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Grief-Induced Split

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"Dear Thomas, I'm leaving you. I'm sorry — you can't talk me out of it. I still love you, but I just can't be with you anymore. Losing our daughter was hard on me too, yet I'm trying to move on. Your life didn't end, so why can't you live it?"
Gabrielle, Neverending Nightmares

Everyone deals with grief and loss in different ways. Traumatic experiences can change someone so fundamentally that their relationships are affected, be it with their partners, family, friends, or others. Bereavement is stressful, even before the potential shifts in interpersonal dynamics, pain, and the seeming indifference of life as it carries on around the mourners.

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While usually taking the form of a divorce in the aftermath of Outliving One's Offspring, any impactfully tragic event can strain a relationship to its breaking point. The tragedy and ensuing split often form a character's Dark and Troubled Past, providing reason for a character's anti-heroic broodiness or even a villain's Start of Darkness.

Despite the prevalence of this trope in fiction, research has shown that in Real Life, "divorcing after the death of a child" is no more likely than it is for parents of living children. The false idea was first popularized in a book that cited no sources for its assertion, cementing itself as "truth" long before researchers could refute it. Most marriages that break up following their child's death had underlying issues already, with many couples saying that the tragedy actually strengthened their relationship.

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Related to Went Crazy When They Left and the platonic tropes Losing the Team Spirit and We Were Your Team. Contrast Relationship-Salvaging Disaster, where the horrible event brings a couple closer together, and Babies Ever After, where the birth of a child creates a perceived happy ending for a couple.

As a Death Trope, spoiler tags are off.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Are You Really Getting Married?: George split from his wife because their son died in a surfing accident.
  • Mushishi: In "Cotton Changeling," it's revealed that the mushi Victim of the Week, a mother named Aki, had been married once before to a wealthy retailer. Their son, his heir, died in an accident at less than a year old. This caused the couple to divorce. Her enduring desire to be a mother led to her raising clones of the parasitic watahaki as her sons, not realizing the mushi killed her real fetus in order to do so.
  • Oshi no Ko: After Ai Hoshino is brutally murdered in her own home, her grief-stricken manager and Parental Substitute Ichigo abandons his family, forcing his wife to take over his company and raise Ai's twin children on her own.
  • Pokémon: The First Movie: The additional prologue "The Uncut Story of Mewtwo's Origin" expands on Dr. Fuji's backstory. He is yelled at and receives a divorce letter from his ex-wife-to-be. She is divorcing him due to his attempts to resurrect their daughter Amber. She painfully and repeatedly tells him that he can't bring their daughter back, and watching him try is too much to bear.
  • Penguindrum: Ringo's parents Satoshi and Eriko divorced in the wake of her sister Momoka's death. By the time the series takes place, both have made peace with Momoka's death and moved on.
  • Steins;Gate: The Time Travel basis of Steins;Gate causes an odd variant. After witnessing the repeated death of his best friend Mayuri, Rintaro is faced with a Sadistic Choice: Either he successfully saves Mayuri at the cost of his Love Interest Kurisu's life, or he gets to be with his dream girl but loses his best friend. When Kurisu hears of this, she insists Rintaro save Mayuri instead, accepting their split and her death in order to save Rintaro from suffering further trauma from Mayuri's deaths.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash: Ashley and Hunter Zolomon were a Happily Married couple who joined the FBI under Ashley's father, Derek, who had a tremendous fatherly relationship with his son-in-law. However, Hunter made an error in judgement on a case that resulted in the suspect crippling him then gunning down his father-in-law; in response, Ashley filed for divorce, and he was let go by the FBI. Heartbroken by both the death and the divorce, Hunter tried to move on by getting a job at Keystone City as the local metahuman profiler even though he still missed Ashley. After an attack by Gorilla Grodd renders Hunter paraplegic, he tries to use the time-traveling Cosmic Treadmill to prevent his injuries from occurring, but an accident occurs that gives him time-traveling powers and makes him insane, transforming him into supervillain Zoom. When Ashley learns that Hunter had transformed into Zoom, she doesn't hesitate to leave her entire FBI career behind to come to Keystone City to take over his former profiler position to help reform him. She makes it clear that she still loves Hunter, regrets leaving him, and swears that she'd help him and never leave him again.
  • Flashpoint (DC Comics): In this alternate reality of the normal DC universe, Joe Chill's robbery of the Waynes in Crime Alley goes from tragedy to spectacularly wrong when his bullet strikes and kills a young Bruce Wayne. Overcome with grief, Thomas transforms into an even more ruthless Batman, while Martha's sanity shatters, turning her into this reality's version of Joker. While they may still be married on paper, it's pretty clear the two are no longer together.
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    Fan Works 
  • Beautiful Monster: Drew decides to tell Charlotte he wants a divorce on the same day as Angelica's funeral. However, it's implied that their marriage was already suffering beforehand; and that Angelica's death was just the straw that broke the camel's back.
