Over the past few weeks we have been inundated with articles, commercials, advertisements and the…
I’ve talked quite a bit about remembering and honouring all women on Mother’s Day, especially those who have suffered through infertility, pregnancy and infant loss, and I recently took a step back and asked myself – “what about the Dads”?
Friends and family can overlook grieving dads and may not know how to offer support, or may think that men would be uncomfortable with the show of emotional vulnerability. Despite our progress in banishing stereotypical gender roles, men are often still perceived and expected to be the strong silent type. To suffer in silence and not let their emotions show. Additionally, women tend to have bigger social networks that they can draw support from, so where does this leave the Dads? I reached out to the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network to talk with some of their members about grieving a loss from a Dad’s perspective.
This is Dennis’s story:
“When my wife and I lost our second child James early in the 3rd trimester it completely turned our world upside down. It was a weekday and my wife wasn’t feeling well and was worried about James because she hadn’t felt him move in a couple of days. We went to the hospital and I remember feeling the words sinking in and crying uncontrollably as the gravity of the loss sank in.
As the man, I now wanted to be strong, organized, and in control of what was happening next. I had to be there for my wife who was now about to physically go through giving birth to James who had already passed away, to climb Mount Everest fully knowing what the outcome was. I had to be the shoulder to cry on, the greeter to all our friends and family, the one in control, the rock. I desperately wanted to help my wife. to make the pain go away, but I didn’t know how and I was in pain as well. “
James echoed that sentiment, saying:
“It was hard, having to deal with my own emotions, but also to see her have to go through the birthing process with getting nothing in the end. I also remember most of the friends and family support going towards her.”
Some men are able to take the steps needed and reach out to their partners, to their support group. Some aren’t afraid to share their stories, to banish the elephant in the room and be the first to break the silence. For others, this burden is too heavy and they suffer in isolation. I want to encourage everyone around them to support these Dads – those who can make those connections and especially those who can’t. Dennis had these words of wisdom when dealing with this most difficult of situations:
“I would say that men tend to try and deal with the loss and feelings on their own. One on one interactions probably allow for more discussion of how they are feeling and what emotions they are dealing with. Also being there for them is helpful and avoids them from isolating themselves. In the end just listening is all that is needed. No need for suggestions or comments. Just someone to know they care how they are doing.”
So to those friends and families surrounding grieving Dads, reach out to them this Father’s Day. Let them know that you are there for them. That you remember their child and won’t be fading into the background when the going gets tough. Show up. And show up again. Sit. Listen. Love.
To my big brothers; my guardians, my protectors, my safe haven – I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t have the wherewithal and emotional maturity to wrap my head around or approach you with compassion and vulnerability. I want to show up. Again and again. I want to sit. To listen. Most of all, to love.
I encourage you all to share how you will #ShowUpForDads who are grieving this Father’s Day. Let’s overwhelm them with support, understanding, remembrance and love.