Divorce and Death
Many of us have heard for years the disturbing statistic that married couples who experience the death of a child may have a divorce rate after the death which is as high as 80 to 90%. The Compassionate Friends Organization has tried to confirm or refute these findings and although they have not been able to do either, they suspect the statistics we hear so often are erroneous.
In fact, after conducting a telephone survey, they found that 72% of the parents who were married at the time of their child’s death remain married to the same person after the death. They also found that of the remaining 28%, sixteen percent of the spouses had died, while the remaining 12% had ended in divorce. A percentage of those also claim the death of the child was not the main contributing factor to the divorce.
Regardless of the statistic of divorces, we know that approximately 228,000 children and young adults die each year (not including miscarriages or still births), and this represents thousands of parents who are grieving for the loss of their child.
Support following the death of a child
Studies indicate one of the best ways to protect your marriage after the death of a child is get the proper support. Friends and family were cited as the most helpful support networks. In fact, over 80% of parents said family and friends helped them. Next, approximately 62% of parents turned to co-workers for supported, followed by 60% who were able to turn to their church or clergymen and funeral homes.
Men and women are also likely to seek support from different sources. For instance, men are more likely to seek help from clergyman and funeral directors, while women turned to self-help books. Both men and women are less likely to seek help from the internet, support groups or counselors.
By far both men and women who turned to their family were most satisfied with their support, while grieving parents often complained that their employers could have been more helpful by providing more flexible work schedules, better acknowledgement of the grief and more support through verbal and material recognition such as flowers and cards.
What we do know is the death of a child is devastating. Whether it’s a young mother who delivers a stillborn baby or a 90 year old mother losing her 60 year old daughter to cancer it is traumatic for every parent. Parents recognize the death of a child prior to the parent’s death seems unnatural. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children.
Whether a child’s death increases the risk of divorce or not, the most important issues to consider after a death is not whether your marriage is doomed but rather what you need to do to heal. The most important thing to understand is how to communicate with your spouse.
All parents grieve differently and need different types of support to heal. Clearly all of us who are friends and relatives of grieving parents can offer a listening ear and be a good friend because that’s what they need the most.
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