How to salvage your marriage after the loss of a child
Suffering the loss of a child can negatively affect any marriage if not handled well. The death of a child is considered one of the most difficult and traumatic events that a family can experience. It is a devastating, yet a unique experience for each individual of the family.
When parents lose a child, they feel as if they have been ripped apart. They feel intense pain which can create tension and conflict. And if guilt is introduced into the mix, it will take a lot of effort for that marriage to survive.
The death of a child is a violation of the natural order of things. Parents expect their children to bury them and not the other way round. Since this natural order has been disrupted, parents must now readapt to a new, seemingly illogical reality.
Parents who have lost a child tend to feel a great sense of remorse and guilt over not protecting their child from death. Spouses that have suffered the loss of a child know that their marriage will never be the same again as it was before their child’s death.
Even though some people claim that it is easier to lose a child who was an infant than an adult, this is just not so. The death of any child is painful and neither depth nor time of healing differs because of the age of the child.
Wives tend to feel resentment at their husbands for acting less tortured, while husbands have difficulty comprehending how their wives mourn. Some husbands think their wives are over-reacting by crying all the time and not coming to terms with reality.
Women deal with their feelings more directly by revealing what they feel and it is considered a statement of fact. They ask for support and it is considered a practical response, not a defeat. Consequently, what a wife sees as an appropriate and helpful expression of feelings, her husband may see it as a portrayal of a loss of control or a prelude to a breakdown for himself.
Men tend to grieve very privately. Men cry, but some prefer to cry in private after they lose a child. They want to be alone, work it out in private. They also feel pain for not being able to protect their child. They feel a particular shame and helplessness that comes when they fail to do what they believe is their job, protect their family and especially their child.
The loss of a child doesn’t have to be the pointer to the loss of your marriage. Husbands and wives can work through their pain together and overcome their loss and grief. It takes time. It takes hard work but a marriage can survive the loss of a child.
If you have lost a child, acknowledge that you and your spouse grieve differently. Perhaps your partner is crying a lot and you are not, it is okay. Maybe you seek their affection and they are drawing away, bear in mind that even with the same situation, you both will grieve differently.
Communicate with your spouse about how you are feeling. Don’t expect them to read your mind. You need to speak to your partner about your feelings, and they should do the same with you. Don’t assume they don’t want to talk about it or that you will hurt them more if you bring it up.
Seek couples’ counseling. You will learn how to communicate with each other and have a safe space to share what you are really feeling. It can help open those lines of communication and help you work through it together.
Remind each other that it is okay to smile. There will be times when grieving the absence of your child that something will still make you smile, and it’s not uncommon to feel guilty about being momentarily happy. Remind each other but don’t push each other that those moments are healthy. It is not something you should feel bad about.
Don’t blame each other for the loss of your child even if it happened as a result of an accident at home. Blame is like a plague that can enter a marriage after loss especially when it comes to the death of a child. Not only should you not blame your partner, it is important not to blame yourself either. If you find this creeping into your marriage, talk about it with your spouse.
Turn to your spouse for comfort and not away from them. One of the main things that help a person walk through grief is to talk about it. If you are grieving, turn to your partner even if they are grieving too. Don’t seek emotional support without including your spouse. They want to help you and turning to each other as well as others can help strengthen your bond.
Acknowledge you and your spouse need extra care and time. Grieving is hard work. It leaves you tired, confused and guilty. Spouses should realize that they need extra care and time to heal. They should realize that emotions may be short but they have to deal with the grief in a healthy manner.
Treat your partner like a grieving friend. If your best friend was grieving, chances are you would treat them with the care and respect they need. Don’t forget to treat your partner the same way, with the same love and care.
If you have lost a child, treat your spouse with kindness. Hold them, comfort them. Listen to them vent. Cry together. Encourage each other and overcome your loss together.