9 Tips for Strengthening Your Marriage After Loss

9 Tips for Strengthening Your Marriage After Loss

“Grief knits to hearts in closer bonds than happiness can; and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys.” Alphonse de Lamatrine

In the case of my husband and me, I hope this is true! The loss of a child can mean so many things to so many different people, from family, friends, and the community it is a sad time, a tragedy, and just down right unfair, but it seems that they all going back to their normal lives as they did before the world stopped for us parents. To us, the loss of our daughter and son has meant a loss of our own lives, devastation to our other children, and as a mother I lost that connection that was attached to me in utero for 9 months, part of my own flesh, my own blood, my world and in some cases can even mean losing your marriage. Talk about two tragedies colliding at the same time.

When we had to bury our daughter Kaydence (she was born sleeping), we took the grief as a bond that tied us together, because we knew how the other felt. God chose to take her from us in utero, for whatever reason he did! I followed all the pregnancy rules and guidelines, did everything by the book and yet our precious daughter was born asleep. We both learned to except that even though the situation was so unexpected and tragic for us we grieved together and held each other close during that horrifying situation that God laid before us!

From my standpoint (and I can only speak for me) the loss of Drew has made more of an impact on my marriage than anything else God could put on it! The magnitude of his passing has put tension on our everyday living. Not because we don’t love each other, but because men and woman tend to grieve differently and it is hard for the spouse to except ones stage of grieving while they are feeling the grief at a completely different level!

Woman tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves, want to talk openly about him, the loss, and their over all feelings while men tend to be more closed off and withdrawn. This can cause friction and tension between the married couple, because they don’t understand how each other can grieve the way they do. In any situation when a loved one dies, no matter what the relationship is to the deceased no two people grieve the same way…Andy and I have found this to be true in our case.

From my own experience, I have found that the normal (using that word lightly, because unsure of what that really is anymore) daily routine has become such a battle each day. Things that use to be little easy task now seem to be like climbing a mountain, which is part of my grieving process and depression issues…that is hard for Andy to understand, because he is able to function normally, maybe over function to keep his mind busy, but those two different ways of grieving is what cause the tension. Trust me there are many other everyday issues that can cause problems, but the grieving difference is the main issue for marital problems in our lives today.

Here are some helpful ways to improve your marriage and not become a statistic, because the percentage of divorce rate after losing a child is at a shockingly high 80%, which is totally outrageous.

1. Talking about your child

Talking about your child/baby/pregnancy.  Talk to each other about the special moments that you experienced together, such as your first Ultrasound, hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, feeling the first kicks, and little hiccups.  Babies first smile, giggle, and sweet baby smell!  Encourage others that it is ok to say your child’s name.  You may cry, remember the good times and laugh, you may not want to talk at that time, but at least they acknowledged your precious Angel as a life and that everyday you think of your child as if they were right there with you!  As hard has it is, you need to not dwell on the child’s death but rejoice the time you did have him or her in your life no matter how short!

2. Give each other space and time to grieve differently

Chances are you and your spouse/partner will not be in the same stages of grief at the same time, which can be difficult on the marriage.  In our experience, he would go through an acceptance stage while I was in the depressive state.  He had a hard time understanding that I would cry and not want to get out of bed, where as I could not understand how he seemed to be happy and moving on.  That would cause conflict in our marriage, as it was very hard to communicate with each other on a calm and rational level.  The best thing that we found was to kind of give each other their space to grieve in their own way.  He would go out and work on the farm with his dad or going out to the building to tinker with stuff.  That was his way of dealing and if that helped him that was great.  I got my space by taking pictures and writing and that made me feel better and then at the end of the night we could share those things together.

3. Talking to friends about your relationship

Talking about your relationship with friends and family is very helpful, especially other that may have been through the same or similar situation so that you can see that you are not alone in your feelings and maybe they have some tips on how to improve your relationship.  There are dangers in this though, never let the person you are confiding in be of the opposite sex, due to being at a low point in your life and the person you are talking to will lift your spirits and make you start to have feelings that are inappropriate and may lead to an affair.  It is best to still share all your hopes, dreams, and feelings with your partner so that you don’t lose that bond with them even if you are in different stages of the grief process.

4. Going off on your own

This can be for a few hours or a day. It may give you a new perspective. Don’t bring your spouse down or make them suffer with sarcastic comments or harmful accusations just because you feel miserable.

5. Review your day together

Sitting down if only for a few minutes at the end of the day is important. Talk with your spouse about what has happened that day, how you are feeling and what you are thinking. You will more than likely learn a lot about your partner during this period of your life.  Just try to keep it short and sweet so that you don’t get in to a long; heated conversation that may cause fighting.

6. Pleasing your spouse with activities he/she enjoys

Look for ways you can ease some of his/her pain. Do some activity with him/her that you don’t usually do but know the other would like you to do. Make a special meal that the other enjoys eating or do something related to your child that up until now you have not been able to do.  Come up with some meaningful ideas to give to your spouse or do for them that will help remind them of your child in a pleasant way.

7. Not blaming each other

Blaming each other will lead to feelings of resentment and bitterness towards each other and will just lead to verbal arguments or shutting your partner down will result in separation, divorce, or living the rest of your life extremely unhappy with your partner and your overall happiness with life in general.

8. Accepting the death through counseling

There are times when a professional counselor is needed to help relationship and therefore the entire situation. Sometimes counselors are used as a last resort, because one of you may be reluctant to go or pride may get in the way.  Others prefer to accept help immediately, knowing that whatever they say may be misinterpreted.  Counseling may not always work, but it is worth a try!

9. Turning to religion and god

Some couples tell you they couldn’t have made it without their faith. By going to a church or temple, they are comforted by words, prayers and God.  In my husbands case I know he relies fully on the strength of God, but for me that is a little harder to accept that God would take a child from me and why, that has shaken my Faith.  I still love God and believe what my religion has taught me about death, but I have not made that spiritual connection at this point like my husband has.

Photo credit: adapted from kumon | Flickr

What tips to you have to help keep your relationship healthy after loss?


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Janelle Elaine Knippen

Janelle Elaine Knippen has been married for 13 years to her wonderful husband Andrew (Andy). They have been blessed with 5 beautiful girls (1 in Heaven) and 1 amazing little boy who is now in Heaven after 4 short years of earthly life due to a tragic drowning accident. They have also had one miscarriage after a year and a half of trying to conceive and had some infertility issues as well.

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