Your relationship as a couple after the loss of a baby
The grief of a couple who has lost a baby is shared on many levels. It is important to remember, however, that both you and your partner are individuals who may experience different feelings and have different needs during this difficult time. The feelings experienced after a baby has died are very complex and can be affected by many factors such as the baby's gestational age, how attached each of you had become to the baby, how vividly you imagined your future with this child, your feelings about becoming a parent, and your experiences with loss. Emotions may range from concern for your partner, to mild sadness that the pregnancy has ended, to major grief and loss.
As a couple, this shared experience may strengthen your relationship and bring you closer together. However, it also has the potential to put a strain on your relationship, especially if you were dealing with difficult issues before this loss. The following suggestions are offered to help you and your partner support one another as you work through your grief both as individuals and as a couple.
- Recognize that your feelings may be very different from your partner's and remember that you and your partner may work through the grieving process in different ways and at different rates. Try to support one another, even if you are experiencing different stages or levels of grief.
- Be honest with your partner about your feelings, even if the are different from his/hers.
- Accept and respect your partner's feelings, even if they are different from your own.
- Find time to be alone with each other to share your feelings.
- Don't try to hide your feelings from your partner in an effort to "spare" him/her.
There is no one right way to grieve.
You each may have had different hopes and dreams for the baby who has died. Sharing these dreams may help your partner gain a clearer understanding of your feelings.
In general, men and women grieve differently. Men tend to manage grief by working harder, playing harder, or a combination of the two. Women tend to want to talk about the experience. These two appropriate, yet different styles sometimes leave each member of the couple feeling lonely or misunderstood.
Although it is important to share openly and honestly with your partner, he/she may not be able to provide all of the support you need. Talking to other people such as family members, friends, a member of the clergy, a counselor, or someone who has had a similar experience may be helpful.
Be patient with yourself and each other.
You may experience differences in opinion as you talk about how to create remembrances of your baby. Try to talk through these differences and try to reach decisions with which you are both comfortable.
You may come to different conclusions as you search for meaning in your loss. Accept that your partner may have beliefs that differ from your own.
Your sexual relationship may be affected by the baby's loss. Sometimes, one partner finds the closeness of having sex comforting while the other does not. For some people, sex is a painful reminder of the baby's conception or delivery. Other times, both partners find comfort in having sex. Discuss your feelings about your sexual relationship and decide what feels comfortable for both of you. If one or both of you are not interested in having sex, physical comfort and affection can be offered in other ways such as hugs, kisses, back rubs, and hand-holding.
Be patient with yourself and with each other. If difficulties in your relationship feel too great to handle, consider seeking professional help such as couples' counseling.
As individuals and as a couple, the loss of your baby has changed your life in some way. This shared experience likely will change your relationship as well. Take the time you need to work through the questions, fears, and emotions that accompany your loss and to create positive memories of the baby who will always be an important member of your family.
Adapted from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.