Fathers Feel Loss Too
Today’s post is another one in our series of posts for Bereaved Parent’s Awareness Month and is going out to every Father out there who has lost a child.
Most articles, resources, etc. about grieving the loss of a child are geared towards the Mother, but what about Fathers who have lost a child?
Unfortunately, due to the way that society perceives “Manhood” in most countries, the Father of a child who has died is forgotten about most of the time.
The Little Fighters Cancer Trust would like to say to all Fathers out there who have lost children, “We SEE you and we recognise your Pain!”
During hospital stays and the first days back at home after the death of a child, the focus of attention is usually on the Mother, and there is very little in the form of acknowledgement or support for the grieving Father who has also suffered a devastating loss.
Having to be the strong one, the one who supports the mother and the rest of the family; the one who makes all the phone calls, the one who tries to shield the grieving mother from as many calls as possible to let her come to terms with her own grief takes its toll on a Grieving Father.
Most men do not generally have the same sort of social networks that women have and may be used to relying on their partner for emotional support, so what do they do when their support needs support and leaves them with nobody to lean on and confide their deepest thoughts and fears to?
What happens when a mother has dealt with her grief and is slowly able to function more normally and continue with life but the Father has not yet had time to fully come to terms with his own grief at the loss of his child and is far from moving on?
Grief is very individual, and couples often find that their feelings and reactions do not coincide. One’s partner may want to “get back to normal” long before the other one is ready to do so.
As one grieving Father put it:
“I know that my partner doesn’t like to talk about her sadness. Her way of dealing with it is to just move on and hope for the best, to hide her sadness. My way is the exact opposite. I want to talk about it and to find a solution to help it work out OK in the end. This has caused a great deal of strain in our relationship.”
Losing a child may result in difficulties with all aspects of the bereaved couple’s relationship, including their sex life. One partner may find lovemaking a source of comfort and closeness, while the other may not feel physically ready, may see sex as a frightening reminder of the loss, or may feel that a desire for sex is wrong or unfeeling (and this could be either partner).
The death of a child unfortunately often ends in the parents splitting up, and this may have a lot to do with the fact that the Father has no outlet for his grief therefore cannot handle being around the situation any longer so does the only thing that he can to preserves his sanity – he leaves!
Some Fathers tend to put their grief into a box and shove it to the back of a dark closet, all neatly tucked away and gathering dust.
They do not want to open that box because they do not want to face the heartache, sadness and pain contained therein, but sometimes they do not have an option.
Sometimes, when Fathers who have lost a child think about the woulda, coulda, shoulda-beens…
…like watching rugby with his son or teaching him to fish…
…taking his daughter to her first dance or walking her down the aisle …
It is in those unguarded moments that the box opens up just a little bit and all those bottled up emotions escape and come tumbling out with nowhere to go…
Just because a man grieves differently does not mean that a Father does not grieve when he loses a child – his grief just presents differently.
So, when you see a father who has lost a child, know that he is grieving too, and spare a moment to just ask him how he is feeling, how he is coping, if there is anything you can do for him.
He may be back at work; he may not talk about his dead child, he may seem to be acting normally, but remember that his world has crumbled too… He grieves too… Fathers grieve too…
How You as a Father can Deal with your Grief
Overwhelming feelings of grief can often result in Fathers wanting to be strong for the rest of the family. You may feel the need to hide your emotions and submerge yourself in work in order to take your mind off the death of your child.
You may feel that society today expects Men to be strong and hide their feelings but, there is a time and a place to be strong and the loss of your child is not one of them.
The best thing you can do is reach out for help and express your emotions; asking for help is not a sign of weakness but one of great courage.
About Those Feelings of Pain, Anger and Guilt
These feelings are 100% normal – grief has many symptoms and stages, with no real logic or pattern as to how it is experienced. As a man, the Pressures of Society may make you feel that you need to put things right, and the realisation that you cannot may make you feel frustrated and helpless.
The emotions that you are feeling at the loss of your child are most probably alien to you and your first instinct may be to try and hide from them – but be warned; they will not just go away if you ignore them!
Finding Release from Your Pain
One of the simplest yet most effective ways of dealing with the emotions you are experiencing is to find a way to talk about them, as this can truly help ease the burden you are carrying.
Expressing your feelings may take you totally out of your comfort zone, away from that Strong Man you and society say you have to be; but to tell your story, to articulate how you feel, will truly be the start of your healing process.
If you find it difficult to talk to someone about your emotions, try writing down those feelings you are experiencing instead. Even if no one but you ever reads those thoughts, writing them down means that you have given yourself permission to think about how you truly feel inside.
Resist the temptation to bottle things up and get on with life for the sake of your family. It is of critical importance, for the sake of both yourself and your family, that you find some way to acknowledge and express the emotions you are experiencing.
Remember, the death of a child is like nothing else, you are human and it is OK to miss your child and it is OK to show your emotions over it.
Will Life Ever be the Same Again?
They say that “time is a great healer” but realistically, time cannot heal your hurt; what it does do is help you to manage your grief.
Truthfully, the pain of losing your child will never leave you, but you will learn to recognise the emotions and feelings and let them flow.
In time, you will learn to smile again, to look forwards… and you will begin to find your life now has a “new normal“.
A Poem for Fathers
It must be very difficult
To be a man in grief,
Since “Men don’t cry”
And “Men are strong”
No tears can bring relief.
It must be very difficult
To stand up to the test,
And field the calls and visitors
So she can get some rest.
They always ask if she’s all right
And what she’s going through.
But seldom take his hand and ask,
“My friend, but how are you?”
He hears her crying in the night
And thinks his heart will break.
He dries her tears and comforts her,
But “stays strong” for her sake.
It must be very difficult
To start each day anew.
And try to be so very brave –
He lost his baby too.
~ Author Unknown ~
Posted on 22 July, 2016, in Advice & Tips, Articles, Blog, Parents and tagged Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, bereavement, child loss, childhood cancer, Children with Cancer, Fathers, grief, Grieving Fathers, heartbreak, LFCT, Little Fighters Cancer Trust, loss. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.