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Coaching Your Marriage through Grief and Transition by Jeff and Jill Williams

Sep 27th, 2010 | By | Category: Family Coaching Center

One of the most challenging circumstances is coaching your own marriage through a season of grieving. Three months after our wedding Jill’s twenty-six year old brother was killed. Immediately I lost my wife to her grief.  She withdrew to sob in silence for days on end. The blush of our honeymoon was definitely over. Eventually she recovered, and we recovered us, but not before many hours were invested in hearing her heart. It was to be the first of many opportunities to learn to love each other by listening through losses.

That’s it in a nutshell, we think. The key to coaching your marriage and others through grief and transition: Loving Listening to each other’s thoughts and feelings.

Stuck in Time

Everyone experiences grief[1] differently, but the full gamut of thoughts and feelings associated with significant loss and change must be expressed if one is to avoid becoming unhealthy.  Sadly, we probably all know of people who are stuck in anger, sadness or denial per significant loss in their life. Their life and identity is defined by their loss(es). Fortunately, most of us probably also know of people who embraced the grieving process and now once again have full lives and healthy relationships. They prove the axiom: To live well we must grieve well.

A Season of Emotional Changes

The summer of 2010 brought multiple changes and losses to our family.  We (Jill, myself and Laura, 15) moved our middle daughter and her daughter (our granddaughter) out of our home in Maryland onto college campus housing in Pennsylvania. The following day we said goodbye to friends and moved 500 miles to our Midwest hometown, after nearly six years on the East coast. Now everything is different for all of us; the culture, the atmosphere of our home, and the people we see on a regular basis.  Losses and changes are layered, and each of us has different feelings about different things at different times. How can we do our best to love each other through this season?

The Gift of Listening

Jill and I were hunkered down in a corner of Panera®, staring at our laptop computers, trying to get our work done so we could rest after driving all day to be with family for Christmas. We both had colds, and we were tired, but there were time-sensitive tasks that had to be completed. On top of that, we were discouraged.  It was mid-wilderness season in our lives (The wilderness was 2005-2010) and a lot of things just weren’t working out.  That’s when John and Sarah sacrificed their date night to serve us as listening angels.[2]

“How’s it going?  How are you?” They asked.  Their tone and countenance conveyed the sincerity of their desire to hear detailed responses to their questions. It seemed that they were really interested, and that they really cared. So, we shared honestly.  Two hours passed like ten minutes.  Jill and I were appalled that we’d talked so long when we finally realized the time.  “We’re so sorry,” we said.  “Certainly you had this evening planned for something else.” “No, no,” they said. “This has been great.  Thank you for honoring us and our friendship by sharing so openly.  Its part of what God wants us to do. When we married we committed to give the gift of listening to others.” Amazing!  The simple listening care of our friends energized and encouraged us, and helped us to work through some of the changes and losses we were experiencing.

Coaching Conversations at Home and Beyond

As all of us navigate life beyond the Garden of Eden, at home, in the workplace and in ministry, change is certain. Circumstances and relationships change, and unexpected losses occur from time to time.  It’s healthy and normal to have a lot of feelings about loss and change as well as a need to talk about what we’re experiencing.  Coaching conversations are a great way to honor and assist each other through such experiences.

Christian coaching is a set of skills used to communicate one’s heart.  A heart that says, “You are important.  I believe in you and care about you.  Therefore, I’m going to set myself aside to ask and listen to what you think, feel and want, and I’m going to give you plenty of time and space to share with me.  I want you to feel important to me because you are, and I want to help you through this challenging time by simply hearing, really hearing what is in your heart about the losses and changes you are experiencing.”

Whether it’s your partner in marriage, a friend, relative, co-worker, ministry partner, etc., when you use Christian coaching disciplines and skills with heart, you will be doing the best you can do to help them through grief and transition.

Jeff and Jill Williams write and speak about Marriage Coaching.  Together they privately coach couples and train groups of couples that want to coach marriages through a series of tele-classes that are accessible for any couple (globally) with a phone and internet connection.  Write to or call 937-717-5591 , or visit, for more information.

Copyright 2010 Jeffrey J. Williams | Grace & Truth Relationship Education | Springfield| OH | 45503

[1] Grief – The gamut of emotions and thoughts that follow from a significant loss or change, including but not limited to death.

[2] John and Sarah Markman and their children serve as a mission family at International House of Prayer, Kansas City, Kansas.  Reach them at



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