WW29 March 15, 2017: Myth 5 – “Is it True That Parents who Lose Children Always get Divorced?”

Wednesday Wisdom Series: Myth #5 – “Is it true that parents who lose children always get divorced?”
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Here is your bi-monthly Wednesday Wisdom series from the Family Assistance
Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of
traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written
and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D. and distributed by the Family
Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., fafonline.org. Reprint is available
with written permission from the Foundation. 

Myth #5 – "Is it True That Parents who Lose Children
Always get Divorced?"

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“And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief.” 
― William Cullen Bryant, Poet & Journalist (1794-1878)

According to a study published by Bereavement magazine, only 9% of parents
divorced after the death of a child. This research confirmed the findings of a very
large study conducted by the Compassionate Friends support group and published
in 1999.  Researchers found that not only did the couples remain together, many of
those studied reported that death of their child resulted in a closer relationship.

Foundation interviews with parents who have lost children in sudden, unexpected
tragedies support these scholarly research findings.  Our interviews also show that
additional stress is placed on couples when family and friends tell them that divorce
is a fait accompli. For example, in 2005, this author interviewed survivors of three
terrorist attacks on citizens of the United Kingdom. Included in the interviews were
three sets of parents whose children were killed in the tragedies.

The first question asked by all three couples during the discussion about the loss of
their child was if it were true they would lose each other because of their child’s
death. The grief they were feeling was intensified by the fear that this myth they
were hearing was true. The couples were greatly relieved to learn about the results
of the 1999 bereavement study which disproved the myth. These couples were
committed to each other, their families, and determined to stay together. As one
couple said, “Our children have lost enough with the loss of their sibling, they do
not need to lose their family unit too.”

In cases where couples divorced after the loss of a child, interviews showed
that problems and issues they faced before the child’s death exacerbated the
grief and contributed to the divorce, but the child’s death alone was not considered
to be the cause of the divorce. Foundation interviews have also shown that
couples who have strong spiritual beliefs, seek counseling, and share core values
are more inclined to remain together under all stress, and grief is no exception.
Attending support groups where they share experiences with others and learn to
appreciate different styles of coping as well as learn to respect different ways of
expressing grief have been identified as important by many parents in their
ability to adjust to loss of their children, while maintaining their marriages.  

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Those who provide leadership and training to family assistance and Care Team
members should continuously share fact-based information such as this to dispel
myths that are harmful to people who are already suffering.  In training others,
it is important to question and validate what is being taught. We often find the basis
to be nothing more than what someone read somewhere or heard someone else say.

© 2017 Higher Resources, Inc./Aviem International, Inc.
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