Will My Relationship Suffer?
Rocked by grief, many couples fear their relationship will be in jeopardy, or even break down permanently. Most individuals have little energy for themselves, let alone their partner, while others become frenetic and self-absorbed. This is hardly surprising, especially if this is the first major loss for either or both partners. However, contrary to this fear, most relationships do not break down after the death of a child, nor are they any more likely to do so than in non-bereaved families.
“This trauma can challenge your relationships - not just with your partner, but also with your family and friends. It’s like, if there is any weakness there, it will be magnified a thousand times. My relationship became strong, it became better. It surprised me that some friends, who probably weren’t really that close, really stepped up and were there for you and yet other friends whom we thought might, did not.”1
“Someone said to us pretty early on that a lot of couples who lose kids break up and that’s what is going to happen to you. I was worried that I would not only to lose my child, but also my partner and my relationship too.”1
“I was initially worried, we basically came back from the hospital and turning up empty handed back home, it absolutely crosses your mind.”1
“Especially when the grieving process is different, then you are on a different wavelength, sometimes with emotions, one’s up and one’s down. If you have any doubts in your mind, then you start to wonder how you are going to get through this as a couple.”1
“That’s what I found so good about SIDS and Kids (now known as Red Nose Grief and Loss) support groups like this. One of the major things I wanted to get out of attending was that you meet people like you, who understand what it feels like. It does give you a bit of comfort knowing that there are couples who have gone through this, and have survived.”1
It may take time for each of you to work out how to grieve, how much space to give each other, and how to express your feelings, communicate your needs and be truly supportive.
“Initially my wife and I dealt with these emotions differently. I had a very close friend I would go on walks with and we talked about anything and everything. My wife had a really close friend she’d go to the gym with.”1
“As a couple we actually spoke about whether this was going to be the beginning or the end. We have another two kids and we thought: ‘we have got to be strong for the other two kids’. Then we came to a support group meeting and I remember there was another couple there who said they had also spoken about it as well. They didn’t think that anyone else could understand them as well as they understood each other because only the two of them had gone through the same thing. It made more sense for them to live it out together. Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Yeah, every day is a battle. Yeah, 18 months later there are times that we don’t agree on everything. You sort of tend to lose your cool a little bit sooner over silly things, but at the same time I can look back and see that that was stupid. You need to understand that was because you were frustrated or feeling pressured.”1
“The thing is you need to communicate to your wife is how and why you are affected by your child’s death. What I probably didn’t do, and what I regret now, is to communicate more with my wife and that it really affected me.”1
“It became a serious issue for my wife. She had a lot of guilt attached to intimacy. She didn’t want to feel that exhilaration. Things changed but it never would have occurred to me that she would feel guilty being intimate.”1
“I don’t remember any significant point when we started being intimate again. I just remember, when we were comfortable, we just said it was time to start again.”1
“The biggest thing I learnt was that everyone is so different. It wasn’t long before we got intimate again, everyone’s so different.”1
Last reviewed: 27/3/23
1. Quote from participants of a series of workshops and interviews with bereaved fathers held in 2015 at Red Nose Grief and Loss, Malvern, Victoria, and Red Nose Grief and Loss offices, Australia.