09/05/2016 08:48 BST | Updated 07/05/2017 06:12 BST

Do Sick Babies Cause Divorce?

An inspiration story by a mother who describes the strain on her marriage when one of their twins is born with brain damage.

Sarah's Story



Study on bereaved parents and divorce

In an article entitled Bereaved Parents and Divorce by Dr Mark Hardt Ph.D. & Dannette Carroll, it is reported that in 1977 a bereaved parent, wishing to illustrate the need for a formal examination of the risk of parental divorce subsequent to the death of a child, guess-timated that 75% of such parents eventually divorce within months of the death (Schiff, 1977).

The figure is not derived from any empirical evidence; it was meant to illustrate a need for analysis.  However, it became an accepted 'fact' by many professionals dealing in that area of support for parents.


Guilt and anger are very common emotions felt by parents whose children die, and these emotions need to be addressed.  It is significant that the majority of respondents reported that both they and their spouses had sought counselling after their child's death.


In the film, Sarah explains that she and her husband - whose relationship was ultimately strengthened by the experiences and the way they dealt with those experiences - found counselling  extremely useful.  Particularly in helping them both to understand that they had very different ways of dealing with the grief, and to be able to support each other despite not necessarily understanding the other's different approaches to surviving this emotional ordeal.



What about parents of children with special needs?



OnePlusOne states: "It's not very surprising that research shows that couples raising chronically ill or disabled children are more likely to divorce or separate than parents with non-disabled children. And those couples who do split up are less likely to remarry."


They put it down to "the gruelling schedule of 24-hour care and frequent hospitilisation, plus grief, financial pressure and continual worry over a child's health" which puts a massive stress on the couple's relationship.



Do babies that die cause divorce?


Although it is accepted that the death of a child can eventually lead to emotional estrangement, apathy, and indifference toward the marriage, a full on study was finally conducted by Dr. Mark Hardt and Dannette Carroll of Billing, MT.  This statistically responsible study presented some interesting results.


Only 9% of respondents divorced following their child's death. 24% of the remaining respondents had considered divorce but had not actually done so.



Instead of serving as a catalyst to separate, it would seem that a child's death can actually serve to draw couples together.


For families who are not suffering the loss of a child, but who are at risk of divorce - or have already split up - I believe they can find inspiration from the way Sarah and her husband dealt with the situation they found themselves in.


Whether a couple stay together or not - that ability to be resilient, to respect each other's differences, and to find their own 'dance' - is going to make any co-parenting relationship stronger, whether inside or outside of a marriage.


Suzy Miller

Creator of CoParenting in a Box™


With thanks to:

Sarah Davies for sharing her story

Natasha Rusalka for her song 'Tempest'

Caz Greenwood for cover image