Losing a child is so difficult that it often puts a married couple at a risk for divorce. There are several reasons for this:
1) The grief is so intense for both parents and they cannot comfort each other. Or, the couple grieves at different times and avoids talking about their feelings because they don’t want to bring each other down.
2) One of the parents starts to move forward and feel a little better while the other parent is stuck on the roller coaster of emotions that come with grief. The one who is stuck starts to resent the other one who is feeling better. He or she should be grieving as hard as they are and they don’t understand how they could be moving forward.
3) The one spouse (let’s say it’s the male) wants his old life back. He wants his wife to go back to being the happy and fun loving person he’s used to. The wife is often the one with a more emotional attachment to the child and believes she will never be her “old self” again. Her priorities have changed. She’s wounded and it is very deep. He becomes impatient and they grow further apart.
4) There were problems in the marriage before the child passed and this just exacerbated the distance between the couple.
5) The situation involving one of the parents of the child, where the child was in their direct care, is blamed for the death. The anger and resentment cannot be forgiven.
6) They are a blended family and the biological parent is grieving with much more intensity, as expected. The step-parent doesn’t feel the same level of pain and after a period of time, thinks that it is time to move on.
What can you do if you’re a married couple and just lost a child?
1) Decide immediately that you are going to love and support each other during the dark days ahead. It won’t be easy. This is where your marriage will be tested like never before.
2) Check on each other and try to just listen. Men want to fix things and they get frustrated because this can’t be fixed.
3) Forgive the things that aren’t getting done right now because all you can do are the things that have to be done.
4) Realize that there is a “new normal” for you both and the months ahead are going to be very hard. Lot’s of anger, tears and what if’s will be part of the daily roller coaster of emotions.
5) If things “were bad before” this happened, marriage counseling may be needed. This is the time to invest in getting help. Your marriage vows likely included “for better, for worse” and this may be the worst thing that will happen to you. If one party doesn’t want to go to counseling, go alone.
6) Attend a grief support group or seek out a grief counselor. These people have been where you are and can give you some much needed tips on what’s ahead and how to cope.