When tragedy struck in your life you imagine the person that will understand you the most and will deal with pain and grief in the same way you do is your partner. Being him your child's father as you are your child's mother, you cannot imagine that he might be drifting completely on the opposite way.
This whole experience can either make you stronger or destroy you.
At the beginning, when we got our diagnosis he was the only person I could bear next to me, the only one who could cheer me up. He turned himself into a super-hero and literally recollected every piece of me from the ground when I just wanted to die.
After some weeks he couldn't bear seeing me so broken, he wasn't understanding what I was doing and why in the world I was doing certain things (crocheting for Ida and making her a memory box). With my mum's help and his amazing heart he understood and he accepted me, actually supporting me in what I was doing.
Then again, he was almost angry seeing me in the bed saying it seemed I didn't look like trying to feel better and maybe he was right. I wanted just to feel miserable how miserable was my loss. He couldn't bear anymore listening to me talking about her, it was too painful for him and utterly distressing, he admitted later he dreaded not to be able to talk about anything else with me rather than our lost daughter.
I understood our grief journey needed to take different ways and that I had to work out how to deal with those painful differences in dealing with our daughter's death in order to safe our couple. Our relationship had to survive this.
In the book Empty Cradle Broken Heart, Deborah Davis writes:
'It is normal to have a closeness at the beginning and then drift apart after into own grief. You may seem to you that you will walk similar paths, that you can talk freely about your baby without raking up your partner’s pain, but often this is not true. This is not for lack of effort or caring, but simply that your grief demands that you grieve accordingly rather than trying to match up to something that doesn’t fit.'
I agreed with him I would've talk less about Ida with him and that I would've bank on other people part of my support network, my mother and very few virtual and non-virtual friends. I also decided I would try to force myself in standing up from my bed and trying to be more sociable and happy when people where around me in the house, to make Jonas' super hero mode easier for him. This brought us to a quieter precarious peace, but also brought us more and more apart. I was less and less eager to share my feelings with him and to stay around him. We both noticed this couldn't work and we talked more about what we were feeling and what we needed from ourselves and from each other. We both reassured we wanted our couple to survive, we would have never give up on each other and we would have survive this as a couple.
'If sharing thoughts and feelings lessens the pain for one of you but burdens the other, what you can share is a mutual respect and concern for the other. Check in and talk about what you’re looking for in terms of support and agree that you don’t have to get everything you need from each other. It is perfectly reasonable for you to reach out to other people and use other resources.'
Jonas supports me by just letting me do whatever I need to do. At the same time I work on my gratitude and my healing, for him, for Ida, for our couple, one day I will be able to do it for myself as well. I try to avoid triggering conversations with him, but over the weeks he's less and less triggered by her memory. He's less scared of my intense grieving that now comes and goes like waves, he's just there for me reassuring and cuddling me.
I support Jonas by letting him do whatever his activity-oriented style of grieving requires him to do. At the same time he's more and more accepting the reality, my feelings and my style of grieving. Sometimes he's the one opening conversation about Ida. He feels accepted, he feels less and less he's grieving the wrong way. I reassure him about the possibility to have quality couple time together nonetheless our tragedy. We laugh together, we enjoy intimacy and going out even just me and him.
When you grieve very differently from your partner it is very hard to empathize or accept the other. That’s why one of the most important strategies for your relationship is to find support outside it.
The keys to survive this together are:
If you are a father, it may be helpful to know that 'a mother is focused on the loss of relationship with the baby and she tries to maintain connections. So mothers can be immensely comforted by partners who can simply share the fact that they think about the baby too'.
If you are a mother, it may be helpful to know that 'Many fathers are focused on the loss of purpose, trying to regain a sense of mastery and meaning. He may feel supported by being able to have alone time and not being pressed to talk about it.'
If both of you want your relationship to survive this tragedy and you both commit to this, your relationship will survive.
Ida Saoirse Scherer,
our first baby girl, who was born and died at 16+5 weeks on the 30th November 2017.
Resources about Termination for Medical Reasons
Sister-friend Emily writing for her first son Amari Regan (Fragile X Syndrome)
Katrina's blog for her second daughter April Rey (Trisomy 13)