When your baby dies, it sometimes seems that the father’s loss is overlooked and the focus is solely on the mother. But you too have suffered a loss while at the same time you are expected to be the “strong one” and be there for your partner, and if you have other children, be there for them too.
You may also be the one who is expected to break the bad news and it can be one of the loneliest of times contacting your relatives and friends to tell them about your loss. It might help if you have a friend or relative to help you with this task.
In the past men were expected to be the strong one, the supportive one and not really show their emotions. But you will feel the same as your partner; shock, guilt, disbelief, sadness and anger. Anger may be the strongest feeling as men typically feel that they have things in their life under control and the loss of control that you may experience when you lose your baby is significant. It is extremely important to take care of yourself just as you are taking care of your partner.
It’s very important too for you to be involved with your baby, holding him/her, washing him/her, dressing him/her where possible. These are memories that you are building for yourself and you will cherish them later.
It is now a very positive step forward that so many hospitals allow fathers to stay with their partner and child throughout their stay in hospital.. This can be very comforting for both of you.
As the father, you will also be asked to make some difficult decisions; whether or not to allow a post mortem and to look after the funeral arrangements. It is best to involve your partner in these decisions as this can prevent misunderstanding at a very sensitive time. Take your time. Talk it over; after all these are decisions you would never have expected to make. You may also be required to register the stillbirth or birth and death of your baby.
Maybe someone else could help you too especially in the cancellation of items i.e. pram, car seats, etc, that have been ordered.
Many men try to cope by keeping busy which is a way of suppressing those feelings of sadness and loss. We too can find it difficult to cry which doesn’t mean we don’t care. Grieving affects men in different ways and equally it is alright to cry, express your feelings and discuss things. Men and women have different coping mechanisms and require different things at different times, this is why communication and an understanding of where each of you are is so important.
Not only have you suffered the loss of your child but you also lose a part of your partner and yourself. Sadly this loss puts immense strain on the couple. Although you are both grieving, we grieve in different ways and hence sometimes it can be very hard to help each other. There will be times when you can grieve together and other times when you simply want to be left alone.
Returning to work is also extremely hard;, maybe it is best to return midweek to start off with. It can make it that bit easier knowing the weekend is just around the corner. The people you work with will probably not mention your baby for fear of upsetting you and hope you will carry on as normal. You may be asked “How is your wife/partner doing? And not ask about you at all. Tell them that you too have lost your baby and it is okay to be asked how you’re doing too.
Losing your child is a huge loss and it can make you question every aspect of your life and beliefs. You may feel that you will never get over it and will feel this acute sense of pain and loss forever. However you can learn to live with your loss and continue to maintain a close bond with your baby while carrying on with your life; some days will be easier than others.
Your local Feileacain group or befriender can be of great help in supporting you and you can also talk to other fathers who have been through the process and understand fully what you are feeling.