Dads, We See You

June 17, 2016

tim's hand holding balloon

Fathers are meant to be…

Strong, Courageous, Brave, Protectors, Providers, Builders, Fixers

What happens when a father can’t fix what’s broken? When he can’t protect his family from an agonizing goodbye as the  life of his child quietly slips away, leaving that man standing beside a tiny grave, holding his weeping wife up with his strong hands?

What happens when his baby dies? What happens then?

His dreams are gone in that moment. Forever changed. His wife, his love will never be the same. He will never play ball in the yard with his son. He wI’ll never get to walk his daughter down the aisle toward her groom.

His mind is reeling. And he is trying to stay strong. Trying to keep it together for his partner. Trying to hold her up, carrying the weight of the world on his strong shoulders…shoulders that are sagging from the heavy of this burden.

He is sometimes criticized and misunderstood for his silence. What you may not see is how he cries in the shower. What you may not understand is his need to grieve differently. Sometimes alone. He needs a safe place too, and often his safe place is different than hers. In a world that doesn’t acknowledge his grief, he may never find that safe place.

My work as a doula/support companion for parents facing perinatal loss offers many opportunities to come alongside grieving dads. Recently, I was speaking to a wonderful father at our living sons’ baseball game many years after losing his daughter. It always strikes me how uniquely each heart experiences grief. I was grateful to hear his perspective. It has been an honor to come alongside not only mothers, but fathers too, as they say hello and goodbye to their sweet babies. To watch their strong hands tenderly care for tiny babies, gently wiping tears from their partners eyes. I get to bear witness to the most sacred acts of love in those moments.

I’m also a mother who watched my own husband wrestle with the need to be strong when everything is broken. It’s so important to make sure fathers know their grief matters.

Dads, we see you. We see you trying to be strong. Trying to hold everyone up. Pushing to go to work each day. Trying to find your way in a world with no fix for your family’s broken. We see you.

As we are often concerned with many mothers walking through loss, let us never forget the sacred love of a father…and the deep and real grief he carries in his strong daddy heart. Not all dads are able to stand so boldly in love and protection of their families, even speaking bold truth in moments when it is needed.

For the dads carrying this weight quietly, you are not alone. Your part in your child’s life and your family’s life are so important and valid….and so is your grief.

A poem shared in the Walking With You for Fathers Booklet:

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.

Eileen Knight Hagemeister

  • Share this article:

    Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly's journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here:


    Comments are closed.

    Prev Post Next Post