  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf: In the novel, Papa Smurf sent his infant son Empath to be raised in Psychelia for fear that the other Smurfs would treat him badly because of his psychic powers. Empath's mother, however, left Papa Smurf following their son's "death", blaming him for the tragedy. They reunite briefly during the Only Fatal to Adults plague when Empath's mother passes away, leaving her second son Brainy in the hands of Papa Smurf.
  • Equestria: Civil War: Thunderbolt loses his daughter during the Changeling Invasion. He and his wife Wind Chime divorce, as they are too grief-stricken to live with each other anymore.
  • Eyes Wide Open All the Time: Aki and Rin's relationship ended after Aki's miscarriage of their son. Nonetheless, they still care about each other.
  • Fairytales: In the decade after losing two of their three children in quick succession, Cinderella grows apart from her husband. Not even the grandchildren from her surviving son can break through her grief, which only improves when her presumed-dead son returns with his wife Belle.
  • In the Muppets fanfic The Great Desire, Gonzo and Camilla get married, only to divorce following their daughter Isabella's premature birth and subsequent death. They later reunite and have a second daughter.
  • How to Break a Family: Mr. and Mrs. Read divorce soon after their daughter D.W. is kidnapped. It being a Solomon Divorce, Kate is raised by their father and Arthur by their mother.
  • The Harry Potter fanfic Parallels brings Harry to an alternate dimension where he and Voldemort both died when he was hit by the Killing Curse as an infant. Though James and Lily's troubled marriage briefly improved while she was pregnant with a second child, James blamed Harry's death on his wife's Muggleborn status and left after the birth of their daughter.
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Tempest Rewrite: The loss of Mina's son Quincy to miscarriage caused her and her husband's divorce, as he blamed her for the tragedy.
  • Necessary to Win: The reason for Saki and Teru's parents' separation is revealed to be the death of their foster sister Mizuho during a tankery match. Teru was faced with saving either Saki or Mizuho, saving Saki because she feared Mizuho was already dead. In Chapter 28, their parents officially divorce.
  • Pokémon Crossing: Fly Me to the Moon: After Frank's Croagunk died, he and his boyfriend Rooney broke up. It's implied that he never got over her death and ruined all his relationships because he was unable to cope.
  • With Pearl and Ruby Glowing: Crocker's older brother Poindexter killed himself after being raped, resulting in his parents blaming each other for it and splitting up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 1408: After the death of their young daughter Katie, Mike abandons his wife Lily and travels the country as an author chronicling stays in supposedly-haunted locations. Following the events of his stay in the titular hotel room, which include being tormented by visions of his daughter, the theatrical cut ends with Mike and Lily's reconciliation. (He does not survive in the alternate endings.)
  • The Accidental Tourist: After Macon and Sarah's twelve-year-old son was murdered, Macon seems to have lost the ability to care, making Sarah leave him. However, when she learns he is dating Muriel — and is getting better — she wants to reconcile. Macon considers it but ends up rejecting her to return to Muriel.
  • Alita: Battle Angel: The death of Ido and Chiren's Delicate and Sickly daughter Alita at the hands of one of Ido's patients led to their messy divorce. Using the cyborg body intended for their daughter, Ido repairs an amnesiac cyborg girl and names her Alita. Chiren isn't thrilled when she discovers this.
  • American Renegades: Matt became estranged from his wife following the daughter's death in a car accident, as his wife had been the one driving.
  • Barry Lyndon: Barry dotes on his son Bryan, gifting him the horse he wanted before he's old enough to properly manage it. Bryan's death from trying to tame a horse by himself causes Barry and his wife to go their separate ways.
  • In both the book and film versions of Children of Men, Theo and his wife split following the death of their child, but the cause of death is different in both versions. In the book, it was because he accidentally ran his daughter over when backing out of the driveway, while in the film, his son died during a flu epidemic.
  • Clara: Isaac and his ex-wife lost their son at a young age, which caused their marriage to collapse. He still hasn't made peace with the loss by the beginning of the film.
  • Cold Pursuit: Nels's wife Grace leaves him following their son's death, angry at her husband's perceived lack of grief. What she didn't know was that he had been plotting a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the drug cartel responsible for their son's murder.
  • Dead Man Walking: Earl Delacroix reveals at a support group for parents of murdered children that his wife filed for divorce due to differing ways of grieving their son's death.
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Eleanor and Conor's relationship suffers and breaks after the death of their infant son. The films follow their splintering marriage, grieving, and attempts at reconciliation.
  • It's implied that the main character of First Reformed, Toller, got divorced because his wife blamed him for convincing their son to join the military, where he was killed in action.
  • The Force Awakens: Han Solo and Leia Organa, the Official Couple from the original trilogy, split up some years prior due to the grief of their son turning to the Dark Side, with Han returning to smuggling while Leia led the resistance against the new First Order.
  • Full Circle: Julia accidentally kills her daughter by attempting an Impromptu Tracheotomy when she's choking. She separates from her husband in the immediate aftermath, moving into a new house on her own.
