This month our guest blog is written by Petra Boynton, author of Coping With Pregnancy Loss. As Fathers Day approaches, it’s not always a perfect day for everyone.
“Right now you might feel surrounded by messages for Father’s Day – adverts for events and gifts, radio dedications, people sharing family photos on social media. All of which can be wonderful if you want to celebrate, but for bereaved Dad’s this time of year can be especially difficult – and equally hard to talk about.
You may have been bereaved through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirth or infant loss. You may have had children, or struggle with infertility.
During a loss Dads may not be sure what to do, feeling torn between needing to be strong for their wife or girlfriend and coping with their own fears and distress. Dads are often expected to offer care for their partner, convey bad news to relatives, look after any other children they may have, while getting on with work. Friends and relatives may offer support to women who’ve had a loss, but not men partners, perhaps even telling men they should not expect help. And men may be left alone to deal with grief and trauma they have witnessed. Later Dads can also feel alienated, angry, jealous of others who’ve had children, or believe they’ve failed. They may be guilty over the loss of their baby or about fertility worries, or that they could have done something differently to prevent the loss or support their partner.
For many Dads being able to talk about their loss, their hopes and fears, and other feelings would be very useful. Particularly if they are living with grief and trauma. But many things prevent this. Feeling like they have to be a ‘real man’, to not show emotion, to care for their partner and put their needs secondary to hers. Men may also not know what to say, or have no idea where they might ask for help. While services exist for women they may wrongly believe there is nothing for them. Or they might be afraid if they do open up about their experiences they will unravel.
Because of this many men shut off, feel numb, or act as if they are not as bothered about their loss(es) as they are. Their wives or girlfriends may even think they don’t care. Men may feel anxious about making their wives or girlfriends more upset or selfishly demanding their care at a difficult time. However where couples do communicate, share how they feel and let each other know they are grieving (even if they do so in different ways) it can be a huge relief and comfort to each of them.
This Fathers Day it may help you to shut off from social media if reminders make you feel unsettled or sad. Or you may want to remember your baby by visiting their grave if that’s an option, or creating other memorials. Planting a tree, having a print made in their memory, or talking about them. If you have other children they may want to join in with this. And you can remember you are #stilladad whether your children are with you or not.
After Fathers Day you can get additional help from
The Miscarriage Association https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/your-feelings/partners/
Both of whom have bespoke resources for Dads and Granddads, no matter how long ago losses happened.
These organisations also have support groups on and offline where you can connect with other Dads to talk about how you feel, grieve together, and give each other advice on coping after loss. SANDS has a growing number of local football teams where Dads play together, alongside suggestions for other communal sporting activities https://findingyourway.org.uk/ If sport isn’t your thing you can use these organisations to connect with other men who’re interested in volunteering, fundraising, cooking, theatre or any other thing that might help you feel less alone.
We all grieve differently, things aren’t perfect but getting better as a time for dads and granddads to talk about grief, loss and lives that didn’t go as planned. Celebrate or ignore Fathers Day as best it suits you, but remember you are not alone.”
Petra Boynton is the author of Coping With Pregnancy Loss (Routledge £11.99) https://copingwithpregnancyloss.com/
Images credit: Sean Longcroft, illustrator.