The death of a child is considered one of the most difficult and traumatic events that parents can experience. A sudden death can have parents mourning the loss of their child’s life, their potential, and their future. Life as they know it has forever changed, and they are forced to endure unimaginable grief and a sense of loss that they have never experienced. The traumatic experience can not only have an impact on their emotional well-being, but it can also test the strength of their marriage. Experts note that the loss can lead to difficulties in marital functioning, and some studies indicate that divorce among bereaved parents is common. As parents deal with the pain and confusion that comes after the death of a child, communication, and honesty between spouses is essential in getting through the grieving process and maintaining the marriage during this difficult time.
A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that the death of a child is a traumatic event that can have long-term effects on the lives of parents. Research on bereaved parents found that they experienced more depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, and more health problems as well as marital separation. The months following the loss of a child can be emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting, and can be when the majority of marital issues start to occur. According to The Center of Complicated Grief at Columbia University, parents may start to develop negative feelings towards their spouse since the death and may find themselves unable to support each other and start to withdraw. If there were marital problems before the child’s death, this situation can make it even more difficult. Grieving couples may also start to place the blame and guilt on their spouse and start to feel anger and resentment, and feel depressed and alone.
Although some people may experience that their marriage is drifting apart, other couples who have strong marriages will come together with a shared vision on how to honor the memory of their child and have open communication and willingness to keep the marriage going despite the huge loss. After experiencing such devastation, some couples are able to form a stronger bond and create a new beginning within their relationship and move forward with their life together. It’s important to understand that people will grieve differently and emotions will get the best of you, but couples should try and be each other’s support system.
In order for couples to keep their marriage from deteriorating through this major loss, they will have to learn how to communicate their feelings with one another and share any feelings of helplessness, confusion, anger, depression, pain, and guilt they might feel. It’s important for parents to go through the grieving process and in some cases, the process could take months or years. If you find that you or your partner are having a difficult time grieving the loss or if the situation is causing marital issues, it’s best to seek help. Seeking treatment allows you to navigate your loss and release yourself from being consumed by it, giving you the ability to move toward and find healthy ways to honor your child.