  • The Russells' backstory in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). After losing their son Andrew as a result of the 2014 San Francisco kaiju attack, Mark and Emma Russell started drifting apart, with Emma moving to China with their surviving daughter Madison while resuming her work as a MONARCH researcher.
  • Hostile: Flashbacks show that Juliette and Jack's relationship ended after she miscarried their child.
  • House: Horror author Roger and actress Sandy's young son Jimmy disappeared while playing outside, just a short distance away from where his father was doing yard work. In the present, Sandy has amicably divorced Roger, moving on with her career while Roger still hasn't written another novel and hounds the federal investigation agencies for nonexistent updates on their son's case.
  • The International: Wexler's marriage fell apart after his daughter committed suicide.
  • The Invitation (2015): The film is centered around a party thrown by Eden and her new husband David, a first for her estranged friend group since the accidental death of her and protagonist Will's son Ty two years earlier. She had met David at a grief counseling group following Ty's death.
  • The Keeping Hours: Mark and Elizabeth divorce, guilt-riddenly blaming each other for their son Jacob's death in a car accident. They reconnect when Mark discovers Jacob's ghost, who wants his family to go back to normal, including his parents loving each other again.
  • Let There Be Light: Sol's son David died of cancer, causing him to reject Christianity and become an outspoken atheist. It's presumed that the death led to his divorce from his Christian now-ex-wife Katy, but they reunite after he is encouraged by a hallucination of his son to let God's love fill him.
  • Manchester by the Sea: While drunk one night, Lee forgot to put the guard in front of the fireplace, causing a house fire that claimed the lives of his three young children. He and his wife Randi divorced, then he moved out of town.
  • The Marrying Kind: Florence and Chet have a rough marriage, with the biggest stressor having been the death of their son Johnny, who drowned in a lake. After all the ups and downs, their families suggest divorce. Ultimately subverted, as after they finish narrating their relationship history to the judge presiding over their divorce, they decide to try again and not blame each other when things go wrong.
  • Minority Report: John Anderton's wife, Lara, left him after their son was kidnapped and never found, as she blamed him for the tragedy. Thanks to Agatha's intervention, Lara realizes she still loves John and eventually frees him from prison. They reconcile after John proves he is innocent and in the end are expecting a new child.
  • My Name is Khan: Rizwan's stepson Sameer is killed by Islamophobic bullies in the wake of 9/11 because his stepfather is Muslim. Rizwan's Hindu wife Mandira walks out on him, placing the sole blame on his surname for her son's death.
  • Ordinary People: Beth and Calvin lose their elder son Buck, Beth's favorite, in a boating accident. The ensuing trauma and grief that land their remaining son Conrad in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt bring to light Beth's coldness and inability to love. After the final time Calvin confronts her over this, she packs her bags and leaves.
  • Orphan: Although Kate is a recovering alcoholic and her husband Jon is an adulterer, the stillbirth of their daughter is what drives their marriage to the brink and kicks off the plot of the film. After additional manipulation from their Replacement Goldfish Esther, Jon threatens to take the kids and leave. Downplayed in that the couple never actually splits up because Esther murders Jon before that can happen.
  • Penny Serenade: The death of six-year-old Trina, Julie and Roger's beloved adopted daughter, sends Roger into a deep depression. Julie is about to leave her husband when a call comes about a two-year-old boy who's available for adoption. The pair resolve to rebuild their marriage with a new child, ultimately subverting the trope.
  • Pieces Of A Woman: Sean and Martha split after their child dies within minutes of birth and both fall into depression, with Sean falling back into substance abuse and infidelity.
  • In Saw IV, it's revealed through flashbacks that John Kramer fell into grief when his then-wife Jill Tuck suffered an untreatable miscarriage of their soon-to-be-born son Gideon, to the point that he cut social ties with most other people, including his friend and business partner Art Blank. Downplayed in that while he and Jill ended up divorcing, this didn't mean that they necessarily broke up, as John still cared for her.
  • Seabiscuit: Charles's wife leaves him after the death of their son in a car accident, forcing him to travel to Mexico in order to obtain a divorce. Fortuitously, he meets a woman there who he eventually marries.
  • Suicide Room: Beata and Andrzej's marriage deteriorates as their son Dominik grows increasingly depressed and shut-in, culminating in their divorce after Dominik commits suicide.
  • An Unfinished Life: While Einar is a widower in the original novel, his wife in the film adaptation left him due to his Excessive Mourning over their son's death in a traffic accident.
  • Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael: Roxy left town fifteen years ago after giving birth to a girl, though nothing else is known about the baby. In the present, Roxy's ex-fiancé reveals that their daughter was born three months premature and died as a result, causing Roxy's departure.
  • Widows: Veronica and Harry's happy marriage crumbled after the death of their son Marcus, who was shot by police while talking on the phone with his father.
  • Wind River: Cory and his wife divorce after the death of their daughter, Emily. He encourages his ex-wife and son to stay on The Rez, but she wants to leave as soon as possible.

