According to a new research study, couples who lose a premature baby and communicate their personal grief with each other fare better than couples who don’t. The researchers indicate that couples who don’t communicate with each other about their bereavement frequently believe that the other person cares less or not all. They point out that women are generally more communicative about their sadness than men. This may mean that the female partner believes her male partner doesn’t care or cares less than she does.
Surprising to the researchers, though, was that the male partners in the study were more often in a deeper state of grief than their female partners. The researchers also said that the couples who communicated their grief with each other, called concordant grief, experienced what is referred to as significant post-traumatic growth in their relationships; more intimacy and even better communication.
The study was small, with just 22 couples involved, cross-sectional and all variables were evaluated at a single point in time – two to six years after the loss. Camille Wortman, Ph.D., a professor of social and health psychology at Stony Brook University, is quoted in an article in The Medical News, as saying, “It is not possible to infer causality from such a design” (April 22, 2009). She makes a good point, but the researchers may be on to what appears to be at least one conclusion that seems reasonable: Couples who don’t share their grief might well have misunderstandings about what the other is feeling and this, in turn, could cause problems within the marriage.
The primary researcher, Stefan Büchi, M.D of University Hospital in Zurich was also quoted in The Medical News, encouraging couples who’ve lost a baby and haven’t shared their grief with each other to seek professional help.
Büchi, S., Mörgeli, H., Schnyder, U., Jenewein, J., Glaser, A., Faucheré, J-C., Bucher, H. U., Sensky, T. Shared or discordant grief in couples 2-6 years after the death of their premature baby: effects on suffering and posttraumatic growth. Psychosomatics 50(2), 2008.
The Medical News. Couples cope in different ways following death of premature baby, April 22, 2009,
© Copyright 2009 by Jolyn Wells-Moran, PhD, MSW, therapist in Seattle, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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