Does the death of a child lead to divorce?
The death of a child is a tragedy no parent wants to think about, let alone face. Some parents cannot cope with the grief and that results in the death of a marriage leading to divorce.
Death of a child
Every parent’s worst nightmare is the death of a child. We expect our children to outlive us. It’s the way things are supposed to be right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen like this. Tragically, some parents have to experience the nightmare of the death of a child. As if this wasn’t bad enough, a high percentage of marriages end after the loss of a child. At a time when a couple should be leaning on each other for comfort and support, they actually many times fall apart. Some claim that 80-90% of all marriages end in divorce after the death of a child. Though this percentage is debated, the fact of the matter is that losing a child can be one of the most taxing events in a marriage.
Out of focus
When a couple welcomes a child into their life, the dynamics drastically change. Suddenly the focus is not completely on the couple alone, but also their growing family. Day to day life suddenly starts revolving around the child or children. Hopefully the couple still spends time working on their marriage, but most of the time is no doubt spent on the family as a whole. When a child passes on, the dynamics are changed again, but not in a positive way.
Suddenly the focus is not on the child anymore because the child is gone. Every aspect of the day that used to revolve around the child is now different. Also, every aspect of the day is a constant reminder; we used to feed him now, we used to go to the park as a family now, etc. The focus is completely different, and usually it’s unexpected and unprepared for. Couples no longer know what to do with their time and energy after the death of a child. The life they adjusted to and came to love is gone now.
Pulling away and struck with grief
Even if the couple can transition to the premature empty nest, they often pull apart instead of pulling together as they should for the health of their relationship. There are many reasons for this, but it basically comes down to not being emotionally strong enough to fulfill someone else’s emotional needs. Both parents are fragile after the death of a child. Both parents need someone to lean on– to deal with the grief.
Neither is strong enough to lean on each other and neither is healthy enough to be a crutch for the other. Thus, they pull apart instead of coming together. To avoid this, both parents should meet with a counselor or find someone they can talk to regularly to build their emotional strength. They should also try to not pull apart but come together. At the very least they should try to just stay where they are until they are stronger.
The blame game
One of the more unfortunate things that couples do in the event of the death of a child is to blame each other. Finding someone or something to blame during the course of the grieving process is completely normal and natural. We all yearn for an answer to all of our, “Why’s?” To fulfill these answers we find someone or something to blame our pain on.
It becomes disastrous to our marriage when we blame each other. Each parent is probably already taking some blame even if the death was completely out of their hands. I should have left the house sooner and I wouldn’t have gotten hit by that truck. Maybe if I had stayed home. What if I had taken a different route? These scenarios will go through a parent’s mind until they can finally see that they did nothing wrong.
Adding blame from the other spouse as well just exaggerates the grief. Why didn’t you see that truck coming towards you? Why didn’t you move? Why did you take that route? The resentment eventually builds up between the couple until all of the love that was once there has turned to hatred.
The final straw– divorce
More than likely, the reasons so many couples divorce after the tragic death of a child is not actually the death itself, but that the marriage wasn’t as strong as it appeared to be. A lot of marriages are strong enough to endure some slight rain, but not a storm. The death of a child isn’t the only factor in the end of the marriage; it is just the final straw. Also, a lot of people stay in a marriage simply for the children only. If the glue that held everything together is suddenly gone, there is nothing to hold everyone together.
The death of a child is tragic enough. The death of a child and the death of one’s marriage is beyond tragic. Instead of pulling apart, pull together. Instead of blaming, accept that some things are out of our control. Instead of just letting everything fall during this storm, how about riding it out for a while longer? Lastly, everyone who experiences the death of a child should seek some kind of professional counseling or grief support group. It is an unnatural life event and not something that people can handle alone.