    Literature 
  • Angle of Repose: Susan and Oliver's relationship never recovers after the death of their youngest daughter Agnes, who drowned in the river while Susan was rendezvousing with her lover, Oliver's friend Frank. Oliver never forgave his wife for Agnes's death.
  • Christine: Dennie and Leigh start dating officially after Arnie and his parents' deaths, but there is too much grief and trauma between them, and they drift apart. Leigh eventually marries someone else, while Dennie remains single.
  • Daddy's Little Girl: The murder of Ellie's teenage older sister Andrea destroys their family, with a big factor in their parents' divorce being blaming each other for their daughter's death.
  • Far Cry: After Heather dies while on holiday with her friends, her parents Ruth and Simon are torn apart by grief and blame each other for her death, culminating in their divorce.
  • The Fault in Our Stars: Discussed when terminally-ill Hazel worries that her parents might divorce after she dies of cancer.
  • Fire & Blood: It's implied that Aegon II and his sister-wife Helaena didn't have the best relationship to begin with, with Helaena being well aware of Aegon's many affairs, though they did have three children together. Their relationship goes completely down the drain after their eldest son Jaehaerys is horrifically murdered in front of Helaena, who had been forced to choose which of her sons would die (the assassins killed the son she didn't choose). They can't get divorced because it's extremely rare in Westeros, but Helaena stops sharing Aegon's bed and shuts herself in her room most days, while Aegon spends much of his time drinking and plotting revenge. When Aegon is bedridden with serious wounds for half a year, Helaena never once visits him. Helaena eventually kills herself, possibly because she found out her remaining son had also died.
  • Gone with the Wind: Although Rhett and Scarlett's marriage has just been going through the motions for almost a year, it's the death of their daughter Bonnie that puts the final nail in the coffin (and most literary analysts feel that since she's their child, she actually represents their marriage and as such, her death indeed represents its end). Rhett outright tells her, "When she died, she took everything."
  • Interpreter of Maladies: Shoba and Shukmar in "A Temporary Matter" break up at the end, unable to get past Shoba's miscarriage.
  • Jude the Obscure: Jude and Sue love each other, but Victorian society shuns them for being together without being married. Making society's opinion of them worse, both were married and left their loveless marriages for each other. The murder-suicide of Jude's son from his marriage and Jude and Sue's two children, caused by the misguided belief that the children were responsible for their parents' ostracism, results in the dissolution of their relationship. Sue believes their deaths were deserved punishment from God for living in sin with Jude, and both go back to their loveless marriages.
  • Just After Sunset: In "The Gingerbread Girl," Emily takes up running to deal with the grief of losing her daughter to cot death. The unhealthy degree to which she pushes herself in this new hobby leads Emily and her husband to agree on a trial separation, whereupon she moves to her father's summer home in Florida.
  • Love Letters to the Dead: Laurel's mother left for California prior to the start of the novel, after the death of Laurel's older sister, May. Though she returns to town later, it is unclear if the move is permanent.
  • The Lovely Bones: Abigail abandons her family and moves to California in the wake of her daughter Susie's murder. In the novel, she is gone for eight years, whereas the time period is shorter in the film adaptation.
  • Pretty Girls: After Julia's disappearance and murder (though her body is not found for decades), her parents, Sam and Helen, split up. They remain on good terms, though, even sleeping together sporadically (a fact which Helen's new husband seems both aware and somewhat accepting of).
  • Room: Once Jack and his mother escape from Room, it's revealed Ma's parents divorced during the time she was missing. The fact that Ma's father accepted that his daughter was most likely dead but her mother never gave up hope for her daughter's return is implied to be the biggest reason for their split.
  • The Stories of John Cheever: In "An Educated American Woman," Jill and George's marriage collapses following the death of their young son Bibber, who catches pneumonia while Jill is away working.
  • Thalia's Musings: Eros's disappearance culminates in Hephaestus and Aphrodite's long-overdue divorce.
  • Two Little Girls in Blue: Norman Bond's ex-wife Theresa moved across the country to California, filed for divorce and got remarried after their twin sons died at birth. It's hinted that there were already problems in their marriage - such as having little in common and Theresa inadvertently exacerbating Norman's insecurities - and that the death of the twins was the final straw, with Norman recalling Theresa saying that "maybe it was for the best" the twins didn't live shortly before leaving him (presumably because it would've made the divorce harder).
  • Feigned in the Epistolary Novel We Need to Talk About Kevin (but not in The Film of the Book). Eva addresses her letters as if she were writing them to her ex-husband Franklin, who'd left her and taken custody of their daughter Cecilia after their son Kevin murdered multiple classmates in a school massacre. However, the true situation is far different. In reality, Cecilia and Franklin were the first and second deaths in Kevin's murder spree.
