How to make a relationship work after losing a child

Positivevibes asks: The last 2 years have been a rollercoaster for me and my partner. We have been together for 3 years. All started off well – he has a 9-year-old son, and after we met I soon fell pregnant with our daughter. We found out she had a heart condition that was serious and affected her daily life. In the first 3 months of her life I ended up with postnatal depression as I found things difficult, and me and my daughter went in to a mother and baby unit. After I got better we soon settled in to being back home all together. Then when she was 8 months, my partner became unwell with bowel cancer. And when our daughter was one she went in for open heart surgery and was touch-and-go for 3 months. Remarkably she pulled through. During this my partner underwent chemo so it was a heart breaking time for all of us. In March they both were on the mend and things settled. But by this time, my partner and I were hardly ever intimate. Then, in September, our daughter died. We are both struggling with this. I do understand that his feelings are all over the place, but we have not been intimate for months. He only cuddles me when we sleep, we barely talk, and he only says “I love you” if I say it to him. I have tried so many times to talk to him about it all, but he won’t talk. He just says he does not know what’s going on with him and shrugs. Every time I ask him I feel like we end up in an argument. I am really struggling. I have been trying to lay off the subject as I feel like it’s pushing him further away, but I’m so lonely and I am an affectionate person – I need to feel loved; instead I feel so lonely – and it’s also making me feel unattractive (I have put on weight and I don’t look the same as I did when we met). I end up crying myself to sleep most nights. We are in desperate need of help. I just don’t know what to do any more. I can’t lose him as well.

Hi Positivevibes –


Normally, we dogs look at you humans as lucky.  You can drive around, you can shop at grocery stores, you can play video games… but your story reminds me that a human can go through tragedies that make us sound like the lucky ones.


Of course everything else you’ve dealt with sounds bearable to me; it’s the loss of your baby daughter that breaks my heart.  I know that’s a wound that can never be healed, for you or for her father.  I’m just so horribly sorry.


The trick, for anyone who’s undergone such a horrific loss, is to move forward (which is not the same as forgetting or letting go).  You might have heard about the five stages of grief, a process a brilliant woman named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross discovered a few decades ago.  That when someone grieves, they have to go through a series of states in order to move forward: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.


The reason I’m bringing all this up, Positivevibes, is that it sounds like you and your boyfriend need help in moving through these stages.  In particular, his behavior sounds like he’s probably stuck in the Depression stage, though he might be in an earlier one.


This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with either of you.  You two have just suffered the worst trauma any person can – the loss of your child.  No one can or should get through that without help.


So whether a psychotherapist or a religious leader or a shaman – whoever works best for you two – you two need to find someone to help you through this process.


It would make complete sense to me if your boyfriend is afraid to get intimate with you because he deep-down is terrified of becoming a father again, and losing another child.  His conscious mind would understand that the likelihood of that happening is very small, but this is his unconscious, the part he can’t know.


I want to help you in any way I can – my heart just breaks for you two!  But for this you need a real professional, who knows what they’re doing, and who can work closely with the two of you.


I will promise you, though – this can and will get better.  Again, not that you’re going to forget that daughter.  But just that you two can move forward and live the life together that you and I know she wants you to have.


With all my love,


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