Grieving as a Couple

BY: Monica Coreman, MA, PCC-S

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

Grief is difficult enough to cope with when it happens to one person, but going through it as a couple can cause even more complications. Grieving the loss of a child is one of the most difficult deaths a couple can endure. The strain it places on a marriage can be intense. An otherwise healthy couple may appear close to divorce because of the cycle of fighting, feelings of isolation, loneliness, and separation that follows such a loss. On the other hand, some couples may become closer in their grief. Their relationship actually grows stronger through their shared pain and vulnerability.  

Everyone grieves differently. If a husband has difficulty looking at pictures of a deceased child because of the flood of emotions it brings, he may want to avoid seeing these reminders. When his wife finds comfort in these same pictures and wants them displayed so as not to forget the young son who died so quickly from the aggressive cancer, problems can arise.

The death of a parent and in-law is another example of a couple's grief. It affects both partners. The spouse of the bereaved may feel powerless to help or may even feel shut out. The griever may become quiet, sad or cry more often. This can continue for several months after the death. The partner may be grieving too, but perhaps not as intensely and most likely differently. It is frustrating for both when the partner does not know what to say and feels unappreciated when trying to offer support. Intimacy is also often affected by grief, and that change can leave both people in the relationship feeling isolated or alone. So what can you do?

 Honor your partner's grief, wherever they are in their grief process.
  • If extra support is needed, help your partner identify someone to talk to (a friend, clergy, or therapist).
  •  Take time to communicate with each other, be honest about your feelings, and listen to what your spouse is saying even if you don't always agree.​
  • Block out time regularly to do something enjoyable as a couple. Yes, this may sound crazy in the midst of grief, but this renewed connection will help build intimacy and establish some sense of normalcy.
If you find yourself having difficulty grieving as a couple or know someone who is, call us at the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center at 216.486.6838. We're here to help support your grief as an individual or as couple. You don't have to grieve alone.

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