Father’s Day is another difficult day for the grieving father. Too often, their grief is overlooked and undersupported.
This Father’s Day, I want to share some resources for grieving fathers… and much can be gleaned from one grieving father to another.
From the Walking With You for Fathers book:
Years ago, a nurse asked me if the nonprofit I run, Sufficient Grace Ministries, offered any resources specifically for fathers.
I wasn’t sure if grieving fathers would want a lot of resources or if they would want to talk in the moments of raw grief. My husband was quiet and withdrawn. He didn’t seem to want a lot of attention when we lost our twin daughters born still at 26 weeks and later our newborn son.
I was surprised to learn just how wrong I was, as we delved further into serving bereaved parents, expanding our services to include in-person support as comfort doulas and remembrance photographers.
I have watched husbands at the bedside of their partners, kissing tiny babies goodbye, desperate to find something to fix all the broken in that moment.
And, I’ve read the words of fathers, while working on this booklet for dads.
It has been our privilege to read the powerful words from the brave men who contributed to our latest book project, Walking With You for Fathers.
What I learned from these amazing fathers comforted my own aching mother/wife heart.
You see, sometimes in the quiet, the doubt creeps in for mothers (wives/partners), and the fact that we grieve differently leaves us feeling alone.
The helplessness makes him pull away… because he’s at a loss as to how to make this broken right. He can’t fix it… so he hides.
Or works a lot.
Or escapes any way he can.
When that happens, because of the words from the brave fathers in this book, I tell those hurting moms: “He loves you. He loves you and he loves your baby. In the midst of all the broken…remember that. Don’t think he doesn’t care about you…or your child. He does…so much. It just undoes a man not to be able to protect those he loves the most…not to be able to make the wrongs right or dry his wife’s tears. It isn’t because he doesn’t care. It’s because he does.”
Below are a few snippets from the hearts of one grieving father to another:
On communicating with your partner…
Brian: The death of a child forces you to explore and confront emotions that you did not know existed. I learned that to care for a spouse is exhausting, imperative, and rewarding.
Both people need to not only listen in different ways but talk in different ways. My wife was a reader of books on grief and the like; however, I was a doer/builder of things. We gave each other space and we did not judge the method; we trusted each other.
I was not good at asking for help and she was not good at accepting help; we both thought that inner-strength through an independent grief process was best. When we shed that ridiculous notion we prospered.
Now, we have frank conversations about our feelings and it is very empowering to me; I feel that I am listened to, heard, and I feel that she trusts me with her inner-most thoughts.
This gives me great comfort in the future and our abilities to navigate life together.
On feeling alone and overlooked as a bereaved father…
Jacob: To put it bluntly you will be forgotten. When you tell people what has happened the first thing people say is “how is your wife doing?”. It will sting a little.
Try and remember that you are a father and that you had a little one. That is something that cannot be forgotten.
As a newly bereaved dad know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, you have joined a fraternity of men that have gone through one of the most horrible things imaginable.
Do not close yourself off to your family.
Be vulnerable to your wife, but show her that you are strong and lead your family to a place of healing, whatever and wherever that may be.
Be open and honest.
Grieving dads need something to “do”…
Fathers often feel more comfortable “doing something” rather than just coming together for the sake of talking through their feelings.
Men often express feelings through physical language.
Dads may pour themselves into their work or find a project, something they can do with their hands to ease the helplessness they feel in the midst of so much that cannot be fixed.
Justin: Give him decisions to make. The most difficult part in the early stages for me was just sitting and waiting.
A man needs tasks to complete. He needs to have a purpose.
Grieving Fathers, please know you are not walking this painful path alone.
There are resources and support available for you.
You can read more from the brave fathers quoted above in the Walking With You for Fathers book.
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: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.