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Featured this Month:

Marriage and Loss
Sunday, February 01, 2015 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
We like to hope that a profound loss like the suicide of ones’ child might help a couple to grow closer as they survive the loss together, but we know that some marriages have failed in the wake of such loss. What are the dynamics that might threaten the intimacy and safety of a marriage when a couple meets with profound grief?   Not only is each parent changed by the loss of the child, but the marriage is permanently altered.  New meanings and ways of life may be forged.   Each individual will journey through the agonizing and difficult feelings related to the loss, and each person will have to deal with how the other has changed.  Because families are systems, everything affects everything.  The balances that we achieve through roles and patterns of interdependence contribute to our identities and to the assumptions we form about life as we know it.  After the child’s suicide, this is all stripped away.  Each aspect of family structure is likely to be reconsidered as the survival work begins.  

With the overwhelming stressors, insecurities and needs experienced by parents bereaved by suicide, the individuals may not recognize themselves.  The marriage cannot be what it was before the loss.  Acute grief is likely to rob individuals of the energy, meaning and humor that previously supported the marriage in problem solving and day to day life.  Survival mode is often a holding pattern where the bare minimum is the only reasonable expectation for oneself.

You are likely to feel different or estranged from the old network of friends that previously helped you to feel refreshed and supported.  Even though millions of couples have had a child die, you may not know anyone who can be a resource to you.  Child suicide bereavement is unique due to the searching questions it generates and the stigma that accompanies it. And because not everyone may understand how to approach you, you may find yourself moving toward isolation.

Why do your perceptions of each other change?  The first months and even years of grief after a child’s suicide present unremitting pain, and pain leads to understandable defenses of self-absorption, impatience and inflexibility.  We may not be as generous in our views of each other.   Cognitive distortions due to lower self-esteem and depressive feelings can cast negativity on coping methods and an ability to be present to each other.  The way we carry out our roles at work, home and in the bedroom may be altered.  Relationships suffer as a result of the individual’s self-blame or blaming of each other at a time when you desperately need each other.

One mother and wife tried to explain the challenges her marriage experienced after the suicide of her college age son.  She said that the priorities in survival mode had to be a focus on her living children still at home.  This required energy that was often drained by the difficult work of grief.  She and her husband were equally devastated by the death, but their questions about their son’s life and death as well as their individual grief responses were very different.  As each person met with overwhelming anxiety and sadness, they could not always be there for each other when emotional reserves were depleted.  She recognized this as a huge change, along with a perception that there was little space within the grief process for the fun that her family enjoyed when her  deceased son was still with them.  “It got to where we were able to recognize when we could not be available to each other in crisis, so we would say, “I have nothing to give right now.”  She said that, as difficult as it was to hear this, they grew to understand the truth of the each other’s pain and resentment didn’t further divide them.

Over time, as a new normal becomes established, have faith that when loss changes everything, the possibilities for reconstruction include your marriage.  You conceived, shared and knew your deceased child together, and you may re-identify this bond as sacred.  Adults who engage fully with the grief process have spoken about a kind of surrender to the unknown, and bringing a new mindfulness to that which is essential and evolving.   That process, individual and together, allows for your survival and life reconstruction.


Archives:

Marriage and Loss
Sunday, February 01, 2015 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
We like to hope that a profound loss like the suicide of ones’ child might help a couple to grow closer as they survive the loss together, but we know that some marriages have failed in the wake of such loss. What are the dynamics that might threaten the intimacy and safety of a marriage when a couple meets with profound grief?   Not only is each parent changed by the loss of the child, but the marriage is permanently altered.  New meanings and ways of life may be forged.   Each individual will journey through the agonizing and difficult feelings related to the loss, and each person will have to deal with how the other has changed.  Because families are systems, everything affects everything.  The balances that we achieve through roles and patterns of interdependence contribute to our identities and to the assumptions we form about life as we know it.  After the child’s suicide, this is all stripped away.  Each aspect of family structure is likely to be reconsidered as the survival work begins.  

With the overwhelming stressors, insecurities and needs experienced by parents bereaved by suicide, the individuals may not recognize themselves.  The marriage cannot be what it was before the loss.  Acute grief is likely to rob individuals of the energy, meaning and humor that previously supported the marriage in problem solving and day to day life.  Survival mode is often a holding pattern where the bare minimum is the only reasonable expectation for oneself.

You are likely to feel different or estranged from the old network of friends that previously helped you to feel refreshed and supported.  Even though millions of couples have had a child die, you may not know anyone who can be a resource to you.  Child suicide bereavement is unique due to the searching questions it generates and the stigma that accompanies it. And because not everyone may understand how to approach you, you may find yourself moving toward isolation.

Why do your perceptions of each other change?  The first months and even years of grief after a child’s suicide present unremitting pain, and pain leads to understandable defenses of self-absorption, impatience and inflexibility.  We may not be as generous in our views of each other.   Cognitive distortions due to lower self-esteem and depressive feelings can cast negativity on coping methods and an ability to be present to each other.  The way we carry out our roles at work, home and in the bedroom may be altered.  Relationships suffer as a result of the individual’s self-blame or blaming of each other at a time when you desperately need each other.

One mother and wife tried to explain the challenges her marriage experienced after the suicide of her college age son.  She said that the priorities in survival mode had to be a focus on her living children still at home.  This required energy that was often drained by the difficult work of grief.  She and her husband were equally devastated by the death, but their questions about their son’s life and death as well as their individual grief responses were very different.  As each person met with overwhelming anxiety and sadness, they could not always be there for each other when emotional reserves were depleted.  She recognized this as a huge change, along with a perception that there was little space within the grief process for the fun that her family enjoyed when her  deceased son was still with them.  “It got to where we were able to recognize when we could not be available to each other in crisis, so we would say, “I have nothing to give right now.”  She said that, as difficult as it was to hear this, they grew to understand the truth of the each other’s pain and resentment didn’t further divide them.

Over time, as a new normal becomes established, have faith that when loss changes everything, the possibilities for reconstruction include your marriage.  You conceived, shared and knew your deceased child together, and you may re-identify this bond as sacred.  Adults who engage fully with the grief process have spoken about a kind of surrender to the unknown, and bringing a new mindfulness to that which is essential and evolving.   That process, individual and together, allows for your survival and life reconstruction.