My wife, I, and our nearly six-month-old son were driving home when we were hit head-on by a drunk driver. Our son was killed, my wife and I were taken to different hospitals for extensive repairs to physical injuries. The emotional shock was enormous. From our own experience and from a lot of group therapy with other parents who lost children, I can tell you what we have learned:
* The parents have to deal with each other at a level of emotional grief that they have never experienced before. It becomes an undercurrent of sadness affecting all of their daily experiences. Where there was a child that you were responsible for, that gave your life more meaning, that occupied a big chunk of your consciousness, there is now a hole.
* The depression is more extended than with most other forms. It typically gets worse for six months or so. When you need each other most, you wind up getting more aggravated by each other. The divorce rate for couples who have gone through this is much higher than for other couples.
* So in answer to the question you asked, there are many strong reasons for the parents to be wedged apart. They become different people than the ones who fell in love, and they are not in the best shape to seem lovable to each other. Couples who stay married have learned to love each other in a different condition. Are they closer? I guess I’m saying that their love is not necessarily stronger, but it’s “wider”.
As the other respondees have said, I would not wish this experience on anybody. In our case, years have passed and we can think of the good times with him without automatically remembering how we lost him. But there are still some triggers that will cause bouts of sadness. The children we have had since this event have turned out terrific, and we like to think that our son had something to do with that.
By Tom Ahilen