Ripple Effects: When Grief Hits a Marriage

"We're hurting," Mindy said, referring to herself and her husband, Daniel. "I cry. He works in the garage. I go shopping. He drinks beer and watches sports."

Mindy and Daniel's son Andrew was born adventurous. His dad joked that Andy tasted adrenaline at an early age and had been addicted ever since. When he turned 15, Andrew got a motorcycle. He screamed for joy as he screeched away on his first solo ride. 

Several hours later, the police were sitting in Mindy and Daniel's living room, delivering the news that every parent dreads. Andrew was dead.

"Losing Andy was bad enough. Now I feel like I’m losing Daniel too. I’m afraid we’re drifting apart," Mindy said. 

Loss affects marriages

When a loved one dies, the family changes. All family relationships are affected, including marriages. 

Men and women tend to grieve differently. Many men are activity-project grievers. They solve problems, build things, tear stuff apart, exercise heavily, or head to the shooting range. Most women tend to be verbal-relational grievers. They seek connections, have coffee, talk, share, cry, text, and email.

Men do things. Women relate. We speak different grief languages. This makes it even more challenging to communicate well during this time. Finding ways to grieve together is yet another obstacle (or opportunity) we get to face and tackle.

Routines have changed. Emotions are running high. Our usual patterns of touch, physical affection, and sexual intimacy might be disrupted. It can seem like someone threw a grenade into our family and our marriage.

Loss can put great stress on a marriage. Thankfully, there are a few simple things we can do to make a positive difference.

First, we can reaffirm our love and commitment. The words, "I love you" are especially powerful now. We need to say them, and then back them up any way we can.

Second, we need to accept that our partner grieves differently than we do. Appreciating our differences is important. We may be enduring the same loss, but we do not grieve in the same way.

Third, we need to be aware of danger signs: outside emotional attachments, addictions, affairs, abuse, etc. These unhealthy coping mechanisms are dangerous to any committed relationship. If we notice these things occurring, it’s wise to seek outside help. Handling these marital landmines ourselves while immersed in grief is virtually impossible.

Our goal is to adjust together, while grieving differently. Respect, acceptance, and love must reign if we are to weather this storm intact.

"Grief is hitting my marriage. I will affirm my love, respect our differences, and seek help when needed.”


Questions to consider:

How can you affirm your love and commitment to your partner today? Make a simple plan. Do it. 

Work on accepting your partner's style of grieving. How can you show respect for your partner's grief today?

Have you noticed any marital danger signs emerging (addictions, emotional attachments, affairs, abuse, etc.)? If so, who can you reach out to for input (counselor, minister, mentor, etc.)?

Adapted from the new bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child. Watch the Shattered videos here: Gary, Michelle.




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About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at

I'm Grieving, Now What?