  • The Westing Game: Mr. Westing and his wife Crow divorced after their daughter Violet's death. Her mother had pushed her to marry a corrupt politician instead of her at-the-time boyfriend, causing a despairing Violet to commit suicide on the eve of the wedding. Crow also turned to alcohol then religion as a means of coping with the loss of her only child.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 13 Reasons Why: In Season 2, Olivia and Andrew begin arguing a lot following their daughter Hannah's suicide and the discovery of why she did it; they eventually separate, and Andrew soon moves in with his new girlfriend. It's revealed that their marriage had already been on the rocks; Andrew had been cheating on Olivia, with Hannah catching him with his lover. It's worsened by Andrew not getting involved much in the court case against Liberty High, which Olivia perceives as him giving up on their daughter. They later reconcile at Hannah's grave, but don't get back together, given Andrew's absence in subsequent seasons.
  • 413 Hope St.: Mr. Thomas's son was murdered for his sneakers years prior to the series taking place, a tragedy that leads to the decline and eventual end of Mr. Thomas and his wife's marriage.
  • American Horror Story: Murder House: Chloe, one of the victims of Tate's school massacre, reveals that her parents split up and moved out of the area after her murder, meaning that she could never go home again.
  • Arrow: Flashbacks in the third season reveal that Maseo and Tatsu Yamashiro lost their son, Akio, to the plague attack on Hong Kong and divorced soon after.
  • Better Call Saul: A combination of grief and guilt leads to the end of Jimmy and Kim's relationship after they witness their colleague get murdered by a psychopath due to a juvenile prank they were playing.
  • Bosch: Irving tells his wife Connie that their son George is working a safe police desk job, whereas he was really doing dangerous undercover work for Internal Affairs. The truth comes out when George is murdered, and Connie files for divorce not long after.
  • Broadchurch:
    • Mark and Beth initially defy this, trying their best to keep their marriage together after the murder of their son Danny. However, by Series 3 their relationship has deteriorated and Mark often spends long hours away from home, doing little to help Beth with their new baby. Beth eventually tells him she wants a divorce and Mark decides to move out and get himself sorted so he can become a decent father. In their case, their marriage already had serious underlying problems prior to Danny's death, such as them having had their first child very young and Mark's infidelity; the murder merely brought these issues to the surface.
    • In Series 1, Beth meets up with Cate Gillespie, the mother and aunt of two girls, Pippa and Lisa respectively, who went missing; Pippa was found dead while Lisa remains missing but presumably deceased. Cate says she and her husband Ricky divorced over their daughter's murder and the fact the likely killer got away with it due to the botched investigation, with Cate stating that she's heard it's a common fate for couples who lose a child like this. Series 2 later reveals that Ricky murdered Lisa in a jealous rage after catching her having sex with Lee Ashworth, who then murdered Pippa to Leave No Witnesses and claimed to Ricky it was an accident; Ricky was forced to help cover it up to avoid going down for Lisa's murder, so it's likely that his guilt over this played a role in the divorce too.
  • Code Black: Christa Lorenson became a doctor out of a sincere desire to help others in the wake of her young son's death from cancer. The stress of his illness destroyed her marriage.
  • Cold Case: The serial bomber in "Sabotage" lost his young daughter to cancer, with his marriage falling apart soon after.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Heavily implied for Rossi and his ex-wife Carolyn. She ends her life after a diagnosis of ALS and asks Rossi if "he'll be there." The "he" she talks about is the son that they lost on the day of his birth.
    • Discussed in "A Shade of Gray." After a young boy is killed, the BAU team is clued in to the truth of the killer when the parents present a strong, united front. They point out that the death of a child usually drives couples apart, which makes them realize that the killer was the older brother, who was, in fact, a budding sociopath.
    • In "Hanley Waters," the UnSub is traumatized by grief after her son died in an accident she caused. Her inability to cope with an injured police officer having been prioritized over her son, both in injury treatment at the scene and news coverage following both's deaths, causes her relationship with her husband to deteriorate to the point of divorce.
    • In Gatekeeper," the UnSub's son is accidentally strangled by his friend during the few minutes his father was out of the room. The man's wife kicked him out two months before his killing spree started, it being fueled by the grief of not having been able to protect his son.
    • In "Bad Moon on the Rise," the UnSub's psychotic breakdown stemmed from his wife blaming him for their son's death and divorcing him. Their son died in a mugging gone wrong where the UnSub was too paralyzed by fear to intervene.
  • CSI: NY: "Child's Play" features an indirect case with the culprit behind one of the episode's two victims of the week. Having watched his friend drown as a child due to a prank gone horribly wrong, the man's lingering trauma and grief manifested in adulthood as being so overprotective of his own son that he would keep the boy indoors 24/7. His wife, understandably and rightly, left him and took their child away for the boy's own good.
  • Dead Like Me: The protagonist George's home life with her parents and sister is already rocky, but her accidental death in the pilot episode deteriorates it further, and her parents formally divorce in Season 2. Unknown to them, she comes back as a Psychopomp, but can't communicate with them due to the Masquerade.
