Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Faith says:  Nine months ago Billy, the youngest of our three children, died at age 2. Billy had been sick for over a year with a rare illness and we knew from the beginning that Billy’s chances of beating this were not great. My husband, Philip, was wonderful during Billy’s illness: helping with his care, spending time with Billy, being sure our older children interacted with Billy and propping me up throughout the ordeal. He even attended bereavement group sessions with me for a few months after Billy’s death.

Over the past six months, Philip has spoken less and less of Billy on his own, and responds to my efforts to talk with him about Billy in a sullen and brusque manner. It is almost as if Billy was never a part of our family. And now, Philip has told me that he thinks it is time to “get rid of” Billy’s belongings!

This has really made me angry. I believe I still need to share with Philip my feelings over our loss and keep some remembrances of Billy, such as his favorite teddy bear, “alive” in my life.

I am beginning to wonder if our marriage can survive this.

He says:

Philip says: I loved Billy every bit as much as Faith did. For the first weeks after he died, I cried each night when I went to bed. I still carry a dull pain in my stomach from all of this.  I wish Billy was here, but he is not and nothing can change that!

As some friends have told us, Billy is in “a better place” and we are fortunate to have two healthy children. Faith and I and our two children need to get on with our lives. We can’t spend our time wallowing in grief.

What do they do?

There are no “quick fixes” to this problem. The death of a child is one of the most traumatic occurrences that can happen to a marriage. Many experts say that parents never get over the loss of a child; they only reach an accommodation with their circumstances. The issues that Faith and Philip face are just several of the myriad difficulties that couples confront in dealing with their grief.

Your marriage survival will depend upon both of you being willing to work hard at understanding each other and respecting each other’s feelings at that moment.

Learn and understand the stages of grief and refuse to allow yourselves to get stuck in one of the stages. Communication is vital, even if it hurts. Share with each other your pain, feelings of helplessness, fear and, yes, anger. By sharing, recognizing and accepting your feelings, you will learn to live your lives in the present moment. Cry together, find ways to laugh together and, of course, pray together. With your love for one another and the compassion offered by Jesus Christ, you can weather this storm together.

However, be advised: If the conflict developing in your marriage over this issue continues to become more stressful, and seems irreparable, seek counseling. You may not be able to get through this alone.