Marriages endure ups and downs, peaks and valleys, throughout the course of a life together. When children come along, it adds a new component to that relationship. If a child dies, there is inevitable strain on the marriage. Will it recover or will the stress be too much to sustain it?
Statistics say that up to half of all marriages end in divorce. There are many reasons for that long-held statistic. Just as that has been clung to, so has the notion that the death of a child inevitably results in divorce of the two parents. While divorce is possible just for the fact that a couple are married, it is no way a definite.
In other words, not all marriages that suffer the loss of a child result in divorce. In fact, divorce may result because the marriage was heading that way before the death. The death might pull two partners apart, bring them closer together or not change how they feel about each other at all. The latter is the least likely, as this change in family dynamic changes everyone who knew the child.
Understanding Each Other’s Pain
Parents may be one through marriage or one in raising their children, but they are individuals in body. This means that each person must process the loss of a child in their own way. Just because they have both lost a child they loved doesn’t mean that they will grieve in exactly the same way.
Arguments among parents can center on the grieving or the apparent lack of it. It is that misunderstanding that may anger one partner about another. For example, a mother may cry all day or want to sit in court and hear the trial of their child’s killer, while the father would rather be at work being productive. To the mother, his decision to be at work may indicate he doesn’t care about justice for their child. To the father, the mother is wasting her time and making her grief worse by getting involved in matters that are beyond her control.
It is easy to see where the breakdown comes. The lack of communication leads to assumptions of lack of grief or caring. That pain alone can break down a relationship. Discussing what you each feel about your child can dispel the assumptions and bring acceptance of your differing views. These talks can also enlighten the other parent about what you need from them in the way of positive support. Turning to each other adds value to your marriage and also your ability to be there for your surviving children as they grieve.
If you need the comfort of like-minded grievers, join a support group – either online or a local group. A support system is composed of more than just your spouse to make it through the mourning period.
Take the pressure off your marriage while you grieve for your child by communicating your feelings to your spouse.