Into their unborn children, parents place their hopes and dreams, anticipating the future. Nothing can prepare them for the tragedy of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They are left powerless, numb, and confused.
Parents grieve in a mired of ways. There is little research that speaks specifically to the survival rate of a marriage following the death of an infant. However, some sources report the divorce rate is between 40%-70%. That is not to say your marriage can’t survive such a loss. Some marriages grow stronger. What determines which marriages will fail and which will survive is the foundation of the marriage as well as the coping skills of the partners. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the ramifications of the loss of a child due to SIDS and its effects on a marriage.
Nothing can prepare you or your marriage for the death of a child. Bereaved parents must readjust and redefine who they are within this space of tragedy. With that often comes the lack of communication with each other. Each is absorbed in the loss and the responsibility of how feel towards the loss, as well as coping with the feeling of being powerless. Women often look to their partners for strength and guidance through conversation and affection. Men often feel they must be strong for their family and may be void of all emotion externally, as they are struggling with the guilt, anxiety, fears, redefinition, and raw emotions internally. In their strength, they may be viewed as withdrawn, unaffectionate, callous, and may appear to lack the understanding of their partner’s needs. Men may view their wives as over-emotional, needy, suffocating, and demanding.
Together, the combination of misconceptions and lack of communication lead to dissonance in the marriage. The suddenness and cause of the death forces the couple to deal with the police and medical examiners, as well as hospital and funeral staff. There is a whirlwind of details that must be attended to, while attempting to make some sort of sense of this death. As each partner repeatedly processes the checklist of events prior to the death of the baby, they search for gaps of responsibility. In that search, they may place blame on one another. At times the blame may be placed outside the marriage, but more often it is directed towards the other partner. The strains on the marriage can be severe.
As we have discussed previously, grieving is unique to the individual. However, the misconceptions regarding grief and appropriate grieving may create a stumbling block for the parents. Often there is physical pain with healthy mourning. This is not an indicator of an unhealthy person. Family members may not be as supportive as hoped; they may not understand the level and intensity of the grieving. Or they may expect the grief to not last as long as it may or has.
Heal healthy, heal whole.
Just as grieving is unique, so is healing. There is not a ‘cure’ to the pain. Nor can I give the answer to why?…why us?…why our baby?, but I can offer ways to survive and revive your marriage during such a horrific loss.
Communication is the key to survival. Through the pain, look to each other for support and strength. Talk with one another about the emotions, confusion, anger, rage, frustration, loneliness, and anything else that you are experiencing. Support each other through the details of each day as you prepare for the funeral or memorial service. It may seem as if you are looking in from the outside, as you talk with investigators, hospital personnel, and funeral/memorial directors. Lean on one another for support. Be aware of each other’s needs and differences. Allow the emotional processing to occur with one another. There is no shame in sharing your grief with others. This is healthy and encouraged. Reach out to family and friends, as well as a support group. There are local and online support groups to aid in your healing. There are others who have walked this road, you are not alone and do not exist on an island. With that said, each night, return to one another for constant healing. This will allow for a strengthening in your marriage and healing. Reviving your marriage after such a loss can be a challenge. But it is necessary for survival. You can do this through returning to the roots of your romance. Take time for one another through date nights, weekend getaway, or simple everyday gestures. Although you may not feel connected, simply going through the motions will allow for a deepening in the marriage. As I have shared in other articles, each day find activities and routine chores to move you thru the day. Create an online memorial for your baby. This all promotes healthy healing. Do not hesitate to review previous articles for further details to healthy grieving.
With awareness and guidance, your marriage can survive and be revived after such a tragedy.