by Sandy Fox
There is much controversy about the divorce rate following the death of a child. Some say that a great majority of couples divorce as their marriage falls apart after the death of their child. Others say it makes their relationship stronger. Still others say it was completely different problems that caused the divorce. What is the answer?
Like many myths, the high divorce rate one has snowballed way out of proportion. Harriet Schiff in 1977 (The Bereaved Parent) said that as high as 90 percent of all bereaved couples are in serious marital difficulty within months after the death of their child. She does not cite her source for this, and no one ever questioned her about it. So it became fact. Grief experts challenged the myth. By 1998 they said there was no evidence of higher divorce rates among bereaved parents.
Then in 2006 The Compassionate Friends commissioned a survey and one of the questions dealt with divorce. It was found that only 16 percent of the parents divorce after the death of a child and only 4 percent said it was because of the death…that there were problems in the marriage way before the child died.
This is not to say that there are not problems when a child dies. One of the biggest is that husbands and wives grieve differently. One may want to attend a support group, the other doesn’t. One couple in my book had a tough time with that but found that as long as they talked about their child together and kept the lines of communication open, that commonality saved their marriage and they both grew from it.
How a child dies can cause friction in a marriage. If parents start blaming each other for the child’s death, whether it is from anger or just misplaced blame, that can lead to marital stress and in turn, divorce. Couples have to make a commitment to want to stay together.
There is no doubt the strain placed on the marriage as a result of a death is high. Against all odds, many couples have found that their marriage grew stronger after the death of their child. They learned new coping techniques and they had a great desire to move on with their lives while never, never forgetting their child.
I, personally, have learned through my tragedy important lessons that many other singles or couples learn. My compassion for others is much deeper now, and I have a genuine desire to help others; hence, my work with bereavement conferences, speaking to groups and writing my book and blog. As tragic as the death of a child may be, we can all grow and learn more about ourselves and life in general.
Seeking professional help after the death of a child is a good way to learn to understand where you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life. Do not think that your relationship is doomed to failure because of the death and that you will just become a statistic. This is a long and arduous journey but one worth taking in order to save your marriage and have a good relationship with each other.
Sandy’s book “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-bye,” 25 courageous stories of how bereaved parents have moved on with their lives is available at Centering.com, Barnes and Noble.com or Amazon.comTags: grief, hope