Miscarriage, 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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