On September 30, 2017, I married Michael O’Quinn Jr. I remember telling him he shouldn’t marry a broken woman because that’s what I was. I couldn’t believe I was 31 and having to figure life out without my mama. Thankfully, he didn’t listen to me and we said I do at my childhood home.
On our second wedding anniversary, I wanted to let people into our world and share how it is marrying someone who has lost a parent. Plus, we spent all of 2018 commuting back and forth from Ohio to Georgia. Yes, we had a long-distance marriage which many didn’t know. I share with you my interview with my husband.
Mike and I met in college and started dating in 2007. In 2014, we moved to Ohio for me to pursue a job opportunity. My entire decision to take the job was because my mom had beaten Ovarian Cancer. I didn’t even think about it coming back, but it did. She lost her battle to cancer May 2016.
SOQWEENLY: How was the time frame between burying mom in May and deciding to propose in August?
MIKE: “I had already decided I was going to propose in August. I was hoping the proposal would pick your spirits up. It was something I’d hope would take your mind off of everything.”
Mike proposed in Las Vegas in front of the Bellagio Fountains. I was really shocked because getting married was not my top priority anymore. I thought we were just going out of town to get away. When he proposed, I was really happy but I wasn’t mentally ready for all the preparation that came along with getting married.
SOQWEENLY: What’s the most difficult thing about marrying someone who has lost a parent?
MIKE:“Dealing with the moodiness and not knowing where it stems from.”
He is right. We are moody because we can often be triggered by anything. I remember being excited to go out on a date. I would see a family and my mood changed immediately. All I saw is what I no longer had. All holidays still get to me because each one was a family day.
SOQWEENLY: What have you learned about grief?
MIKE: “I knew people dealt with grief differently, but I was able to witness it. I learned I can’t fix everything.”
Every single person will grieve differently. Mike has seen me grieve and the affects grief has on the body. It’s similar to what stress does to us. Anxiety, hair loss, weight gain/loss and insomnia to name a few. He has seen so much but never judged me at all. He always says we’re going to make it through this.
SOQWEENLY: Did the distance help or hinder the marriage?
MIKE: “It was a little of both. You take the time for granted when you see each other daily. However, when you don’t get to see each other everyday you truly take advantage of the time.The distance gives you a chance to miss someone and you get alone time for self-discovery. But too much of it isn’t good at all.”
We ended up in two different states because I needed to be near my family in Georgia. Mike had already told me I could quit my job because I was mentally done. It was too much managing a department and my personal situation. His career supported us when I wasn’t working and afforded me the opportunity to be with my siblings and plan a wedding. We prayed about it and took a leap of faith. It was not easy.
I agree with Mike. The distance helped because I found my therapist, discovered who I really was, and started this blog. I remember telling myself "girl you better get you some help because it’s not his responsibility to make you happy". The distance hindered us because I missed him. We had to get reacclimated because we had not lived together full-time for over a year. Plus, I experienced a spiritual awakening. The work I did on myself changed me for the best and that’s what he tells me all the time.
SOQWEENLY: What have you learned the most about marriage in 2 years?
MIKE: “It takes work! Getting married is the easy part. You still have to work towards developing your marriage and mind because you have to work to ensure it lasts forever. You can’t get complacent. Keep trying to grow and develop or you’ll get stuck. Also, you need to surround yourself with different perspectives. Seek advice from people who have been married longer than you so you can learn from them.”
Prayer is a big part of our marriage and is the reason why we’ve made it through the storms. We are a unit. Period! We have this promise to break the dysfunctional generational curses because we know what it can do to our future children. Your most intimate moments aren’t meant to be shared with anyone. Keep that between you two because it’s your marriage. Communication and compromise are important too. It’s difficult to have a successful marriage without it. Find what you’re good at in the marriage and make that your contribution. You don’t have to know it all -- that’s why it's two of you.
"It takes work. Getting married is the easy part."
SOQWEENLY: What advice in general would you give someone?
MIKE: “You won’t always have the answer to your wife’s problem and you have to be okay with it. Early in the process you weren’t happy. It wasn’t time for you to be happy because you had to figure it all out.”
Mike recalled my 32nd birthday which was a year after she passed. He planned a staycation in downtown and made reservations at STK. I wanted to be happy, but I was devastated. I had to peel myself out the bed to get dressed. We had dinner only for me to go back to the hotel and just cry all night. I knew I was falling into a deeper depression but didn’t know what to do.
SOQWEENLY: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know what to say to a spouse?
MIKE: “How can I help is the question you’d ask rather than what’s wrong because they don’t know. The book, The Power of a Praying Husband , helped me throughout this process. Plus, be willing to give them their space.”
The biggest thing about this statement is being open to help. I used to feel like I had to do everything and it’s false. Learning to accept and ask for help is a big part of the healing process. I'm forever thankful for my friend Davida for gifting Mike that book and me The Power of a Praying Wife. It's filled with so many valuable life lessons in marriage.
I hope this post helps those who are supporters of people dealing with grief. You are truly loved and I thank you so much for reading.