By: Cathi Lammert
As my husband Chuck and I grieved the death of our son Christopher we discovered even more how important our relationship was to each of us. We had so many ups and downs while intensely grieving him. Even today 39 years later, Christopher is still missed and always loved.
As a couple we were fortunate to spend many years with other couples and/or one of the partners in the relationship at the Share support group meetings. Challenges, questions and growth during the grief journey with your partner were a main topic of discussion. These golden nugget suggestions of Growing Together are the result of our own personal thoughts and the numerous bereaved parents’ ideas shared with us to have healthy relationships over the years. I wrote this piece a couple decades ago when I was the Share Executive Director. Recently, I was asked if this could be shared once again online. I hope these suggestions help you in your healing, both individually and as a couple.
- Your relationship as a couple is so important. Let it take precedence over others.
- When a baby dies, the grief affects both of you at the same time. Therefore, your partner may not always be able to respond to you because he/she is trying to cope with their own grief.
- Each of you experienced the death of your baby but your grief will be different. You had both shared and individual (different) hopes and dreams for your baby. Sharing your lost dreams can give you some insight into each other’s feelings.
- Each person in the relationship will grieve in individual ways. Learning to understand your partner’s expressions of grief may take some time and may be difficult. Sometimes we work through our grief more in actions than talking.
- Words or answers are not always needed; just your listening ear may help.
- Remember that it takes time and communication to maintain a healthy relationship.
- Difficulties may arise in the best of relationships. This may be the first time you struggle with major differences of opinions. Keep working at communicating your emotional and physical needs.
- Your partner does not need to be your sole supporter. It is OK (and helpful) to share with someone close to you or a support group during this difficult time.
- Reading bereavement materials may help validate your feelings. It can also be a great source to initiate a discussion.
- It is OK to reach out for professional help, it is not a sign of weakness and is actually very common following the loss of a baby.
- There may be stresses on your intimate relationship. Communicate your feelings openly. Remember, human touch can be healing but may not indicate a readiness for another pregnancy.
- Each of you may need some privacy with your feelings. Respect and give each other that space.
- You may feel differently about the choices regarding memorializing your child. Talk about your differences and try to work out a compromise.
- You are not the same person you were before your baby died. It may take time to accept and understand the new person.
- Each of you will search for a meaning of your loss; one or both may turn to faith or spirituality, one or both may not.
- Your baby has given you many gifts, exploring those gifts may warm your heart. This could be new connections of support, friendship, strengthened or relationships.
- It is okay to enjoy life again. Your baby does not expect you to be sad all the time. Sharing laughter and tears together helps you to heal. Search for some relaxing things to do; it may help give you new perspective.
Chuck and I hope as you grieve your precious baby together you will find peace and hope and perhaps these ideas can give you some guidance and support. If you have any other suggestions that helped you on this journey please feel free to share them. If you are struggling in your grief or your relationship, please reach out to the Share office. The support and resources that they provide are invaluable.
About Cathi Lammert
For nearly four decades Cathi has been involved in the perinatal bereavement field. She has combined her experience as a bereaved parent since the death of her son Christopher at 4 days old with her professional obstetrics nursing career in her work. She served as National Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support’s Executive Director (1992-2013) and Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance (PLIDA) Founding Co-President, then another term as president and additional terms as a board member. She has been involved internationally in the perinatal bereavement field as an author, conference planner, consultant, contributor to position statements and articles, educator, not for profit management, support group management and most of all as a parent advocate. She believes the cornerstone of her commitment to this especially important work is time she has been privileged to spend with those who lives are touched by the death of a precious baby. They have been her best teachers.