Written by Clara Hinton
Following the loss of a child, there is almost always a silence that places a rift between the communication of a husband and wife. For a period of time, tears seem to fall uncontrollably, especially from the mother of the child. Many husbands don’t know what to say, but they are very good about providing comfort in the first few weeks following child loss just by being a good listener for their wife.
After the first month or so, most men seem comfortable with the idea of moving beyond the tears and constant thoughts of the loss of the child. They are ready to get back to a more normal routine with living. And, in all truthfulness, husbands begin to long for the wife they had before child loss. They long for things to be like they were before.
Husbands like to see make-up and combed hair. They long to see their wives with a happy, positive smile. Husbands like to come home to a cooked meal, and find a wife who has energy and enthusiasm for living again. It gets depressing to hear about the loss of the child brought up in every conversation, and a man will often tell his wife that he is tired of listening.
A mother, on the other hand, often deals with several different kinds of grief all at the same time. She will grieve on a different level than her husband, and very often she will grieve at a much slower pace. Because a woman tends to be more social, she will want to talk incessantly about the loss. Talking about the loss seems to give a woman great comfort. She wants to tell her story to anyone who will listen. She especially likes to talk to her husband about the child.
What happens when communication between husband and wife shuts down? Clara Hinton discusses this topic at length in the book Silent Grief. The rate of divorce is very high for couples who have lost a child. A lot of the break ups can be attributed to this breakdown in basic communication between a husband and wife. It is so hard when both the husband and wife are grieving at the same time, but not grieving together!
It helps to remind yourself often that men grieve in a much different way than women. That does not at all diminish a father’s grief. Keep in mind that men are “fixers”. They are used to being in charge. Nothing knocks you off balance quicker than child loss. A father may be consumed with feelings of failure and self-doubt when a child dies. In his mind, he should have been able to fix the problem, but nobody is able to “fix” child loss.
What should a wife do when her husband will no longer listen to her? As hard as it is, she should attempt to seek her support elsewhere and allow her husband to grieve in his own way. There are support groups available, usually in every major hospital or city. Check with your pastor or doctor’s office for places to seek encouragement and support.
More than anything, don’t take your husband’s lack of desire to listen as a way of saying he doesn’t care. You can be very sure that your husband is grieving, but he will grieve the loss in his own way. By granting a mutual “grief respect”, both a husband and wife can have the freedom to grieve without the pressure to please. Healing can finally begin!