Losing a child at birth (or at any time) is one of the most painful and devastating experiences that someone can go through. Sadly, so many men, once excited at the prospect of being a dad (many for the first time), never get to experience a “normal” childbirth. Some also never get to experience a “normal” fatherhood at all. These men are part of a club that swells by over 3,000 new members each year through stillbirth, neonatal or infant loss alone. Modern society has conditioned men to conceal their emotions as a sign of strength but a grieving father feels the loss of a child just as keenly as the mother. Although men don’t express themselves like women do, it does not mean that we grieve any less.
Whilst the grieving process may be different for men and women this is often based on individuality rather than gender. However there is a significant feeling that fathers are often forgotten in the grieving process. During the pregnancy and birth of a child a father’s role is predominantly to support his partner emotionally and physically. A father is expected to be the pillar of support (strength) for the mother, extended family and friends. He is also the communication channel to the outside world and on many occasions, if he has other children, he becomes their chief caretaker while his partner recovers from surgery and the birth. Although of course he did not carry the child, there is still a deep bond that reaches a whole new dimension once the child is outside the womb.
During the period immediately after loss there is little time for dads to do something for themselves or get support. They feel the need to provide it to everyone else (particularly their partners) to ensure that everything continues in some sense of “normality”. Many men take on the protector role in the family, supporting their wives or partners and not allowing time for their own grief. Even in today’s society, some men find it difficult to express their emotions and feelings can get locked up. Many men need time and space to grieve and this may happen many weeks, months or even years later.
For some fathers sadly our role is to support our child’s memory rather than supporting them through life. A child’s passing changes your world forever. However fatherhood, once reached, is timeless. Coping with the loss of your child at any time is both emotionally heartbreaking and physically devastating. It is a pain that endures. You never know the moment when your next “down day” will come, no matter how long ago you lost your child.
Being in this situation you will find that friends and family always offer support or to do something for you but there really isn’t anything they can do to help you with your grief and the guilt of not being able to do anything to fix things.
Fathers tend to take on the practicalities and keep themselves busy. Men also often find that other people ask about how their partner is coping without seeming to realise that they are grieving too. Men may feel helpless when they see their partner so distressed. However, it is important to recognise that although men may not show symptoms of grief they are grieving and need support too.
The important thing is to respect and support each family member when they are dealing with their loss. Acknowledge the father and ask how he is going – although it may seem small it will go a long way. Acknowledge him and acknowledge his child and recognise his loss, no matter when it occurred. It’s a loss that never goes away.
Working with organisations, institutions, sporting codes, teams and venues our Time Out program lets dads attend sporting and fitness activities or events with mates, family members or another dad who has experienced a similar situation.
Access to Sporting Events – As a bereaved dad you are able to access up to four tickets to any of the games and other activities we have on offer. You must have someone attend the activity with you whether it’s a mate or a family member.Primarily these events include seats to NRL and AFL games plus an assortment of other sporting events including cricket, soccer, golf, rugby union and others depending on seasonality.
The Time Out program allows a dad to have his own time and gives him the ability to reconnect with his support network without formally asking for help.It may also allow the dad to interact with a peer support network of individuals who have been through a similar situation allowing him to understand that he is not alone. The result is a dad who has had time to reflect, reenergise and refocus as well as being able to reconnect with his support network – the people around him who have always been there but may not have been able to engage him.
The initial focus of Pillars of Strength in terms of meeting the needs of fathers is centred on the neonatal and newborn spectrum of fatherhood…
We also run events throughout the year, giving dads the opportunity to meet other dads who have experienced the loss of a child. These events are designed for dads to get active, mingle and have some fun in a social environment. This includes playing a game of cricket on the hallowed SCG turf, attending and AFL or NRL game, a round of golf, barefoot bowls, or even touch footy or a game of soccer on Allianz or ANZ Stadium.
You must have someone attend the activity with you that is male whether it’s a mate or a family member. There are always new Time Out opportunities for dads to take advantage of so it’s worth checking in on a regular basis.
Even before you begin looking around our website to find out what you want to know, we’re happy to let you cut to the chase. If you’ve got any questions at all – as a dad or someone who wants to help a dad they care about – just drop us a note here.
Equally if you would like to share your experiences or offer some support, we’d love to hear from you. We promise we’ll get back to you asap.
PO Box 1092
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012
ABN: 19 152 298 934 | CFN: 22064
Pillars of Strength provides respite and support to dads facing significant family trauma. It gives dads the opportunity to access events for a bit of “time out” and it delivers practical assistance for dads throughout these periods of intense distress.
Pillars of Strength aims to provide funding and other support to reduce immediate stressors by helping to meet day to day expenses for families during times of their child’s severe illness or even loss of life during prolonged hospitalisation.
From small beginnings our programs are rapidly expanding but we can only move as quickly as our support will allow.And there’s more than one way for you to lend a hand. And every little bit counts and whatever you can do is truly appreciated.
Copyright © Pillars of Strength 2019