Advice to Parents About Relationships - a Summary
- Spend some time every day nurturing your relationship (without interruptions if possible). This could be doing the dishes while talking, going for a walk, catching up with the days events, listening to music….
- Your relationship is NOT more likely to break down although it will be strained in the short term
- Be patient with yourself and each other
- Accept that anger, being irritable with each other-is part of grief. Try not to take outbursts personally
- Accept that you will grieve very differently, eg one of you may withdraw (stay in bed or the shed) or you may need to be with people to talk about one’s child over and over. Respect your partner’s need for privacy and time alone to reflect and rest.
- You don’t need to always be strong and hold back grief. Be gentle and kind to yourself and to each other.
- There is no right way to grieve. Men and women grieve very differently. You may have no energy or you may need to work, or be physically very busy and active. Culture, religion, personality, education, previous history of loss, family patterns, etc- all influence how you grieve.
- You will need distractions-without feeling guilty.
- Be patient with your partner’s sexual needs-or lack thereof. Touch is very important- as distinct from sex-and gives energy to your partner.
- Talk about your needs, feelings, what you can cope with, what you want honestly and respectfully-once you have an idea of what they are! If it is too hard to talk-write a letter. Tell/write your partner about your commitment to your relationship and what you admire about them
- Be an attentive listener “one who listens beyond words”.
- Reach out to friends and relatives who will listen, try to tell them what you need from them. They will often wait for a sign from you that it is ok to talk.
- Accept that a death of a baby or child brings into play society’s fear of death and loss, and many people will not know what to say or do and may avoid you.
- Be open to making new friends who “just know” how you feel and want to know and hear about your child. On the other hand accept that some friendships will collapse -there will be people you need to avoid or spend little time with.
- You will be forever changed, life will be different, you might change your values, priorities, job, career, religion, attitudes. Your relationship will reflect these changes.
- Seek out positive people who can listen, not preach.
- A crisis can often bring about the opportunity for change that in the long run is positive and good.
- Maintain a relationship with your child -“continuing bonds”- this assists the healing- continue to mention your child’s name to your other or subsequent children.
This article was prepared using extracts from When Relationships Hurt, Too.1 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.
Last reviewed: 11/4/21
1. den Hartog, P.N., Bereaved Parents & SIDS and Kids NSW and Victoria (2014). When Relationships Hurt, Too: The Impact of Grief on Parents’ Relationships after the Sudden Death of their Child. , Malvern, Vic.: SIDS and Kids NSW and Victoria.