Can a marriage survive grief?

Grief Diaries

Grief Diaries

It was a beautiful fall day. The temperature was perfect and only a few clouds hung suspended in the blue sky.

The date was November 18, 2007, a Sunday. We had been living in a hotel because our home had been flooded when Jacksonville Electric Authority did something called pipe bursting on the house behind ours. That day we were finally able to get into our home to start the cleanup. Barry asked if we would need him there all day because he needed to finish a project for school. He said he would be at Auntie’s house using her computer and then was going to help with the setup for his younger cousin’s birthday party. A couple of hours later he called to ask if we were going to make the party. We said no, because we still had more to do and no time to change. He said okay and then we exchanged, “I love you.”

We received three more phone calls from our son’s cellphone. First, he said he was back at the hotel and asked if we were going to bring something to eat. In the next call he said he was going out with friends. The third call was from his friend saying Barry had been shot and they needed to know what hospital to take him to.

We drove so fast down U.S. 17 that we saw the ambulance and followed it all the way to Shands Hospital. Barry was whisked into surgery and we were ushered into a waiting room. Hours later a minister came and asked if we’d spoken to the doctor yet. We told him we hadn’t, and he left to go get him.

We are so sorry.

Nobody likes those words at the beginning of a doctor’s statement.

Barry and his girlfriend were robbed while walking to a friend’s apartment. They stole Barry’s cross and wanted to accost the young lady. When Barry stopped one robber, the other shot Barry in the chest. The bullet pierced an artery in the heart, and they couldn’t stop the bleeding. He died in the early morning hours of Monday, November 19, 2007.

I was told by a couple of people that my wife and I wouldn’t survive the loss of a child. Not because they were being mean or spiteful, but because of what they’ve seen happen to others in our situation. And it is true, I’ve seen it also. There is no guaranteed survival after the loss of a child. There is work. You have to want to do this work. The hardest thing in life to do is bury a child. Your child. So if you work at it slowly, because it’s going to take time, you can make it through.

Burying a parent, you know you have to do that, and even your spouse. Life will not start over for you, and the majority of the people you meet won’t have a clue as to what you’re dealing with. Everything outside of you will exist as it is. Children will play in the park, people will still wave their fists in anger when someone cuts them off on the road, and you will survive. You will be a survivor.

I can’t promise you that every day from here on out will be sunshine, and you wouldn’t want me to. I can tell you it will be hard, exhausting, and it will feel like it would be easier to go your separate ways. Love tests for your heart and soul multiplied by infinity. Stay in that love, and communicate. You are a survivor!

Written by Barry Brooks, Barry’s 19-year-old son was murdered in 2007. His full story is published in Grief Diaries: Will We Survive?

Grief Diaries

Pushing through the darkness of male grief

Grief Diaries men

When I started this, I promised myself I would be open and honest. My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago. We received the call one night at 2 a.m. that she had passed, and was asked to come to her apartment. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t think this through. When my wife Gloria and I walked into the apartment, there was my mom passed away on a hospital bed. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that was the way it would be, but I didn’t.

Grief Diaries menDuring my mom’s funeral home setting, I don’t recall seeing her in the casket. All I remember is seeing her as I entered her apartment. I talked to Gloria about it and said, “Please, I never want to be put in that situation again.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I found my wife Gloria—passed away in our bed. I cannot get that out of my head. The person I loved more than anything passed away. This sticks with me to this day.

One night when I was drinking by myself at home, I opened a bottle of liquor to go along with my beer. After finishing the bottle, I went in to our bedroom, sat on the bed, and thought about how I would never get that sight out of my head, and tried to think how I could. I came to the decision that the only way to get it out of my head was to commit suicide.

I grabbed the gun and the bullets, and then loaded the gun. I decided I didn’t have to write a note, because I would be found on the bed where my wife died and it would be self-explanatory. I thought all my kids are big enough, they all have kids, and they don’t need me anymore. Then I thought of who would find me. The one person who checks on me is my stepdaughter Alecia, and she has a key. So Alecia and Heather would be the ones who find me.

I realize that drunks aren’t smart but I was thinking, Chuck, you can’t handle finding Gloria passed away, and here you’re going to run from your problem and pass it on to the two girls.

Needless to say, I don’t really drink anymore. Alecia asked me to get the gun out of the house, and I did. I will just deal with this the best I can.

Written by Chuck Andreas. Chuck’s wife Gloria died unexpectedly from heart disease in 2014. Read his full story in Grief Diaries: Through the Eyes of Men.

Grief Diaries men