Grieving Couples

Grieving Couples

Keeping the relationship and communication when a close loved one dies 

Death and sex are two of the most taboo subjects that we as human beings find difficult to discuss.

Grief is stressful, exhausting, trawls through us in every which way and affects every area of our life,not least our relationships with those closest.Sometimes there is so much hurt that it’s scary to let it out, particularly if you want to be strong for your partner.

Many couples find it difficult to talk about their feelings in everyday life, let alone when they are grieving or facing the death of a close loved one .Often partners  tell me they don’t talk ,their loved one  refuses to listen, or makes  them feel rejected, unloved, alone and isolated even  angry.Being individuals it follows that the way that we grieve will be unique to us as individuals

Death can create divides between couples.Where there are already difficulties the problems can become magnified .Some people might  loose the desire for sexual intimacy after a death, whilst others look for intimacy as a comfort For some couples  sexual desire returns gradually, whilst for others it may take longer . One partner may be ready to initiate  sexual intimacy whilst the other may not feel ready and be unable to reciprocate

Sometimes one partner may want more intimacy than the other, this can lead to feelings of rejection and frustration, pressure and failure.
Some feel that any satisfaction or pleasure can only mean that they aren’t grieving enough.
Sometimes when the sexual relationship is not present the contact also stops and both partners can feel alone and isolated Understanding that we are all different and accepting that your partner will be feeling differently because we are all individuals, may be the first step towards healing the broken relationship.

If the death is that of a child ,There may be  longing for another child.The need to conceive becoming such a driving force that the pressure  creates anxiety, lack of interest ,frustration , resentment  and impotence.

The death of a close loved one in particular the death of a child can bring the couples relationship to it’s knees .The past may be revisited ,incidents in the past where you feel they have failed, let you down or not been a good parent. You may feel that you weren’t a good parent and feel angry with yourself. Most of all there will be anger at life itself for cheating you, for stealing away your precious child, and with him/her, your hopes, dreams, and future plans.

Whilst your world is so devastated and you may  feel unable to communicate to your partner you can feel isolated and if this continues, eventually, because of time moving on, unable to talk at all.

It may seem that everyone else in the family is doing ok and there can be a sense of having to pretend that you are ok too, whilst underneath inside you feel you are drowning, fighting desperately to function, keep things together. Grief can fester internally , then eventually, because it has to come out somewhere, it will and it can come out in many different ways.
Anxiety, Nightmares, Physical Pain, Depression, Self Hatred  ect etc.

Getting Grief Out

If you are unable to verbalise your feelings, writing can help to create a way of communicating. Sharing your feelings and talking to others that have experienced something similar can also be useful .Make a time just for you where you can think about your feelings, write them down, along with what you feel you need. Things that could help to make things feel a little less painful or more manageable. When you have done this think about one small thing that your partner could do for you that would make one small difference.

Keep it manageable, small, so that your partner won’t feel it is too much and so that you won’t feel you are putting on him or her. If you can both do this, you will find that a step can be made towards the bridge of exchange between you.

If you can talk maybe you could agree to go somewhere quietly together and to listen to each other in turn. Try not to compare your grief but to accept that you are different and so will be grieving differently. Grieving differently doesn’t mean you can’t share or be a comfort to each other even if you find some of your partner’s feelings difficult to understand, or make sense of, it is about listening, hearing each other and accepting how you both feel.

” I don’t want to talk “ This can sometimes mean I’m afraid……..

 “I Can’t talk because I’m afraid, I’m afraid that if I talk I will become unable to control or manage my emotions and I may be consumed by them.I might hurt those I love and I must protect everyone .I don’t know how to talk < I don’t know where to begin, I don’t feel safe what if it is just too unmanageable ?”


If anyone feels able to share their experience of how grief affects marriage /partnerships / relationships please get in touch    


If you feel in need of support  you’ll  find agencies and organisations that offer support for grieving couples on this website or contact your GP  (they may also offer a counselling support service ) you can  write to us for free on line support visit our support area for details
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