Men, Too, Deserve to Grieve the Loss of Their Babies

Adult with somber expression and red eyes looks off to one side, chin resting in right handMiscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss happen to men, too. Unfortunately, this reality isn’t well recognized or acknowledged.

Instead, men are typically asked how their partners are handling things. If there’s anything we can do to help or support her, they’ll say, please just ask. Seemingly rarely are fathers of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss asked how they, personally, are doing, or if they need support.

The assumption seems to be that since men don’t carry the baby or experience of physical aspects of childbirth (and even miscarriage is a childbirth), they don’t have the same relationship with the baby or experience the grief that women do when the baby dies. Perhaps in some circumstances—for some men—this is true, but my experience has taught me that, overwhelmingly, this is not the case.

Men grieve, too. They just aren’t given the permission to grieve in the way that women are for such losses. Rather, men are expected (and frequently told) to “be strong” for their partners and to take care of everything so that their partners can grieve and heal. Even if they aren’t outright told these things, the cultural expectation is so strong that often these fathers don’t feel that they can ask for support or express their pain and loss to those around them.

Too often, constrained by family or cultural expectations, men push their grief away and attempt to rationalize their way through the experience. This doesn’t take the grief away, though, and it doesn’t help them to heal. Instead, their grief may begin to show up as anger toward and distance from their partner and loved ones.

Expecting these fathers to shoulder the burden of their partners’ grief and healing without also providing them the support and space to express their grief is damaging and painful to them and those around them. These fathers deserve better from all of us—family, friends, and professionals.

Fathers of loss, I see you. This is what you deserve to hear:

Men grieve, too. They just aren’t given the permission to grieve in the way that women are for such losses.

You Lost Your Baby, Too

Your relationship with your baby might not have been the same as your partner’s. You may not have carried your baby in your body, but this does not mean you didn’t have a relationship with your baby and love him or her every bit as much as your partner. You also had dreams, ideas, and plans for your life with your baby. That was taken from you.

Perhaps you didn’t physically experience the miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of your baby, but you watched, hurting, as your partner went through it. Sometimes, having to watch someone you love in pain and being helpless to do anything about it is every bit as painful as the physical experience itself—especially when it seems everyone is expecting you to fix and handle things.

You Have the Right to Grieve

This is your loss, too. You have every bit as much of a right and a need to grieve as your partner does.

You are allowed to break down. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to be angry at the unfairness of it all. You are allowed to need time and space and people to lean on.

You lost your baby and all of your hopes and dreams for him or her. You are allowed to grieve for all of that.

You Are a Father—and Always Will Be

Your baby made your partner a mother and you a father. Nothing and no one can take that away from you. You are a father for the rest of your life.

You deserve to be included in Father’s Day recognitions. You deserve to call yourself a dad. You deserve to be acknowledged as a father. You are one.

You Have the Right to Receive Support

You do not have to be the rock, the “strong” one, all the time. You deserve love and support from family and friends. You deserve to have your partner there for you as much as you are there for her.

What you and your partner are experiencing is one of the most devastating and painful losses that anyone can know. You cannot be the sole support and strength for your partner through it all, nor can she be for you. No one person can be everything for anyone. You both need and deserve love and support from others to make it through this.

You deserve to have friends and family to talk to about your loss. You deserve to have support from a counselor, a spiritual adviser if desired, and colleagues. You deserve to have people who can hold space for your grief, anger, and pain.

You do not have to do this alone.

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  • Gary

    Gary

    May 14th, 2015 at 6:08 PM

    With men we are expected to be so stoic and be the support for someone else, but what happens we are the ones who need the care and support?

  • Robert

    Robert

    May 15th, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    tHe loss of a child is a pain that no parent should ever have to bear but sadly it happens all of the time and to people who have never done anything to deserve feeling that kind of pain.
    It is important to remember that grieving in this way is going to be outside of the comfort zone of most me- they won’t know how to deal with the experience that this is going to bring to their lives.
    You can’t push them to share, but instead I think that it is important to keep reminding them that they will always have a friend in you and that you are there when they need you.

  • riley o

    riley o

    May 16th, 2015 at 5:30 AM

    I don’t think that any of us would disagree that men need to have the time to grieve for a lost child. But i think that the biggest problem lies with the men themselves who do not know how to grieve, who do not understand the grief process and think that this should be over before they are through healing.
    This isn’t something that can be sped up or that there is a specific time frame for. It s something that is going to be very individual and should be treated as such.

  • Caroline

    Caroline

    May 18th, 2015 at 3:42 AM

    It feels like it is just not in the nature of men to grieve for a loss like this. There are many who feel more like it is their job to stay strong for someone else when this happens.

  • BEN

    BEN

    May 18th, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    It often feels like society as a whole places unrealistic expectations on men, how we should act and think and feel, without taking the time to realize that at the end of the day we are human just like anyone else. We care, we grieve, we love, and we hurt.

  • Oliver

    Oliver

    May 20th, 2015 at 1:14 PM

    That baby is just as much an extension of the man as it is for the woman. Just because we don’t carry them physically within our bodies does not mean that emotionally or spiritually we are detached from them.

  • Brian

    Brian

    November 22nd, 2015 at 6:33 PM

    Thank you for addressing this topic so well. As a father who lost his infant son six years ago at age 27 days, I and my wife have learned to live with the pain of our loss but not a day passes that we don’t grieve our loss and what could have been.

  • Dave

    Dave

    April 22nd, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    Thank you for this post. It really hit home for me. I even tried support groups through the hospital to find out most are for women only. I get the “safe space” women only idea but how do we turn our back on all these fathers ? It’s been a little over a year and I feel the loss so deeply and profoundly from the moment I wake up, idle time throughout the day and when I try to go to sleep.
    When I did open up to friends they were shocked I had not “moved on ” the truth is I don’t know that I ever can “move on” Reading other comments I think that’s just the way it is and we need to learn to live with it

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