We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
A little over a decade ago, I lost my second child to stillbirth at 34 weeks. I was devastated. My husband was similarly devastated. Our relationship was impaired.
Communication between us was imperfect. We sometimes strained to connect. The intimacy of our grief was comforting, but also suffocating. Yet, my marriage survived and thrived.
In no way do I want to sound as though it was easy. I want to be clear on this point: It was hard. But it is possible. Certainly, processing our loss together wasn't seamless, or perfect. At times, marriage is always much lonelier than we are ever led to imagine on the day we walk down the aisle.
My husband and I existed along a continuum of grief. Finding ways to meaningfully and therapeutically understand what was happening felt like a moving target. In those early days, the moment I most dreaded was waking up and realizing I had to continue to exist.
When my husband reached for me, I couldn't always be there. When I reached for him, he wasn't always available. Sometimes one of us reached out, needing to grieve together, but the other of us couldn't engage in the saturating grief at that moment. As a result, both of us felt as if our needs weren't being met. This is normal, but it can cause resentment.
Figuring out how to communicate as a couple after child loss is a struggle. Emotions and tensions are running impossibly high. Statistics apparently hover around 50 percent of marriages dissolving after the death of a child. This is not for lack of love, I don't think, but because it can feel impossible to start over again.
How can such a profound loss not become the centerpiece of a marriage? It's hard to imagine: How do I prevent myself from seeing my spouse as a daily physical reminder of what our family lacks?
As I look back, I realize we saved ourselves by taking the time we needed. We learned to give each other space, because there were many hours when, together, we could easily suck the oxygen out of any room. This may seem counterintuitive, but it was our periodic withdrawal from each other that made us both see there is more to us, individually and as partners, than our loss – that the grief will always be there, and would be no matter what, and we share it because it happened to us. There is no skirting the reality. Shutting each other out did little or nothing to change that.
We saw a therapist for couples counseling. That helped because it created a safe space where complicated feelings could be safely articulated. As I recall, the trickiest thing was that neither one of us could really be present for the other all the time. We were together in some senses and yet separate. We each had our own experiences leading to this trauma that informed our responses in different ways. We had to learn not to use these differences as a weapon against each other.
In time, my husband and I drew closer as a couple. As we continued to build our family, we were able to heal in certain ways. Still, there's always an element of grief for us – like a phantom limb. That grief informs our family in lots of different ways. For instance, we have come to understand that absence can amplify presence. It's a tough lesson, and certainly not one people would ever choose. And still, there it is.
As the years go on, I speak of our struggles less and less. My husband and I also talk less and less about our loss, specifically. But we both inhabit the space that baby left us in different ways. We have both come to understand it as much as we ever will.
Families who lose children often build a narrative to explain it. The scaffolding of those narratives may be similar, but they will never be identical – even between the grieving couple. There is beauty in this, like gazing upon different facets of the same diamond – hard and gleaming. You will not always see the same thing. But, you will see, that's okay.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.