  • Desperate Housewives: After Susan kills Lila Dash and her daughter Paige in a car accident, she and Mike split up during the five-year Time Skip. This also overlaps with Relationship-Salvaging Disaster, as the revenge plan that Lila's husband Dave puts into action against the pair ends up bringing them back together.
  • ER:
    • Carter and Kem's son Joshua is stillborn. While the couple goes on to get married after the tragedy, their relationship is fragile and its fate remains ambiguous.
    • Catherine Banfield and her husband became estranged following the death of their four-year-old son to leukemia, though they reconcile by the final season.
  • General Hospital's Tony catches his wife Bobbie kissing another man just minutes before they learn that their daughter has been fatally injured in a car accident. Despite them eventually reconciling after a year of counseling, he's still so emotionally drained that their marriage falls apart anyway.
  • Good Trouble: Dennis and his wife Jennifer were Happily Married until the death of their young son Jacob to cancer. The ensuing grief and guilt caused their marriage to fall apart, with the final nail in the coffin being Dennis's admission of having had an affair.
  • Grey's Anatomy: Jackson and April lose their son Samuel hours after his birth due to a fatal birth defect. In her grief, April leaves to be a war zone medic for what grows from an initial three months to an entire year away, then leaves again to become a field surgeon in Jordan. Their marriage doesn't recover from her departures, as Jackson feels like she's abandoned him when he needed her most.
  • I Know This Much Is True: As in the original novel, Dominick Birdsey and his wife Dessa divorced after their infant daughter Angela died of SIDS. They reunite at the end, with a hint they might someday become parents again. In the novel, they become adoptive parents to ex-girlfriend Joy's daughter after the woman dies of HIV.
  • Inspector Lynley: A car accident in "If Wishes Were Horses" causes Lynley's wife Helen to miscarry. Following her stay in the hospital, they separate.
  • The Kennedys After Camelot: Alexandros Onassis dies in a plane crash and his father doesn't take it well, accusing Jackie of bringing misfortune to his family and effectively ending their marriage.
  • Kidding: Jeff becomes estranged from his beloved wife Jill following their son Phil's death in a freak car accident. She raises Phil's twin Will on her own and moves on with a new boyfriend, while Jeff still dearly wants to reconcile.
  • The Leftovers:
    • In general, the Sudden Departure is mentioned to have caused a ton of divorces and separations, with people randomly abandoning their kids and lives.
    • The Sudden Departure provided the impetus for Kevin and Laurie's divorce, which begins with a long separation after she leaves him for the Guilty Remnant. Neither vocalize their grief in obvious ways, leaving it ambiguous if it was the grief of the event that caused their separation, as neither was happy before, or if their specific experiences during the Departure caused it. For Laurie, this was the disappearance of her and Kevin's fetus from literally inside her womb mid-scan, and for Kevin, it was the Departure of the stranger he was cheating on Laurie with.
  • Leverage: Nate's career change from honest insurance investigator to robin-hooding Chessmaster was caused by his insurance company denying his son's health coverage, a move that led to the boy's death. Nate and his wife Maggie divorced in the aftermath, though they remain Amicable Exes.
  • Little House on the Prairie: John Jr.'s death causes his adoptive father to fall Off the Wagon again, eventually leading to divorce over his grief-fueled alcoholism.
  • Mad Men: Don's waitress squeeze Diana reveals that she abandoned her family following her daughter's death. Her remaining daughter lives with her dad in Racine.
  • The Missing:
    • In Series 1, Tony and Emily divorce due to their grief over the disappearance of their young son, Oliver, while they're on holiday in France. While they still care about each other and even share a kiss, it's indicated that one of the main reasons they divorced was because Tony could never give up looking for Oliver (to the point where it consumed his life), while Emily had to accept her son was probably dead for the sake of her sanity. This makes things difficult when Tony finds new evidence that could explain what happened to Oliver.
    • In Series 2, Sam and Gemma stayed together after their daughter Alice was abducted. After she returned home but committed suicide from trauma (for which Sam blames himself), they still remained married, but by the present, their relationship is non-existent and they barely even talk to each other despite living under the same roof. Sam has also begun having an affair with a co-worker. Their relationship improves after they discover Alice may still be alive after all, but Gemma still tells Sam she wants a divorce. They don't hate each other, but by this point, their marriage has run its course.
  • NCIS: Season 9 Big Bad Harper Dearing used to be a company CEO with a happy family. Following his Navy sailor son's death in a shipyard explosion, he began turning to crime, a change that led his wife to divorce him. This, in turn, caused his transformation into the ship-firebombing vengeful terrorist that the NCIS team encounters.
  • Orange Is the New Black: In Season 7, Lorna Morello and Vince Muccio's baby died of pneumonia in the NICU and Lorna pretended it didn't happen by setting up a fake Instagram account and putting up pictures of other people's babies, pretending they are of her baby. The account gets taken down by Vince and he suggests that they should get a divorce. This causes Lorna to have a mental breakdown and try to escape from prison.
