For Your Library
Help Your Marriage Survive the Death of a Child by Paul C. Rosenblatt, Temple University Press, 2000.
Paul Rosenblatt provided the world a service with this book. There are many books that tell about the challenges of parental bereavement but few that take an in-depth look at how the death of a child impacts and challenges the marriage of the parents. Rosenblatt is a bereaved grandfather and an academic who has taught about family relationships at the University of Minnesota and has also researched and taught about grief. He brings all of those histories and perspectives to this project. In the course of researching and writing this book, Rosenblatt had extensive interviews with 29 couples who had experienced the death of a child. Most of these couples continued to be married while a few were divorced or seeking divorce. Rosenblatt quotes from these interviews throughout the book and these quotes from parents are a major strength as they provide admirable depth and insights.
Written with a supportive and engaging tone where he often speaks in first-person directly to the reader, Rosenblatt describes and explores the mine-filled territory of parental grief for a married couple. In doing so, he returns again and again to the theme of allowing for differences in grieving while working to find ways of mutual support and experience. Along with expected topics of differing grieving styles, reactions of friends and family and the place of outside support through counseling or support groups, Rosenblatt tackles difficult and often socially taboo subjects such as sexual relationships, money and suicide. There is also an interesting chapter on "medicating" grief where a bereaved parent seeks to minimize the pain of the loss through self-medicating through substance use (or abuse) or getting lost in a particular activity. Throughout, the author offers good descriptions, effective illustrations with quotes from parents, and nonjudgmental guidance for couples in their efforts to maintain and strengthen their marriages.
If this book were written in 2013 rather than 2000, there may be few welcome differences. Rosenblatt does not describe how culture may impact a married couple's experience and it is not clear how much cultural diversity was present among the 29 couples that he interviewed. All the couples appear to be heterosexual couples and in 2013 we have the presence and increasing acceptance of same-sex couples. In recent years, the language preferred in talking about suicide has changed (see this newsletter edition's Taking Questions section), and Rosenblatt uses the language of "committing suicide" rather than "dying by (or of) suicide." With those limitation considered, this book is still a valuable resource for parentally bereaved couples and the professionals who work with them.