Sunday, July 12, 2009

Crisis in a Marriage

Many couples who have experienced the death of their child may also experience a crisis in their marriage as a result. This untimely event can be an opportunity for growth bringing the two people closer together.

The belief that a bereaved couple is doomed to divorce is blown way out of proportion. In fact, a Compassionate Friends survey has indicated that only 4 percent of couples who divorce do so because of the child’s death, that something else was wrong in the relationship before the child died. If the couple has always had a good marriage, typically that marriage will grow stronger, not collapse.

Making your relationship a priority during this difficult time should be your goal. One way to do this is to talk about your child. Remember the good times, funny incidents. Laugh at something silly that your child did as well as remember any awards, honors and graduations that made you so proud. Don’t dwell on how your child died. That is not going to bring him or her back. If you feel guilty about something, talk about it. If you are angry about something, talk about that also. Couples have a bond with their child that no one else can match and by talking about those bonds and your feelings, you may realize how very similar you feel or at least respect the opposite feelings of your partner.

The chance of both parents grieving in the same way is unlikely. Partners should allow each other grieving space at their own rate and in their own way. Personality, previous experiences, and your own style of grieving contribute to that respect of grieving space. If one partner wants to cry, that doesn’t mean the other one has to cry. If one partner doesn’t feel like going out, he or she shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. If you can’t decide what to make for breakfast, don’t worry about it; your child died, you need time to adjust, and you eventually will.

A few other suggestions may work for you. Talk to friends about your relationship with your husband to ease the stress buildup. Perhaps they have a good resource for any problems. You may also need to express feelings about your loss to friends that you are not ready to discuss with your spouse.

Sometimes when one partner feels really bad, going off on your own for a few hours or a day may give you a new perspective. Don’t bring your spouse down or make them suffer with sarcastic comments, harmful accusations just because you feel miserable.

Look for ways you can please your spouse to ease some of his/her pain. Do some activity with him/her that you don’t usually do but know the other would like you to. Make a special meal that the other enjoys eating. Or do something related to your child that up until now you have not been able to do.

At the end of the day, coming together is important. Review with your spouse what has happened that day, how you are feeling and what you are thinking. You will more than likely learn a lot about your partner during this period of your life more than at any other time.

Time is also a great healer. As time passes you will discover a sense of acceptance of what has happened to you and your spouse and, hopefully, have the willingness to learn to find new ways of living your life ‘together’ without your child.

Editor's note: I want to make a correction from my last blog about the other side of grief: my friend's son died 2 and 1/2 years ago and her husband did go to grief therapy with her for a year.

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