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Perinatal mourning and its repercussions on the couple

Perinatal mourning and its repercussions on the couple

Following the perinatal mourning, we are faced with suffering, emotions and changes that also affect the functioning of the couple.

 

Advertising message Loss during pregnancy is a traumatic, ambiguous and paradoxical event, which affects not only the woman and the partner in their individuality, but also communication, relational dynamics and, finally, the sphere of sexuality and couple intimacy.

When a pregnancy ends prematurely, the parental couple finds themselves having to integrate the previous emotions of joy that derive from waiting for the new life, to experiences of deep suffering, which manifest themselves as a consequence of mourning. The birth of a child often represents the crowning achievement of the dream of parenting and generativity of the dyad, and his death involves not only the loss of the child himself, but also the deprivation, at least temporarily, of the hopes and dreams that the parents had created around birth (Gandino, Vanni, Bernaudo, 2018). Following the unexpected event, and if the mourning comes to encyst, some marital problems may emerge between the partners that sometimes lead to the drift of the relationship (Shreffler, Wonch Hill, Cacciatore, 2012).

The scientific literature highlights how inevitably the couple experiences some changes that may concern communication, relational dynamics or intimacy and sexuality.

As regards changes in communication, two different ways of expressing mourning were observed: the instinctive one, mainly female and characterized by intense affective manifestations, and the practical one, characterized by more concrete and doing-oriented elaboration strategies, mostly typical of men (Martin, Doka, 2000). When these differences do not meet, they can generate conflicts and limit the support that partners are able to offer each other (Hutti, Armstrong, Myers, Hall, 2015). The different ways of dealing with and expressing mourning, if not supported by good communication, can be placed as a limit to the continuity of the bond.

Advertising message In terms of couple dynamics, it emerged that the partners do not always have the opportunity to process mourning jointly. Indeed, it may happen that when one of them seeks openness and sharing, the other does not wish to speak of loss; conversely, when the latter seeks proximity, the other may prefer to withdraw from his activities (Hooghe, Neimeyer, Rober, 2012). When the couple experiences mourning, a movement inside the dyad is created which is comparable to a dance between proximity and distance: the search for closeness and openness to each other alternate with avoidance and relational withdrawal (Rosenblatt, Barner, 2006).

Perinatal mourning is an event that can also influence the sexual sphere of the couple, both as regards the frequency of sexual activity and the perception of the pleasure associated with it. The dyad can perceive an ambivalence regarding two contradictory desires: that of rediscovering shared intimate pleasure and that of avoiding sexuality itself, as it is connected to loss (Dyregrov, Gjestad, 2012). Furthermore, seeking pleasure in a mourning period can provoke feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy, especially if one partner is not in line with the other’s desire.

In conclusion, perinatal loss is configured as a paradoxical event and as such has consequences that also show ambiguity in terms of communication, couple dynamics and, finally, sexuality. The dyad, “as in a dance”, negotiates difficulties and differences, sometimes in an awkward way, trampling your feet, and sometimes in harmonious ways. When in the couple each adapts to the movements of the other, joint and more adaptive strategies can be put in place with respect to the elaboration of mourning and overcoming the loss; conversely, frictions emerge when individual needs come into opposition and turn into relational movements that are not compatible with those of the partner. This dance is constantly changing and therefore there is no position in which the couple can settle and in which they can keep their distances unchanged (Rosenblatt, Barner, 2006). To help the partners to recompose harmoniously with each other, the context in which the couple is inserted, starting from the hospital health staff up to the family and friends entourage, can do a lot. In the first place, it can understand the meaning that the loss assumes for the partners and legitimize the emotional expression connected to the event, which will be expressed in the manner that at that moment is appropriate and possible for each of them (Gandino, Sensi, Vanni , 2019). starting from hospital health personnel up to family and friends entourage, it can do a lot. In the first place, it can understand the meaning that the loss assumes for the partners and legitimize the emotional expression connected to the event, which will be expressed in the manner that at that moment is appropriate and possible for each of them (Gandino, Sensi, Vanni , 2019). starting from hospital health personnel up to family and friends entourage, it can do a lot. In the first place, it can understand the meaning that the loss assumes for the partners and legitimize the emotional expression connected to the event, which will be expressed in the manner that at that moment is appropriate and possible for each of them (Gandino, Sensi, Vanni , 2019).