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Breaking Free From the Pain and Baggage I carried Into Marriage: Alex and Kalista's Story

Updated: Mar 17

The first year of marriage is hard for most. Even if we are intentional to prepare our hearts and minds for all the change that comes with marriage, there are just too many factors to be fully prepared for.

That first year is foundational. We all know it’s pretty hard to finish a race well if you don’t start well; And though my brain knew that logically, somehow, I still found myself walking into marriage very unprepared for all the change that was ahead of me.

I first met my husband, Alex, while working for a youth ministry in Ohio.

Alex was a volunteer, and we quickly became friends through one of the local chapter meetings. Long story short: After a year of friendship, we started dating, and a year after that, we were engaged.

Compared to the other relationships I had been in, my dating experience with Alex was easy and natural. We had both been "in love" with another person before meeting each other, (so that surely came with its own challenges), but we knew from the beginning that we were meant for each other. God-ordained, for sure.

Grief: My Unexpected Loss

Everything was going pretty good in our dating relationship until my dad passed away suddenly in January of 2017. I was very close with my dad, so the reality that I would now be living my life on earth without him was something I didn't know how to handle.

I’m sure it’s no surprise that when I married Alex in December of 2017, my grief came with me. Though I had almost a year to process the pain of losing my dad suddenly, I barely processed it at all. I chose to stuff the pain down so I didn’t have to feel it or think about it. Honestly, I felt like my heart would explode if I did. And I’m sure it goes without saying that this was a very, VERY poor way to grieve.

On top of all my unprocessed grief, I was living in a new town, taking online college classes, working part-time, and learning how to be a wife. My husband would travel occasionally for his job, so he was gone at least one week of every month. And my close friends were... few and far between. Needless to say, this beautiful new life with Alex began in a whirlwind of emotions that I had no clue how to deal with.

If you ask Alex now about our first year of marriage, he will tell you it wasn’t that bad. He was so kind and patient with me and somehow kept a positive mindset through it all.

For me, on the other hand... what I remember most is: anxiety, depression, panic attacks, loneliness, grief, anger, and (obviously) major mood swings.

Randomly lashing out at my husband and keeping others at an arms length are things I still regret today.

Now I don’t want to say that it was all negative, because of course, we had plenty of blessings to celebrate our first year of marriage. But unfortunately, my memories from that year are… not the brightest.


However, it does get better; I promise!


After that first year, I finally realized I could not handle all of these wild emotions and waves of grief on my own, and I reached out for help. Honestly, I had tried to reach out for help before, but this time was different. I was ready to face the pain and work through my grief, along with all the unbridled emotions that seemed to come and go.

Through different counselors, mentors, and a new church family, I was able to finally overcome the negative mindsets that I carried into marriage and start living a life of victory and freedom.

Now I realize that sounds like a huge shift, and believe me; it was. But obviously, that shift didn't happen overnight. We are talking months on months and years of changing negative thought patterns and learning how to manage my emotions.

Use "The Story" as an exercise as a tool to help you manage emotions:

Though I still don't have this conquered perfectly, I am lightyears from where I was at my first year of marriage. The old cliche sayings: "there's purpose in the pain" and "beauty beyond the grief" ring ever true in my life. And I am so thankful that God did not leave me where I was.

So, what is it for you? What did you carry into your marriage that may still need dealt with? I have heard it said, "If you don't deal with it now, it will deal with you later." This certainly has been the case for me.

"If you don't deal with it now, it will deal with you later."

If there is one thing I could choose to say from all of this, it's the simple truth that God can redeem and restore anything in our lives, big or small. Nothing is beyond His care. But will we do our part in seeking the help we need to live the lives we were meant to live?

"It is not selfish to want to be okay." - Rachel Norman

I urge you as you read this: Do whatever it takes to get on the path of healing and surrender. We all have pain and baggage that we carry into marriage; it just looks different. My life is a constant reminder that God truly does desire to restore the broken pieces of our lives. And even the good things, He can make better.

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