Updated: Jun 28
Experiencing grief as a couple can be challenging. Tom Philp, LPC & CEO, provides some insights on navigating through this process together.
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Hi, I'm Tom Philp from Stonebridge Couples Therapy. You know, growing up I wanted to be two things; one is I wanted to be a professional baseball player, and two, I wanted to be a rock musician.
Now, there were a couple of problems with both these dreams. First of all, I could never hit the curveball, I don't know what it was, but the curveball always eluded me and you can't go to the big show without being able to hit a curveball.
The second one, the rock star part of it, well, I didn't have the voice, I didn't have a rock star voice. I sounded more like John Denver, not Jon Bon Jovi.
So, what I eventually had to do as I grew up and got older, is to grieve the loss of those dreams, grieve those ideas that they were never going to be in my future and never quite going to be a reality for me in my life.
You know, I see couples that come to me a lot and they've suffered a loss as well. Maybe a parent has died, maybe they've had a very difficult time connecting through all of the Covid that has happened for the last year, almost a year and a half, and they're grieving something that they thought was going to happen in their lives, only to realize that it wasn't.
Now, some couples go through an affair and that's a little bit different type of grieving process, so I’m going to hold off and not talk about that in this particular video, but I will address it in a different video.
So, I’m talking about different types of grieving and what I see, is that couples can often become disconnected as opposed to connected when they're going through something; oftentimes because we grieve in different ways. So, one partner might be more introspective, they might go inside themselves. It might not feel helpful to talk about the way in which they're grieving, the sadness, the hurt, the pain, the disillusionment that's come up for them.
The other partner might want to verbally process what's happening. For them it's helpful and therapeutic to be able to get it out and talk to their partner.
So, what do you do if you're going through a grieving process with your partner and you're grieving in different ways? Well, one of the first things I think you should do, is just acknowledge where you are together as a couple. “We are grieving, we are going through a process that is forcing us to accept something in our lives that we didn't think was either, going to happen or we thought was going to happen and now clearly, it's not.”
There are all kinds of things we can grieve over in this life, because we have expectations and we kind of architect our lives, in order to try to set up certain realities for ourselves and when those pictures don't play out, when those stories don't write themselves the way we anticipate, that is a way for us to then turn around and have to grapple with our lack of control and the lack of disillusionment or the disillusionment rather, of what didn't come to be that we thought would.
Coming together over this as a couple, means we have to first acknowledge that we're greeting together, that we're disappointed, our expectations weren't met, this wasn't what we wanted for our family or we didn't think this was going to happen to us, and it's in that acceptance, that at least can start the process as a couple of getting on the same page.
The second thing I’ll tell you is that, grieving is not like a light switch, you don't turn it on and you don't turn it off, it's a process you go through and allowing those feelings to come up as a couple, allowing times when you can sit in your sadness, sit in your disillusionment, don't force it, is very helpful as well in being able to learn how to grieve and get on the other side of this.
And thirdly, give each other some space and respect in the differences, the different ways in which you grieve together. Make sure there's times where we come together, and to talk about it, ask your partners questions attune to your partner. Let them know that you also feel their pain, you also hurt the way they're hurting, but there's times where you might need to not talk about it and not process it and that's okay too. Give your other partner who's more introspective, doesn't like to process it as much verbally, give them some space as well.
Coming together over grieving, over a loss of some kind, a lack of control, a disillusionment, of what we thought our lives are gonna be together and now we're faced with the reality that it's not, can actually be really healthy for a lot of couples, to learn how to connect over something that they had no control over.
And this is just an opportunity to learn more about each other and it's an opportunity to go through something together that can bond us, that can make us closer and when we come out on the other side of it, we can be more connected and we can feel more secure in our relationship sometimes than we did before.
So, give each other the space you need, be respectful, but at the same time, acknowledge what's happening to each other and be willing at times to talk about it.
Hey, let us know what you think about this video. Also, go to our website at www.stonebridgecouples.com. We've got an e-book page there, where we've got several different e-books, they're all free to download. I’d love to hear from you, let me know what you think and we'll see you next time.
- Tom Philp, LPC, CEO
Stonebridge Couples Therapy