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Tuesday
Oct142014

Couples dealing with the loss of a child

I get asked, time and time again by people working through the loss of a child about differences in the way men and women grieve.  Now, let's first acknowledge that there are no absolutes.  Some fathers will be much more open and apparent in their display of grief, while some mothers will be more reserved and show less emotion.  First and foremost it is important to say that no matter what way a person grieves, the grief is real, painful and at times overwhelming.  Just because someone doesn't cry, or you dont see them cry, doesn't mean that they aren't in extreme amounts of pain.

Loss, whether it be a child or anyone else of importance in life, takes  huge emotional toll.  It can change lives, cause lasting depression and shift relationships.  The loss of a child can be particularly difficult on couples.  There are several reasons for this.  One, partners often differ in how they grieve.  Men typically feel the need to "be strong" for their partners, thus not showing the emotion that they are feeling.  In turn, women may feel that they didn't care as much about the child, or the loss, as they do.  I see and hear this dynamic often.  For some couples this can create a wave of resentment.  The resentment can lead to communication issues, arguments and sometimes even divorce.  It is important for couples working through loss to communicate with each other about their feelings.  It is even more important for couples to stay away from assuming how the other person feels, or what a lack of emotion or an abudance of emotion means.  It is also important for each partner to stop and acknowledge that their partner is hurting too, but may not be showing it in the same way.

I often see and hear couples say things like "well he never cries or talks about the baby so I assume that he just forgot or no longer cares".  This is often the furthest thing from the truth, but like I always say emotion ALWAYS dominates logic, every single time.  Or "I feel like she never stops crying and I don't understand why she blames herself, even the doctor said she couldn't have done anything to prevent our loss".  Many women blame themselves for the loss of their child.  Even women who KNOW that the loss isn't their fault.  Its a natural part of the process of grief.  We like to have our "why" questions answered, even if it means blaming ourselves.

The loss of a child, or any grief, is often complicated and painful.  If you and your partner feel like you have gotten off track or are heading down a bad road due to loss, counseling can help.  Seek out a qualified counselor who treats couples and treats grief.  The sooner the better to help you both understand how to cope....together!

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