The impact of this devastating loss on your relationship cannot be underestimated. It will be a course in time with many challenges and the strength of your partnership will be tested. After a loss, the relationship may need more love, strength and patience than ever so you can continue to be each other’s primary supporter. While some relationships may fracture with partners withdrawing into their private grief experience, others believe that the survival of their loss has brought them closer together.
There are a number of risks and stress factors that can lead to damage within your relationship.
Varied grief: everyone experiences grief differently, in both expression and coping responses. Mothers and fathers may end up feeling isolated from or abandoned by each other due to the dramatic differences in the way they process and work through their grief.
Mothers often grieve more intensely due to their deep bonding with their baby. They have a stronger desire to talk about their baby, are more likely to cry with others, are preoccupied by their loss much longer, and are more likely to seek support.
Fathers usually seek solitude, are more concerned with supporting and protecting their partner from further pain, take less action to seek support and appear more active in their work.
Conflict: this can arise when the more affected partner (often the mother) perceives that the other partner isn’t as affected by their loss. Often one parent (possibly the Father) finds it difficult to cope with the intense grief that their partner is suffering. Either may feel they have lost the person that they knew/loved/married and may not be certain they can wait for them to return.
Recurrent loss: this may be occurring over a period of many years and taking a huge toll on the relationship. It takes monumental joint strength and hope to embark on yet another pregnancy.
Sexual: intimacy can suffer, through a fear of trying again, a loss of libido, a view of sex as a function of necessity or a fearful reminder of the loss.
Disorders: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive and panic disorders, as well as suicide have also been associated with thr trauma of loss.
How to heal together
Partners need to be able to grieve openly and honestly in each other’s company, especially at times surrounding a special anniversary. Hiding or burying your grief and pretending you’re fine may lead to loneliness, depression and anxiety, which are toxic for any relationship. It’s important to acknowledge issues if and when they occur and seek early support through professional counselling. This support may need to be ongoing depending on your grief journey.