Most relationships come under pressure with the loss of a loved one and the overwhelming grief after the death of a child can drive couples apart as much as it can bring them together. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone is different and grieves differently. What might be right for another person or family, may not be right for you.
"My husband felt the need to be strong for me and thought it was important to encourage me to match this by trying to focus on the future and carry on. I found it hard to see this as grief at all. Ultimately, after pushing our marriage to the very brink, we were able to find a way to be more understanding of each way of grieving and support each other to become stronger as a married couple."
Sarah, who lost her son Tristan. Read Sarah's story.
Your grief can sometimes make it harder to see your partner’s pain, especially if they have different ways of dealing with the grief. Your partner might want to go back to work, while you cannot even get out of bed. You might cry all the time, while your partner has barely shed a tear. These different physical and emotional responses can sometimes cause tension.
Some parents have told us that they found it difficult to handle their partner’s lack of tears and visible distress. It is easy to misinterpret this as them not caring or feeling less than you. But try to respect your differences and not read too much into them.
"I went to my son's memory box about a month after his death and noticed things had been moved. I was upset, until I realised that my husband had done it. It wasn’t MY sons memory box it was OUR son’s memory box. It showed me that he was hurting too and we were on the same page. It opened my mind to his feelings."
Lucy, who lost her son Jude. Read Lucy's story.
On the other hand, some people may find it difficult to see their partner cry or sob uncontrollably if this is something they have never done before.
All of the above reactions are normal. Try to remember to be kind to each other and never expect too much. Communication is key, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
We have more information about coping with grief after a stillbirth.
Going back to work
It can be difficult when one of you goes back to work as this can sometimes feel like things are going back to ‘normal’.
If you’re recovering from the birth and not working, you may feel abandoned and that your partner has ‘moved on’ and forgotten about the baby. But your partner may feel that they can’t cope with the extra stress of work but has no other option. They may even feel resentful that you have more time off from work to grieve and recover.
Just because life goes on and you have to get back to your normal routine, doesn’t mean the grief stops. Allow yourself time at the weekends and in the evenings to grieve.
Read more about going back to work after a stillbirth.
"At Rhianna’s funeral, I completely leaned on Mr L. I didn’t think about who he leaned on. His daughter died too. He wiped his tears, to let mine flow. He stood up tall, to stop me falling. He smiled his smile, while mine died away. He told people, when I had nothing to say… He just kept me going, making sure I was strong enough. Strong enough for every moment, every hour, every day. He never ever asked for help. But his daughter died too. His baby died too. He lost his baby. Not just me. His heart was and is broken too. So if there is any advice I can give anyone who has a friend or a family member who has lost their baby, it is one thing, and one thing only… Don’t forget the daddies, they lost their baby too."
Kerry, who lost her baby Rhianna Lily. Read Kerry’s story.
Sex and intimacy
Sex and pregnancy are inextricably linked. You may feel terrified at the thought of getting pregnant again. And for some people, sex may become very mechanical as you want to get pregnant again as soon as possible. Try to talk about how you’re feeling and be open and honest.
Try to remember that sex after any pregnancy, whatever the outcome, is different. Your body can change and you’ll need to take time to recover from the physical effects of the pregnancy and birth.
Read more about trying for another a baby after a stillbirth and being pregnant after a stillbirth.
Intimacy is hard to get right and knowing how to read someone is a skill. After the loss of a child, it can be even harder to read each other’s moods as you might crave comfort rather than sex. But these feelings often come back. Try to be kind to each other and recognise that things can take time.
It is not unusual to have some sexual problems in the first few months. Everyone and every couple is different. One of you might have a strong desire to have sex, as a way to comfort and show your love for your partner, while the other may have no desire at all.
Try to talk about how you feel. Bereavement is usually associated with a depressed feeling that diminishes the libido for a while. It might return at different times for you.
Be kind to each other
The most important thing is to be kind, gentle and patient. Try to understand that your partner is not you and although you’re sharing this grief, you will feel it in different ways.
Think about talking to people outside your relationship so that they can offer you support, perhaps in different ways.
"If one of you needs to talk more than the other, talk to your friends. Some days will be harder but that leaves the fact that some days will be easier."
Lucy, who lost her son Jude. Read Lucy's story.
One of our supporters used her blog as a way to express some of her feelings. It meant she could show posts to her partner, without voicing some of the more difficult emotions and give him the time and space to understand how she was feeling, before reacting. It helped them a lot. Sometimes talking and sharing is all you need – someone to simply listen to you and not try to fix the problem.
When the initial period of the funeral and activity is over, don’t forget to continue to be kind and forgiving. The grief will not go away, and being patient and understanding with each other through it will bring you closer instead of letting it push you further apart.
"The best advice we had from our bereavement midwife very early on was to be kind to each other. And I think that really helped us to cope. We did grieve in different ways and often found that when one person was feeling very sad the other was feeling a little stronger on that day."
Kathryn, who lost her son Arthur. Taken with permission from the book, ‘Life After Stillbirth’ by Sarah Smith.
Read more about emotional support after a stillbirth.
Getting more support
If you find that you’re struggling to understand each other and resolve any tensions or arguments, it might be helpful to talk to a professional.