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Impact on the couple and loved ones

Moving through grief

Your relationship

The loss of a child often becomes a source of strife within the couple’s relationship. The rhythm of each person’s grieving process often doesn’t match and their emotional reactions can be very different from one another. The way they respond to their grief can bring them closer together or push them further apart.1

Dealing with bereavement is a source of significant stress, which can lead to tension and arguments. Nevertheless, very few couples separate after the loss of their baby. On the contrary, many people find that this ordeal has brought them together and made them stronger.

It is helpful to keep in mind that everyone adapts to grief in different ways given their personality and past experiences, and the attachment to the baby is not necessarily experienced in the same way by everyone involved.

Women often need to share their emotions and talk frequently about the baby, and they seek out support from their spouse and friends1.  Men tend to conceal their grief, distract themselves, and suppress their feelings in order to support their spouse and stay active.

It can be hard to open up about your emotions and understand what the other person is experiencing. In order to avoid misunderstandings, we encourage you to express your feelings. For example, you can schedule moments to talk together about your baby and communicate how you feel.

It is also recommended that you try to balance your expectations of each other. In order to do this, you need to know how each other is feeling and what each other’s needs are. This means sharing your needs with your spouse without waiting to be asked what they are, especially as they invariably change over time. And remember the importance of respecting the speed at which each of you is moving through the grief.

Your sexual intimacy with your partner may also be impacted. In addition to the physical consequences of childbirth or caesarean section (pain, bleeding, etc.), resuming sex can be difficult because:1

  • It reminds you of the death of your baby
  • You feel a decrease in sexual desire
  • You think that you shouldn’t experience any pleasure while you are in mourning
  • You fear that another pregnancy will occur and you don’t want to lose another child

It is important that you discuss your fears and talk about your feelings around intimacy. (See the Sexuality and Contraception sections).

Loved ones

Grandparents rejoiced upon hearing the news of the pregnancy and prepared to welcome the baby into their lives, so they will also be grieving the loss of the grandchild they were anticipating. And if this was their first grandchild, they will not just be mourning the loss of a family member they never got to know but also the loss of their roles as grandparents.

As your parents, they want to be able to ease your suffering. However, this isn’t a situation they can make go away; everyone has to go through a grieving process. This might make them feel helpless or even uncomfortable with the situation.

It can help your parents to see the baby, if they wish. In offering this experience and perhaps a memento or photo of their grandchild, you will acknowledge their grief and help them move through it. 

Friends close to you can also feel a lot of pain. Some will be very compassionate, others will seem indifferent by avoiding the subject. Most of the time, these people are just feel helpless in the face of your sadness and are uncertain if reminding you of the event by talking about it will be an unwelcomed reminder that will revive your pain.

In this situation, it can be helpful for your loved ones if you express what you feel and guide them about whether or not you need to talk about your baby’s death. For example, do not hesitate to tell them that expressing yourself is good even if it makes you cry.

It is possible that your parents and your loved ones will try to console you with comments that are sometimes hurtful, that show a failure of imagination. If this happens, we encourage you to tell them that those words don’t help. You can suggest that they consult the section “How to help bereaved parents.”

Organizing a farewell ceremony with loved ones is a great opportunity to create a moment for everyone, not just parents, to express and share their pain with each other.


Questions addressed in this video:

  • How do you stay connected when a spouse returns to work?
  • What are the risks of separation during perinatal bereavement?
  • How does perinatal bereavement affect grandparents?

1 Chan, A. (2011). Décès et deuil périnatal. Québec : INSPQ. Repéré à www.inspq.qc.ca

About this page
Updated on 12/10/2019
Created on 11/7/2019
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