Rachel and husband

Losing a Parent and Struggles in Marriage

When my husband and I first met, everything was laid out on the table as to what I could expect and losing a parent and struggles in marriage was something we never thought. He was upfront and informed me his parents would always live with him. I was totally on board with his choice. My husband’s father had kidney failure and his mother depended on us to get around as she doesn’t drive. It hasn’t been what most might think when learning I have lived with my in laws from day one.

For the past 10 years, I have never been treated like a daughter-in-law. Instead, my in-laws welcomed me into their hearts like their own daughter. I had an especially close bond with my father-in-law. I would make his lunches on the days he went to dialysis. And I would even yell at him when he went out for a smoke break. When I look back now, I realize my strong bond with my father-in-law paralleled the strong bond I had with my own father. That made it even more special.

Early in 2019, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. We were devastated. My parents lived in Nashville, Tennessee and I lived with my family in Irving, Texas. Unfortunately, my father in law’s health was deteriorating at the same exact time. Things with my father in law deteriorated so quickly that we literally had to say our “final goodbye” over FaceTime. We were away to support my father at the same time. We quickly came home to Texas to lay my father-in-law to rest.  I struggled with losing a parent.

Emotions were so high, and after six days I got a call from my brother to say my “final goodbye” to my own dad. I did not expect any of this so soon. Not only did my husband lose his father but, now, so had I. We had to tell our three-year-old and six-year-old sons that both of their grandfathers were now at “Jai Jai Bhagwan’s house.”

I held my composure for many months. All the elders in our community would say “stay strong,” typical in South Asian cultures. I wanted to fall apart. And I wanted to be vulnerable. At the same time, I was so scared to do so in front of the one person who I actually love more than myself, my husband. For a long time, I was so hesitant to ask him to be there for me. It felt selfish when he was going through his own heartache. I am not sure if this was due to me being an Indian woman and what I had been taught my whole life – to essentially serve my husband first. But I felt a need to be there for him more than I needed to take care of myself.

Trust me when I say my husband has a heart of gold. But we lost both of our fathers within six days of each other. What made this time of our lives even more challenging was that life did not stop. There was work pressure as well as the support we needed to provide our grieving mothers who had now become widows.

Time moves forward as it does and 6 months later, I found myself taking much of my grief out on my husband through fights and arguments. He continued to step up and was always there for me, but I knew I was struggling. I was lucky I had married this man, but I knew something was not right. On top of feeling like we were growing apart, I felt the pressure of all the roles I now had to play. One day, I had a bad dream where I woke up shaking and frantically blurted out to my husband, “Hey I know you lost your father but I need you now more than anything.”

It wasn’t like he wasn’t there for me but I know he was hiding his feelings for my sake. I didn’t want to downplay a death. I wanted to be vulnerable and be okay with all of the aunties talking ill of me for not being the perfect daughter-in-law. That night when I had let my heart open, the hug he gave me made me realize he is my safety net. It was the best I had felt in a long time. I think although we were both trying our best to be there for each other, in some ways we forgot to be there for ourselves. We were not properly communicating, and it was hurting us both, along with our marriage.

The open communication we now have, keeps improving with time. I’m not scared to express my feelings anymore. The loss we simultaneously experienced is part of our story, and is certainly the hardest chapter we ever experienced together. But it has also helped open us up to so much more growth in our marriage.

I have learned within the last two years that communication and being vulnerable in life and marriage is not only okay, it is necessary. My message to the world: life will throw you so many curve balls but always try to handle it with dignity and communicate openly to your friends, family and most importantly your spouse. Allowing your loved ones to support you takes a lot of strength. However, in the end, this is what will allow you to wake up with a light heart and big smile every day despite anything life throws your way.

Submitted by Rachel Patel

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