I am by no means an expert, but statistically marriages that endure a loss of a child are EIGHT times more likely to end in divorce, according to the authors of the article, “Long-term Effects of the Death of a Child on a Parent’s Adjustment in Midlife.” I know the title is long, but it actually is a good scholarly article to read if you have the time. What’s a married person to do with statistics like that? I asked a few “Heart Moms” for advice in writing this post because I wanted to have a variety of opinions to make sure I wasn’t biased. So, I’m going to list “Rules” if you want to call it that to help struggling marriages because I myself have been in this position of questioning my marriage, sanity, and everything around me.
4 Rules for protecting your marriage after child loss
- UNDERSTANDING – Understand that you and your spouse will likely grieve your child in different ways. You might want to talk, and your spouse may bottle it up. Understand that it is OK for you two to grieve in your own way. If you cannot understand why they grieve in the way they do, ask. Ask your partner about the way they are coping. The way your partner grieves may not make sense to you, but it’s their life jacket at that moment. Try to make it apparent that you are taking steps to understand and respect the way they cope, as long as it is not abusive or harmful behavior.
- RESPECT – Respect your partner and their grief. Do not belittle them for not being able to function the way you expect them to. It’s hard, but take a step back from yourself and notice that the other human being that is effected needs support too. I had a hard time with some of these especially this one. I didn’t respect that my husband couldn’t deal with all the talking I wanted to do some days. We are in a much better spot now that we are two years in our journey, but still, we have some days where we forget the human on the other side is our loved one battling a serious war, the same war, but different battle plans.
- COMMUNICATION – like with anything in a relationship, communication is key. Tell your partner if you don’t want to talk at that particular moment. Tell your partner when you feel talking is OK. Tell your partner if you need to be held. Don’t expect them to know you need all night cuddles because you feel like your world is crashing around you. LET THEM KNOW! Sometimes my husband would see this desperate look in my eyes and he would automatically know I needed his arms around me, but other times he was simply oblivious as I’m sure I have been to him. People are not mind readers, so tell your spouse you need them, or you need space, or you want to do something special in memory of your loved one. Communicate with each other.
- YOU ARE NOT ENEMIES – Know that most likely, your partner might say or do something unintentionally that hurts you. Know that your partner is not, in most cases, trying to hurt you. There have been so many times my husband and I have been pitted against each other because we were defensive and didn’t really give the other a chance to explain their meaning. They may have spoken out of grief, ignorance of your feelings, or many other things. Grief clouds judgement and makes it hard to really think about the other person because you are so busy licking your own wounds. Realize you are both hurting and both need to stand strong together. You are allies in this terrible war, not enemies.
I’m sure there are more “Rules” you can add, but truthfully, just be kind to one another. Kindness and tenderness give way to understanding and healing. Love each other, and realize time is so short. Be there for another and help each other find a way through this path. If you BOTH want to make it work then there is nothing that can stop you TWO. Just remember, it takes both of you to get through this together, so try to keep in mind you are a team.