It is so important to try to keep a sense of closeness while you mourn the loss of your child; we were told by our hospital chaplain that we have a strong relationship and he can see the love that we have for each other… a lot of marriages and partnerships are ripped apart after the loss of a child; not surprising really when you consider that it’s the most difficult thing that you will ever experience.
I was never actually worried that we may fall apart as, although we have our ups and downs, we have always got through things together. However, the impact of Sophie’s death did have a massive impact on not just our relationship, but on our whole family… we still keep a sense of togetherness, but things have changed. My oldest son became very withdrawn and suicidal at one point, he is luckily on the road to recovery; my middle son gets sad and has the occasional bout of anger, but this has also got better over time; and my youngest son is too young to realise about his sister, however he does ‘feed off’ of any tension in the house and that can make him either aggressive or weepy. As for me and Paul, I find it difficult to look a young baby and although I am happy for them, I do still feel a pang of jealousy. Paul seems ok, but he is also known to bottle things up.
It can also put strain on a relationship because it can be difficult to understand how your partner feels, and how the grief has affected them; we are individuals and therefore we all grieve differently… men often grieve differently to women and this can put a huge stress on the relationship; understanding and supporting each other is necessary in order to remain a sense of closeness.
Here is an example of the differences that I have either experienced or seen in the past, I have labelled the columns ‘wife and husband’, however, this can be reversed as it is just to give an idea of the differences in the grieving process, neither is right and neither is wrong, they are just different and both are just as valid.
|Grieving too much||Not grieving enough|
|Wants to try again||Doesn’t want more children|
|Wants to talk about the loss||Doesn’t want to discuss the loss|
|Can’t face going back to work||Goes back to work to take his mind off of it|
|Takes offence with inconsiderate comments||Says it’s ok because they mean well|
|Include your loss when asked ‘how many children have you got?’||Only includes living children when asked ‘how many children have you got?’|
|Be affected by depression and anxiety||Hide their feelings and keep positive|
|Find faith and go to church||Lose faith and stop going to church|
|Join support groups, talk to other bereaved parents, or campaign for a baby loss charity||Doesn’t want the constant reminder of loss|
|Finds it hard to see a future||Wants to look to the future and make plans|
So you can see how easily relationships can break down when the couple are grieving in such different ways, the strain is sometimes unbearable… but with understanding you can support each other.
In my personal experience, the grief changes as time goes on, but it never goes; the hardest thing to deal with at the moment is the fact that my grief comes in ‘waves’… it’s been 16 months since Sophie died and I’m still getting waves of grief which take me by surprise. I can be watching TV and something will trigger me (like an advert for mothercare) and all of a sudden, I’ll start crying out of the blue! I sometimes get overwhelmed by things that I used to do (cleaning the house, washing, ironing etc) and I just want to run away from it all… this can cause issues between Paul and me.
I get flashbacks too; I see my pregnancy with Sophie, her birth and her death as if it was yesterday; and I can still remember the conversations we had with the doctors and midwives when she died word for word! I can see, by looking back, where the mistakes were made; but having no way of proving it can consume my thoughts.
After my bereavement midwife explained that we need to try to remain close as a lot of marriages break down after the loss of a child, I set about to find the facts and statistics for this. What I have discovered (and experienced first-hand) is that losing a child will exaggerate existing factors of your relationship. So… some relationships get worse, and maybe end in separation; some get better and you become closer to your partner; and some just stay the same.
As mentioned before, maintaining your relationship will take patience and understanding… it is not easy, in fact the strain can sometimes be suffocating! I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t see the future, but I am very proud of the way my family have stuck together and I hope that we always will; and with patience and understanding, you will too.