The Dynamics of Spousal Relationships After the Loss of a Child Among Bereaved Malay Parents

Nur Atikah Mohamed Hussin, Taufik Mohammad, Azlinda Azman, Joan Guàrdia-Olmos, Anna Liisa Aho

Abstract


The purpose of this study is to explore the dynamics of the relationship between bereaved parents after the loss of their child. Literature has attempted to understand how coping mechanisms related to gender characteristics, communication, and intimacy influence the spousal relationship after the loss of a child. However, this area is scarcely explored in a Malaysian context. This qualitative study involved 11 bereaved parents. These parents had lost their children due to accidents (n = 9) and homicide (n = 2). Open-ended questions that focused on the patterns of the spousal relationship were administered to the parents. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. Some of the main themes found were that constructive communication and intimacy are interrelated in helping bereaved parents to cope better. Nonverbal intimacy is helpful. Avoidance or limited communication and intimacy are influenced by religion and cultural beliefs. The bereavement responses influenced the spousal relationship, causing it to become stronger, weaker, or causing the parents to act like nothing had happened. This study helps us to understand the effects of the loss of a child on the spousal relationship of the bereaved parents. This study makes recommendations related to the adjustment and maintenance of a healthy spousal relationship after the loss of a child.

Keywords


spousal relationship; communication; coping styles; marriage and bereavement

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5964/ijpr.v12i1.288