  • Preacher: Tulip and Jesse were expecting a child together when a bank robbery job went wrong. Carlos, the third member of the job, was upset about the couple's fooling around. By releasing a security guard and escaping without the other two, he threw a stressful wrench into their plans that resulted in Tulip miscarrying. Jesse and Tulip ended up going their separate ways after that. In the present, Tulip wants Jesse to help her find and kill Carlos for the betrayal that cost them their child.
  • Providence. Following a miscarriage, Janie develops a drinking problem and pushes her fiancé away. By the time she gets her act together, he's moved on.
  • Reservation Dogs: Danny, Daniel's father, reveals to Bear that he and his wife divorced following Daniel's suicide. In addition, Danny quit drinking, as his alcohol-fueled behavior contributed to the familial strife that impacted Daniel's mental health.
  • The Sandman (2022): One of the main reasons Calliope and Morpheus' marriage fell apart was the tragic death of their son. Calliope says she blamed Morpheus and that he hated her for that; she vowed he would never see her again and kept it that way for centuries. However, by the present day, their anger towards each other has abated, enough that Morpheus swiftly comes to her rescue when she asks. They both make it clear that neither of them resents or blames the other for their son's death anymore, becoming Amicable Exes.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Col. Jack O'Neill and his wife Sara split up after the death of their son Charlie. It was only made worse by the fact that Charlie had accidentally shot himself with Jack's handgun; Sara was never able to forgive Jack, nor did Jack ever really forgive himself.
  • Stranger Things: Hopper is introduced to the series as single. However, he later reveals that he had a wife and a daughter. After their daughter tragically passed away from cancer, the couple divorced.
  • S.W.A.T. (2017): The Cold Sniper in "Trigger Creep" suddenly lost his three-year-old daughter to meningitis, with his marriage falling apart not long after.
  • True Detective: After Rust accidentally ran down his young daughter, he and his wife split up due to his guilt and her anger at him.
  • The Victim: Anna and her husband divorce after the murder of their young son by a fellow child. Though she remarries, both are shown as being consumed by grief years later.
  • Without a Trace: Chet Collins's son Sean went missing when he was two. Though he locates Sean six years later, his marriage fell apart in the interim.
  • The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window: Anna and Douglas split up after their daughter Elizabeth is kidnapped and eaten by a murderous cannibal in a prison where Douglas is working (and where he apparently does a Take Your Daughter to Work Day). They eventually reconcile after Anna needs Douglas back due to her amateur investigation into Charity's death.
  • In The Wonder Years, Winnie's parents separate after their son Brian is killed in the Vietnam War.
  • The X-Files:
    • Following the alien abduction of their daughter Samantha, Bill and Teena Mulder divorced. As a member of the Syndicate, Bill let his daughter be abducted and taken into a cloning program, in hopes that she would survive the alien viral holocaust if she became a genetic hybrid. Teena was more aware of the circumstances surrounding her daughter's abduction and the Syndicate than she ever let on.
    • John Doggett and his wife Barbara divorced after the death of their son Luke, though they are Amicable Exes. Barbara even points out to Scully that Everyone Can See It regarding John and Monica Reyes having feelings for each other.

    Theatre 
  • Elisabeth: The titular character undergoes this thrice, breaking up with her husband in stages. Her fairytale romance is immediately sunk by her Knight Templar mother-in-law, whose meddling indirectly results in the death of Sisi's oldest daughter Sophie. This first tragedy drives a deep wedge between Elisabeth and her husband, Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I. The second tragedy comes when Death reveals to her that Franz gave her syphilis that he contracted from a sex worker, causing Elisabeth to give up court life and wander the world at the cost of emotionally neglecting her only son Rudolf. The final tragedy is Rudolf's suicide, which finally gets Elisabeth and Franz Joseph to admit that they are too different to ever reconcile. Although they are royalty and as such cannot divorce, Sisi spends so much time away from Franz Joseph that they are functionally separated. Despite their differences, Franz Joseph never stops loving his wife.
  • I and You: Caroline's parents split up from the stress of their daughter's probably-terminal illness that has caused her liver to fail. She hasn't seen her father in months and is bitter because she sees how much her mother misses him.
  • Next to Normal: Diana and Dan's son Gabe died as a toddler sixteen years prior, though he continues to live on in her hallucinations and cast a shadow over the family's lives. Near the end of the show, Diana leaves her husband, recognizing that though they love each other, they need to come to terms with their long-buried grief on their own.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed Origins: Khemu's death destroyed the marriage of his parents Aya and Bayek, as their grief led them both to being too obsessed with revenge to devote time to each other. Even though it's clear they both still love each other, it's equally clear that their relationship will never recover, and by the end of the game, they take their separate ways for good, only keeping in contact regarding matters of the Hidden Ones. In Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, you can obtain a letter Bayek sent to Aya in his elderly years, which confirms that even though he still adores her and is nostalgic about what they once had, they never got back together.
  • The Boogie Man: Keith and Helena suffer the loss of their five-year-old son Tod before the events of the game. Helena moves to divorce Keith, feeling that he hasn't been able to accept their son's death because he's spent so much time taking care of her.
