Another family holiday upon us. Father’s Day. If you identify with the commercialized version of this holiday, the man or men in your life will be grilling, playing golf, fishing and being lazy and unhelpful. I don’t know about you, but those aren’t the fathers I know. Sure they may like these hobbies, but the fathers I know are anything but bumbling idiots as they have often been portrayed in our media. And a babyloss father, well, he’s a special breed. He has to be.
Many babyloss fathers find themselves in the unique position of caring for the mother after their baby has died, being asked about her welfare by others while his grief is overlooked. Due to cultural norms he is expected to be strong and not show emotion. Logistically he may need to return back to work sooner than the mother because physically he is able to, perhaps he only gets 3 days for bereavement leave, perhaps time no longer qualifies for paternity leave as there doesn’t seem to be a baby, and the family is depending on him to earn money. Depending on the loss situation, the medical bills can be enormous.
But it would be wrong to assume he is not grieving. Stereotypically speaking, women tend to emote and externalize their grief by crying, talking, and wanting to connect with others while men tend to internalize their grief. This means they may not talk about it, know how they feel, and they may dive into action by working more, or picking up a new hobby. In my family, my husband to began to thoroughly explore and research building a cabin after our daughter died. This is a life long dream of his before our loss, and it became something to focus on after our loss. Both of us were left reeling, and neither of us knew what to “do.” In my own pain, I was not there for him. And it was rare that anyone asked him how he was doing.
So what can you “do” to honor the babyloss father you know this Father’s Day? It’s simple, really. But it may not be easy. Reach out to him – call him, text him, send him an email or a card. Let him know you remember HIM and his baby. While his experience of fatherhood may scare you to death, imagine what it might be like for him. The silence of those around him can be deafening. Tell him you remember he’s a father too. Ask him how he’s doing. Pause, and allow him to respond.
To all the babyloss dads out there, including my own husband, my thoughts and love are with you. Parenthood is hard. And parenting a dead baby is also hard. There is no road map, no right or wrong way to do this, and as a father – you are often called upon to steer this ship in uncharted waters. You have my deepest respect and gratitude.