My husband and I are both dealing with grief issues. I lost my dad one year ago, and my husband recently lost his father. I was hoping this would be a process we could go through together, however, he is in complete retreat mode. He sleeps and works and has not been communicating with me at all. When others ask how he is doing, he says "fine." I know he is hurting, but he won't allow me to help him! In addition, he has not been there to support me! He is a "macho" type policeman, who has buried lots of junk, and I think he is afraid to feel his emotions.
Does this kind of thing have to be so hard on a marriage? How can I get him to seek help? So far he has not been open to counseling. He's "fine." I feel like he is a time bomb, and this becomes apparent when he has outbursts of anger. We are a Christian family, committed to staying together, but I am needing a deeper level of intimacy. Please help if you can!!!
Dealing with Grief
There are several issues going on here so let's take this a step at a time.
I'm sorry that both of you so recently lost your fathers. It's very hard. You don't mention if your mothers are still alive. Sometimes adult children have to deal with their own grief and their mother's grief and increased needs all at the same time. And if you have your own young children to care for then you really are part of the "sandwich generation." That is, you are in the middle, caring for the needs of those above and below you. It's very draining. Is this part of your situation?
I think that you recognize clearly that your husband is invested in maintaining his tough-guy facade. He's probably not going to ever be a sensitive new-age kind of guy. So how can you deal with him as he is?
First, get yourself some support. Many hospitals and clinics offer grief counseling workshops and ongoing support groups. You'll be with others who have experienced a similar loss and you'll find understanding and kindness there. This will help you to come to terms with your loss and move on with your life.
Second, if your husband's loss is so recent then he is in the initial phase of mourning. This accounts for the increased sleep, withdrawal and the outbursts. At this time his behavior is within normal limits of the grief process. If this stays the same after six months or a year, then I would want to see him evaluated for clinical depression. I'm not saying that this is the course that he is taking, I'm just telling you what I would look for in a client.
In order to be a good cop, your husband has probably learned to compartmentalize his feelings. He had to learn how to do this in order to be effective in his job. Unfortunately, the very same thing that makes your husband such a good cop is a drawback when dealing with his own life. I also am aware that there can be a stigma attached to seeking out psychological help.
Most police departments have clinical psychologists on staff. If you see that your husband's behavior becomes dangerous to himself or others around him, then you might want to approach the police psychologist yourself, or at least talk with your husband's boss about it. I realize that he might see this as a "betrayal," but you have to ask yourself what the goal is here. Do you get help for him, or continue to pretend that everything is "fine"?
You say that you are a Christian family. Is there a family priest or minister that you can turn to for help? Your husband might be more receptive to seeing someone from his church and many clergy these days are trained to do counseling. If your husband won't go to counseling, then go yourself. Get as much support as you can and this will make you stronger.
I don't believe that your marriage will always feel this way. You and your husband are going through many changes brought on by these recent deaths. Often the death of a father hits men very hard because they feel like they're "next-in-line." Their fathers serve as buffers between them and death. When that's gone they feel more vulnerable.
I don't know exactly what your husband's job comprises, but to be a cop today is to know that death could be anywhere and could come at anytime. It's likely that this could be on his mind as well. The important thing is to take care of yourself and then you'll be able to handle whatever else arises.
Dr. Louise Klein