I have experienced more emotional ups and downs this week than in a really long time. I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve heard that the holidays are hard, but I didn’t understand what that meant. Last year was our first Christmas without Doug, so I thought this year would be easier. But last year everything was so new, we were still in shock. It’s not just about missing Doug during our favorite family time; it’s been about adjusting to this new reality again. Every time my feelings are hurt I’m reminded of how protective he was of me. I realize that knowing he was always there as a safeguard to my heart, ready to go talk to whoever needed it, I felt safe and stronger even if I didn’t tell him every time.
He was my comfort. I could sit with him near me and feel comforted and safe. It helped that very seldom in our thirty years of marriage was he the one who hurt me.
I don’t know how we had the relationship we did. I know we both cared more about the other than ourselves, and we both sacrificed gladly for the other. I don’t mean just a little; we each gave everything of ourselves to the other. Some people told us we were dysfunctional and unhealthy. (I can’t remember any of those who are still married.) Honestly, maybe it was dysfunctional, but it wasn’t unhealthy. We must realize that, although there are ideals for emotional health, none of us are free of wounds and misconceptions. If I had demanded that Doug not be messed up from his childhood, we would have failed. If Doug had demanded that I not suffer from depression and anxiety, we would have failed. Both of us would have walked away more wounded than when we began. Instead, we did things our own way. Our children became part of that amazing love-filled dysfunction. For better or worse, they were blessed with our mess.
Doug loved me through horrible depression. He was more patient and kind than anyone I’ve ever known. I wonder if he felt about that the way I felt about walking through his issues with him. I was up for all of it; spiritual battles, counseling, reminding him what was real, helping him understand “normal” vs. abuse responses. We somehow created a safe cocoon in which we each allowed the other to be our truly messy selves—not only be messy, but be loved through in the middle of the messiness. I knew he had me on a pedestal, I tried to get him to see that I didn’t deserve it, but he wouldn’t let me fall off. I adored him, admired him, loved him fiercely. I don’t know how we became that team. Perhaps part of it was because as each of our difficult things came up, we didn’t balk and wonder what we’d gotten ourselves into. I saw his and knew that God had made me exactly what Doug needed. My life experiences through childhood trained me to be the best partner for him, and I couldn’t believe how patient he was with me. I knew I needed to change, and his kindness helped me do that.
That relationship, with all the craziness around us, was our sanity. It’s why I could sink into God to become strong and full of joy. It’s how Doug healed and thrived after suffering through a horrendous childhood. It’s why I am now able to look at my future with peace and happiness. If I had regrets because we hadn’t been good to each other, I think it would be harder to move forward. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see Doug walk out his healing more. I wanted to see us fulfill his dreams together. Now, however, I must believe that he is cheering me on as I discover my own dreams. It seems that because I lived my idea of a perfect marriage, I don’t live looking backward. I had an amazing, fulfilling, healing marriage—a foundational piece of my future and why I’m excited about my life today.
As I read over these ramblings, I realized they’re a perfect example of this Christmas season’s emotional upheavals. I have had such joy, peace, and love; and yet, I have missed everything that Doug was and everything we were together. How does Christmas drive the grief deeper and simultaneously bring it to the surface? How does this grief make the love that fills my life feel more present?