The death of Trayvon Martin is a significant loss, especially for his parents and his family. No parent wants to burry his or her child. It’s actually what most parents work hard to avoid. You might want your child to come home before it’s dark, get a good education or a job to get out of a dangerous environment, make sure your child has good friends that won’t get him or her in trouble, or even teach your child how to notice and avoid dangerous situations. Most of my thoughts for my two children focus on keeping them safe and teaching them life lessons that will keep them alive (physically, emotionally and spiritually). I imagine that Trayvon’s parents wanted and tried to keep him safe to the best of their ability as well. Losing their son in such a traumatic way has been difficult, but because of the legal case their mourning has been prolonged.
Mourning happens differently for everyone, but there are some common reactions people experience after a loss. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross is known for developing the 5 stages of grief/mourning. The stages include denial (believing it didn’t really happen), depression (feeling extremely sad, sometimes wishing you were dead), anger (being upset at yourself, others and even God), bargaining (hoping that the person will come back and saying what if I … This also comes with guilt, I should have …) and finally acceptance (accepting the painful reality that the person is no longer alive).
Everyone goes through the stages at their own pace and in their own order. The mourning process can be difficult and can take its toll on a relationship, especially a loss like Trayvon that has been in the public eye for such a long time. Losing a child puts a couple at higher risk for breaking up or divorce. This can occur because each person in the relationship is going through his or her stage of grief independently and simultaneously must find a way to navigate the loss as a couple. This can create distance between partners, frustration, isolation, lack of communication and a lack of understanding.
One person could expect the other person to feel the same way he or she is feeling. When they see a different reaction, it can produce anger and frustration. Most couples need support (like good friends, their faith, a grief support group and/or family members), privacy (some time to deal with it on their own), ability to make the necessary adjustments (changing expectations of each other) and to overcome fatigue (all the physical and emotional energy used to handle the loss while maintaining other life demands).
One struggle that many couples face after losing a child is $exual connection and intimacy. In addition, any existing struggles that the couple is experiencing will be magnified. Usually this happens for the first few months, but when the mourning process is extended due to a legal case, like Trayvon Martin, the couple can have increased difficulty and will need more support. Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin & Sybrina Fulton are no longer married, but they have worked together to co-parent Trayvon. In addition, they are in relationships with other people.
Recommendations from George Talks:
• For Tracy & Sybrina or anyone in a relationship who has lost a child, I recommend that you seek out all the support you can get.
• It will be important that you find a way to communicate about the loss, hurt, frustration and your feelings about the legal case (if applicable, i.e. Tracy & Sybrina) with whomever you are in relationship with.
• Let the person know when you need time/space and when you need attention/connection.
• Talk about what you need or don’t need sexually.
• Seek out support groups and be willing to talk to a therapist or faith leader.
• Think of a way to honor your child and do it (i.e. Alex’s Lemonade).
Working together to address the points above as you deal with your loss can strengthen your relationship as you improve your communication and feel closer to your partner.
George James is a Licensed Couple & Family Therapist and CEO of George Talks, LLC, Where Your Relationships Matter.
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