I’m not one to air my dirty laundry in public but it goes without saying that Aidan’s diagnosis has certainly put a strain on my marriage.
We all know that relationships are hard work, so when I read somewhere that 80% of marriages break down after the death of a child, I figured why even bother trying when the numbers are stacked against us. On chatting with the palliative care social worker, it was brought to my attention that perhaps 80% wasn’t the actual figure (I admit that as a glass half empty kind of girl I may have imagined this figure) so I went hunting for the truth.
Here’s what I found. According to two separate studies in 1977 and 1996, 75 to 90 per cent of bereaved couples experience severe marital distress (but not necessarily divorce). A more recent study in 2010 found just 12 per cent of marriages end in divorce following the death of a child while another website claimed it was 16 per cent. In reality, no one really knows what the true figure is but it’s definitely a lot less than 80 per cent.
Being the pessimist that I am, I must also point out that Anthony has a mild brain injury which also works against us as far as statistics go. The figure for divorces following a brain injury is as variable as the figures for losing a child but most experts put it at 25 per cent.
There’s no doubt that whatever happens, our relationship has been deeply scarred by the fate that has befallen on us. Financial pressures, fatigue, separation during hospital stays and a genetic difference in dealing with grief has put our relationship to the test.
Yet with national figures suggesting a third of all marriages (with or without the loss of a child) end in divorce, we’re actually not sitting in too bad a position.
I have no doubts that our marriage will continue to be strained by what is about to come but I’m placing my faith in the recent statistics, and hoping that with the right amount of support and a better understanding of grief we can come out of this a better couple.