  • Criminal Case: World Edition: The reason for Ingrid's frostiness is revealed in "Case 49: Day of the Dead." She had given birth prematurely, resulting in the baby's death. She became an Ice Queen, while her husband Ramon turned to the bottle. Marina convinces Ingrid to make amends with her ex-husband, allowing them both to grieve properly. From this point on, Ingrid's hair reverts to its natural blonde and she swaps out her cold wardrobe for a sunnier look.
  • Destiny 2: Centuries ago, Commander Zavala once found love with a Human doctor, Safiyah, and adopted a son, Hakim. As Zavala was an immortal Guardian and Safiyah was a regular Human, he was always going to outlive her, but when a Fallen raid slew Hakim at seventeen, their grief (Zavala blamed himself, and Safiyah wanted to move on) and their different duties (Zavala to the Iron Lords reclaiming Earth, Safiyah to other settlements needing her expertise) drove them apart. Safiyah ultimately came to terms with Hakim's death and died at peace, but Zavala never did, and continued to visit her grave and the graves of her descendants asking for forgiveness.
  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Valsirenn and her husband Earl Leythen became estranged following the death of their daughter to illness. While Valsirenn doubled down on her research in the aftermath, Leythen became lost his faith in the Psijic Order.
  • Hades: In the backstory, Persephone's strained relationship with Hades reaches its breaking point when their son Zagreus is stillborn. Unable to bear life in the Underworld anymore, she runs away to go into hiding on the surface. Because of this, she is unaware that Zagreus was actually saved from death by the intervention of Nyx; his goal throughout the game is to reunite with her and repair the relationship between his parents.
  • Heavy Rain: Ethan Mars loses a son in a car accident, leading to his divorce, depression, and the eventual kidnapping of his other son by a serial killer two years later.
  • Life Is Strange 2 features a cameo from David Madsen from the first game. It reveals that if the player chose the "Sacrifice Chloe" ending, her death caused her mother and David to divorce. Ironically, in a save following the other ending, the death of Joyce (and most of the town) seems to have brought David and Chloe closer, to the point she acknowledges him as her father.
  • Murder in the Alps: When Roberto Fiore died eleven years before the events of Unforgiven, his mother Irene Hoffman soon left his father Rinaldo Fiore in her grief. When Rinaldo discovers that Roberto was accidentally killed by his best friend Flavio Riva, he murders Flavio to avenge his son while hoping that doing this gives him a chance to win back his ex-wife whom he still loves.
  • Neverending Nightmares: The Final Descent ending reveals that Thomas's daughter Gabby had died earlier in the game, which Thomas has not been able to move on from. This eventually causes his wife, Gabrielle, to leave him.
  • OMORI: It's implied that Sunny's Disappeared Dad left the family after the sudden and tragic death of Sunny's older sister Mari, though it's ambiguous whether either parent knew that he accidentally killed her.
  • Paranoiac: Yuriko Saeki gave birth to a stillborn son, devastated not only by the loss but also by the lack of support from her husband and family as she grieved. Descending into postpartum depression and paranoia, her husband left her.
  • Silent Hill: Downpour: Protagonist Murphy Pendleton's son Charlie was killed by Patrick Napier, a pedophilic neighbor. His wife Carol leaves him, placing the blame squarely on Murphy's shoulders, despite neither of them having known Napier was a child molester.
  • The Spectrum Retreat: The player gradually encounters the memories of what led to protagonist Alex's placement in the "Hotel California"-esque Penrose Hotel. His son Robin died after Alex and his wife Maddie were unable to keep paying for medical treatment, spiraling Alex into a depression that resulted in divorce. Maddie then had him committed to Penrose to put an end to his grief-laden Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Undertale: Asgore and Toriel lost both their children in one night — their adoptive child to illness, and their son who was killed by humans when he tried to take his sibling's body back to their village to fulfill their Last Request to see the flowers there again. Asgore, beside himself with grief, declared war on humanity on behalf of his kingdom and made it law that any human who came there would be killed. Toriel, disgusted and horrified by this (especially since their adoptive child had been human), left him.
  • What Remains of Edith Finch: Sam and his first wife Kay divorce after the accidental drowning death of their son, Gregory in the bathtub during the time that Kay left to take a phone call.

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Dark Simpsons: In the "Murder at the Simpson House" minisode, Homer and Marge's marriage falls apart due to Groundskeeper Willie killing their children and not finding passion in their matrimony anymore, ending with Marge saying goodbye to Homer in their wedding videotape.
  • Secret Histories (Mashed): Case 05 reveals that Wily's son, the future Mega Man, suffered a serious accident that left him barely clinging to life. The resulting grief caused Wily's wife Symmetra to walk out on him.

    Western Animation 
  • Tarantula!: Echo reveals in the final episode that he lost his infant daughter to cystic fibrosis, causing him and his wife Jean to divorce.

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