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...The number of marriages that fail is considerably less than 20 percent.

Divorce and Death of a Child


Divorce and Death of a Child


Marriage Stress: After the Death of a Child, Six Tips to Survive the Loss as a Couple


By KELLY SONS



    While some couples don't make it through the loss of a child, many marriages actually survive the tragedy, statistics show. Only 16 percent of all couples that experience the death of a child get divorced. Less than half of those divorced reported the death of their child as a factor in the decision to divorce, according to studies by the parental grief support group “The Compassionate Friends” the nation’s largest bereavement organization.


“There is no question in my mind that the number of marriages that fail is considerably less than 20 percent,” said Wayne Loder, public relations coordinator for Compassionate Friends and father of two children who were killed in a car accident. "We have learned that while the death of a child can strain a marriage it doesn’t usually end in divorce. Most married couples that experience this kind of devastation pull together and some even become stronger."  

Loder credits the bond that is created between the couple who has lost a child. But that doesn't mean there aren't challenges for married couples facing the pain of that loss while trying to maintain a family. Among the issues: how to parent their other children, blame and guilt they may feel themselves or toward their partner or anger because of the loss. It can take two years to begin to heal. Each couple has a different time frame.

“Many factors play into the final effect a child’s death has on a marriage," Loder said.

Charlotte M. Mathes, psychoanalyst and member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, said a grieving parent may feel unable to deal with the emotional roller coaster of losing a child. She advices couples struggling with a child's death to consider these tips:

1. REALIZE THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO GRIEVE.
Even if a specific practice or ritual seems very therapeutic and affords one spouse great comfort, it may have the exact opposite effect on the other spouse, causing more sadness. “Grieving differently and being unable to acknowledge or understand the other spouses grief causes the most problems in a marriage," Loder added.

2. ACCEPT THAT CHANGE IS INEVITABLE AFTER THE DEATH OF A CHILD.  
Responsibilities and routines may change in areas of life related to the lost child but in many other aspects as well Rhonda Hartman, a single mother of three, who lost one of the children, a son, days after his birth, explained; “I couldn’t handle the changes after Bastion’s death. We had to move from the home I’d been pregnant in and I couldn’t understand how I could be expected to do that. Why didn’t people understand?”


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