Grief is an inevitable part of life. Although everyone will experience it, no two people will share the same response to a loss. Infant or pregnancy loss is especially difficult. One of the most challenging things about grieving after this type of loss is that you and your partner will not react the same way. Conflict within a relationship can arise if your partner does not appear to feel or express their sadness in the same way as you. You may become angry or resentful if you believe your partner moved on too fast or did not show as much grief as you. Although everyone grieves in their own way, it has been established that there is a female and male model of grief. Understanding these different models and the challenges they can present may help you and your partner learn how to walk through your grief together.
The two models of grief, developed by Harvard professor Phyllis Silverman, point out the differences between how men and women react to a loss. However, it is important to note that some women may follow the male model and some men may follow the female model. You may not follow the same model for every type of loss you experience, either.
Female Model of Grief
The female model emphasizes connection rather than disengagement after a loss. Those who follow the female model have an easier time expressing their feelings and are more comfortable reaching out to others to talk about their loss.
Male Model of Grief
In the male model of grief, the goal is to move on from the past. They feel their grief with great intensity but are quick to heal and return to work or other activities of life. Men typically feel like they have to the be the strong one or the shoulder to cry on, which makes them less likely to reach out to others as they continue to cope independently.
It is common for conflict to arise in a relationship, because the outward expressions of these two models are so different. It can be very easy to isolate yourself after pregnancy or infant loss, but it is important that you and your partner be unified in your grief. Remember, even though your grief may look different, you are both in pain. Moving forward together while trying to establish a sense of equilibrium after a loss can be difficult.
Here are a few tips that you and your partner may find helpful:
Communicate—This sounds simple, but loss is hard and so is talking about it. While it can be incredibility difficult to talk about your feelings, it can provide great comfort. Be patient with each other and mindful of how you communicate.
Be kind to one another—After a loss, it is normal to feel anger, guilt, or shame. Know that there was likely nothing either of you could have done to prevent this loss. Be careful not to take your anger out on or blame each other for what you are going through. Respect that your reactions will not be identical, and that is okay. Recognize the differences and talk through them so you can continue to support one another.
Ask for what you need—Don’t expect your partner to anticipate your needs. Let them know what would be helpful. If you or your partner need help with tasks such as meal preparation, shopping, or watching other children do not be afraid to ask other family members or friends.
Seek professional support—There is a difference between grief and depression. If you continue to feel stuck and unsure how to move forward, it is okay to seek support from a professional. You may need to go alone or as a couple to therapy or you may find enough support within a bereavement group for those who have suffered a similar loss. It is okay to try different things to find what works best for you.
Journal Idea: What is one thing your partner could do to help support you in your grief?