"Remember that a successful marriage depends on two things:
(1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person."
"We are going to couple's therapy," I said to Nick while still in labor. Nick responded by shaking his head quietly in agreement. Even during my worst moment of fear and pain, I was using my therapist brain.
Two weeks after Nora's death we were sitting next to each other on a stranger's couch. Clinging together was more like it. We were inviting this new stranger into our lives, to explore our fresh wounds. I, as a psychotherapist, did not want to be sitting in front of this woman. Don't get me wrong, it was my idea to go to couples therapy as a "preventative measure," but even though I knew that this is what we were "supposed to do," I hated it! I hated it because I was full of fear.
I feared that in couple's therapy Nick and I would discover some deep seeded issues we had with each other. Secrets not shared, that added on top of our already devastating situation, that would end our marriage. And the added fear that according to Shrefflern, Hillb, Cacciatorec, article in Exploring the Increased Odds of Divorce Following Miscarriage or Stillbirth in the Journal of Divorce and Re-Marriage find that "women who experienced miscarriage or stillbirth have greater odds of divorce than women who did not experience a loss." I was worried. I didn't want to be that woman.
I kept telling myself, "This is not my life!" I was supposed to be the therapist, the one with all the answers. The person sitting across from us. I am the therapist, not the client.
Well, that wasn't the case. Once I got passed my professional identity crisis, I eventually settled into the idea of letting this red-headed stranger rip open our wounds further, or so I thought she would do. But she didn't.
Couple's therapy ended up being helpful. Nick and I explored our fears of separation due to Nora's death and how we dreaded the idea of losing each other too. In sessions I was able to learn more about how Nick's grieving process was going and different then mine and Nick used our session as a time set aside to focus on his grief.
Over time, with couple's counseling, Nick and I learned how to let each other go too. Right after Nora's death Nick and I were inseparable, afraid to leave each other's side. But with reassurance during sessions and respectful communication in between, Nick and I learned how to slowly fall back into our old routine of trusting that each will return after we part.
I also found other good news, according to the Compassionate Friends Survey of Bereaved Parents, only 16% of couples get divorced after a child's death. Now Nick and I experienced a stillbirth and maybe that creates a higher risk for us. But, Nick and I have found couples therapy helpful in combating this possibility. It's not for everyone, but if you think you could use extra help navigating your marriage after the loss of your child then I would recommend checking it out. Go once or twice and see how you both feel about it. It didn't hurt us. It might actually help.
Couples Communication After A Baby Dies, by Sherokee Ilse and Time Nelson
Some advice from David Kessler on Healing Your Marriage After Losing a Child: