This blog post was first published at Still Standing Magazine.
Back in the 90’s John Gray, Ph.D. released a book titled Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus. The book became somewhat of a staple in pop culture and is lauded as an essential tool for couples who want to develop more satisfying relationships with their partners. This idea that men and women are from different planets highlights the reality that not only do we communicate differently, but as John explains, men and women “think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need, and appreciate differently.”
This concept shows up front and center when dealing with child loss. My man is from Mars!
In the days and weeks following our son’s death, I remember looking at my husband and thinking, “Is he even upset?!”
I was struggling daily to hold it together. Seems like every breath was laced with pain. It was an internal battle of should I cry today or end it all. It was serious for me. I was fighting for my life. I couldn’t work, sleep, or eat, and I could barely talk. Numb. Empty. I felt like a shell of myself. Completely changed.
My husband, however, seemed much like himself. He was upbeat at times. And went right back to work as if nothing ever happened. He continued to take care of our home… and me. It’s as if this was all familiar to him. He knew what to do.
How is that?!
My husband was taught how to grieve when he was six years old. His father was killed one night and he was told the traumatizing news the next morning before going off to school. He’s shared with me that he was very confused and didn’t know what to think or say at the time. The six-year-old boy inside admits that no one actually knew what to say. But he knew what he had to do, get up and go to school.
While I attempt to understand how our son’s death has affected my husband, I’m often expecting him to reveal emotions that he was never taught to express. In many ways, he was actually taught to suppress those emotions. And now as a man, he has learned to embrace and conquer confrontations without fear. Even in times of grief and loss.
Allowing space for healing in our relationship has been critical to our journey. I’ve had feelings of resentment because my husband appeared to move on with the rest of the world. My frustrations bubble up when I feel that he is disconnected from the depth of my pain. I want him to feel what I feel. Respond like I respond. Act like I act.
I eventually let go of those expectations. It was all unfair to him. Besides, I’m from Venus.
And I’ve accepted that my man is Mars!
Mars is his six-year-old self’s bedroom.
The bedroom that taught him how to grieve.
The place that taught him to suppress his emotions.
That moment that taught him that even in times of grief, get up and go to school.
Yes, my man is from Mars. And if we truly want to heal our relationship, we have to go into that bedroom and confront Mars.
He can cry on Mars. It’s okay to be disappointed, angry and hurt on Mars. He can express his true feelings on Mars.
Mars is his safe haven. Our safe haven.
My man is from Mars.
And our healing is on Mars!
Photo Credit: whoislimos / Unsplash