After listening to couples who have experienced the death of a child, one common thread that seems to appear is - “Their entire lives have been changed.” So of course it does not surprise me to hear they are having difficulties with intimacy and sexual relations after the death of their child.
These changes may last for months and for some couples they may even last for years. You may feel as if you have no interest for anything- let alone something that requires commitment and energy.
The death of a child for a young couple may be the first grief encounter they had to face together. A marriage not yet mature enough to withstand such a test could be pushed to its limits and may not hold up.
The death of a child can strain even long term marriages. Older couples most often will not get the sympathy that younger couples will receive. The lack of support is very common for seniors who themselves may be facing uncertain futures and perhaps added health concerns.
Have you ever dropped a fragile glass on a ceramic floor- the glass will shatter into hundreds of pieces and each particle is so sharp and has the ability of cutting us no matter how carefully we try to pick up the pieces. So it is with the loss of a child- Often a marriage is so fragile and broken after the death of a child that every act of kindness towards each other is a great effort and can be painful.
For some couples the expression of intimacy is in touching, hugging, kissing and holding and not going any farther. If that is all you can handle for right now it is OK. Many couples find comfort in holding each other without any sexual acts. For others it is the opposite and they crave intimacy and sex. This just reinforces the fact that each person grieves their own way and no two couples grieve in the same way.
It is obvious that men and women think differently about intimacy and sex. Women may completely turn off the need for physical contact and a man may not – and this can happen in the reverse as well.
It is well to keep in mind that both of you have changed and you are not the same people you were before that death of your child. Your life is full of chaos, you are unable to work, sleep or eat as before the death. You may also be finding it difficult to comfort each other and respond to each other’s needs and wants.
For some couples marital relations continue as before the death of their child, but life is experienced in a new way. Your relationship has a more meaningful flavour. The emotions you are feeling will be expressed in different ways, but a common thread is through tearful eyes.
Often it is good to give each other both time and space to recover from grief, however maintaining some tenderness and affection without pressing the other partner to engage in sexual acts. Focus on the positive things that brought you together in the first place. Focus on the beautiful memories you have of each other and the reasons why you came together. You can survive this loss and you both will become stronger people because of your loving commitment to each other.
Hope lies deep within our souls. We need to reach deep into our hearts and find God's hope for a healing tomorrow.
If you are grieving at this time and you would like to share your story or comment on what you have read, I may be reached at the following numbers 1-306-621-9877 (9am-5pm) or at my home 1-306-728-4744 (evenings) Comments and articles may also be forward to me by mail.
Margaret Anne Yost nursed for 35 years, working mostly on medical floors. She has journeyed with many clients who were dying, and she tried to comfort their families during this difficult time. She has completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education.
Returning back to school she completed classes from the Red River College in the areas of Gerontology, Bereavement, Death and Dying. She was enrolled eight years in lay ministry training. At present, she enjoys her role at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Yorkton in the area of parish work. For the past ten years she has also been employed at Bailey’s Funeral Home working in the area of Continuing Care.
Comments and articles may be forwarded by mail to: Margaret Anne Yost, P.0. Box 554 Melville, Sask. S0A 2P0
Or phone 1-306-621-9877 (9 am-5 pm) or at home 1-306-728-4744 (evenings).