DIVORCE AND THE TERMINALLY ILL CHILD: WHY DOES A CHLD’S ILLNESS PUT SUCH A STRAIN ON MARRIAGES?
Having a terminally ill child can be very difficult for a married couple. Parenting a child with a life-threatening illness can have an adverse effect on even the strongest of marriages in fact. Some statistics put the chance of failure of a marriage with a sick or terminally ill child at 90 percent. It is not clear the reason for this although psychologists probably have dealt with these scenarios quite often. Having a sick child can result in anger, guilt, shame and helplessness of one or both parents. There could be blame thrown between the parties. One party could feel that the other is not sensitive enough either to the child or to him or her, that the spouse is unsupportive. Meanwhile that spouse may feel that he or she is giving all they can give and then some. There can be great conflict in these scenarios because so many things have to be changed and adjusted.
A sick or terminally ill child will require changes in schedules, programs and plans. The child will have to be taken to doctor’s visits and hospital stays while parents have to navigate work and other things, including other children who also need their love and attention even though they may not be sick. It is not an easy balance to achieve all the time and as a result there is the increased likelihood of disagreements which can get heated or downright destructive.
A sick child can stress a marriage in more ways than one. It is not just a question of lost time between husband and wife and the dearth of moments for intimacy but it is also possible that the child’s illness could be a financial strain that may become unmanageable for the couple. The couple could experience grief on a level that they never had before. There will be the sleepless nights. There will be emotional breakdowns.
What can couples do to protect their marriages in the unfortunate event that they have a terminally ill child? Well, it may be necessary to get help from a professional therapist as a couple in between caring for your child, and marriage counseling. The should or could also consider joining support groups whether online or face to face where there are other couples going through a similar thing. They can also use social media to reach out to others in a similar situation and this could help build bridges and build a community so that they don’t feel so isolated, and the sense that they are helping others could help cement their own bond. Couples will have to fight hard to have a little bit of “we” time in spite of the unfortunate circumstances they are enduring. They have to be patient with each other even when there is strong disagreement about how to care for the child. And in spite of what is going on with a child they love, they still have to find a way to put their marriage first. This may sound selfish but on this foundation, a much more caring and efficient environment will be created in the family and for the child.