Sean and ask him to meet me at church so I could break the news to him. I had to wait until Rick’s plane landed in Denver and catch him before he left for California. Breaking the news over the phone was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

As important as it had been in the past, communication became a critical factor in our lives over the next several months. Statistics say that 70% of couples who lose a child divorce within the first years after the death. I can totally understand that! As good as our habits of communication were they were NOT good enough! I have described our coping with our grief as two trains on different sets of tracks, paralleling each other but going at different speeds. We were heading in the same direction because of the habits we had formed but our journey was so different!

I needed to talk, know details, share emotions and grieve out loud. Rick needed to internalize, get actions accomplished and draw strength from God in order to be the rock for Sean and me! Early on I became so frustrated when I thought he didn’t care because he was not talking, then I would get angry at him and at myself for being so needy. He tried to explain that he didn’t have the need to talk but he would listen. We HAD to learn to compromise and respect the differences in each other. I learned to ask very specific questions, then he would share with me. I also learned to tell him what I needed from him. For instance, everything started becoming overwhelming at one point so I asked Rick if we could get away for a night at a hotel so we could talk and reconnect. The next thing I knew he had used points and we had a hotel room booked!

I also learned to listen to what he was telling me in the middle of other conversations. He mentioned that one of the things he does when he is on a plane is to listen to his iPod. When the song “Healing Rain” (which we played at Tonia’s funeral) comes on he cries. That is huge! I heard him say that and I understood how much he hurts over the loss of Tonia! Rick knows me so well that on the way into church services he grabs tissues and puts them into his pocket because he knows I will probably cry during the songs!

We have had to learn new ways to communicate and stay connected to each other and to Sean. We have our challenges and our problems but we are willing to work at being there for each other. This is how God designed a marriage partnership to be but it is not easy but it is so worth it. My husband is my best friend and my partner. That is how we have coped during the loss of Tonia. Otherwise we would be one of the statistics!


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