I didn’t think this was something I would need to explain, but time and time again, society has proven me wrong.
My husband lost his child too.
“How’s your wife?”
“Is your wife doing better?”
“Let her know I’m thinking about her.”
“Kaytee, how are you doing?”
Our culture seems to embrace female grief without question. On the other hand, it seems that my husband doesn’t need to be inquired about because men don’t grieve, right? These well-meaning platitudes are exasperating and ignorant. I want to grab people by the shoulders, shake them in frustration and ask why they think my husband’s heart isn’t broken into a million pieces like mine.
Society already fails massively at acknowledging and handling infant loss, but when it comes to male grief, the let down is enormous and shameful. Men are seen as the fixers and problem solvers, not mourners.
Men are encouraged to shake it off, move on, press forward.
My husband was ecstatic to become a father and was floored when those two pink lines showed up on a test. He helped pick out her name. He played music for her. He playfully put heart-shaped stickers on my belly for Valentine’s Day and he bought our unborn daughter flowers. He ran matchbox cars over my growing bump, trying to squeeze in time before she was gone.
Men who say goodbye to their children struggle to make sense of a loss that has no rhyme or reason. Pulling men off to the side to inquire about their wife only perpetuates the idea that they should have nerves of steel. In public, they should appear unaffected by the death of their child. A large majority of people assume that men shouldn’t be distracted by grieving, because they have to support and care for their wife.
This agony is not a one-way street – my husband and I grieve in tandem, a perfect yin and yang of sadness and despair, grace and gratefulness. Neither of us claims more strength or anguish than the other because we love our daughter deeply and equally. He does not push his grief aside to hold me up; we support one another through hard days, simultaneously missing our baby.
I may have carried her for the entirety of her time on this earth, but my husband waited for Elliott. He read to her every night after we learned of the diagnosis that would take her from us. He lovingly placed her slippery newborn body against his warm chest after she was born and held her as she took her final imperceptible breath on this planet. He helped bathe her, the only bath he’d give his child.
To those of you who have recognized my husband’s pain – thank you. My breath catches in my throat and tears gather in my eyes when someone genuinely inquires about his wellbeing. Watching my husband fall in love with our daughter and then lose her has been a living nightmare. I know the searing pain that grips my heart and rushes through my veins, and to know that my husband feels the same pain is paralyzing. I am begging society to stop acting as if men don’t hurt too. They may not understand what it feels like to physically carry and birth a life, but they love their child and know the overwhelming devastation of the loss just as much as a mother does.
My husband, Elliott’s father – he aches for our lost child. He lost a piece of himself that day, just as I did. He cried helpless tears the day we said goodbye. He had to let go of dreams, let go of her little body, and leave the hospital empty-handed. Together we made her, and together we lost her.