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
This article from the Journal of Family Psychology studied a variety of stressors that those who lose a child undergo:
It does indicate a higher degree of marriage problems than the control group.
Having lost a 13-year-old to an accident, I can tell you that this generally does place a strain on the marriage. My wife and I are divorcing after three years of conflict.
Our grieving styles were completely different. I wanted to talk about our daughter and make a memorial web site; my wife initially blew up at me for anything, especially if it had to do with taking care of our daughter’s funeral, conversations with the coroner or police, probate court, etc. She then held her feelings in, and wouldn’t mention our daughter.
I felt abandoned, and in my weakened state, eventually started avoiding her (in part to avoid getting yelled at if I brought up anything about our daughter).
Both partners are weakened by the death of a child; it seems intuitive that this wold lead some marriages to divorce, unfortunately.
I.lost my 24 yr old son to suicide almost 5 yrs ago. His dad and I found him in his bedroom in our home. He used a high powered rifle. The physical graphics were horrible and still haunt me. I dont get out of bed, shower, cook or clean anymore. My husband and I seldom have sex. I feel like my life ended that day too.
Thank you, Sandy. After a discussion at work, I decided to research this topic because it was stated by two attorneys (we claim to know it all) that the number one reason for divorce is loss of a child. I had NEVER heard this statistic. As a matter of fact, not one list in my research shows loss of a child in the top ten reasons for divorce. Thank you for clearing this up this myth.
Wow, the movie Collateral Beauty mention a number as high as 96%. Thanks for sharing
Wow, the movie Collateral Beauty mention a number as high as 92%. Thanks for sharing