As you explore our site, you will find that much of our mission is geared specifically toward mothers who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. In fact, if you have spent much time browsing the Internet on this subject, you are likely to see that the majority of this type of content by volume is oriented toward mamas.
This is for the dads.
As I write, I am aware that this may be the first time you read or hear these words: if you are a father who has lost your child, born or unborn, I am so sorry for your loss. My heart weeps for you. I hope that through this post, I can spend a few moments alongside you in your grief and share some of my own story with you as you navigate this tragedy.
First, I want you to know that though your child may no longer be with you, you are a parent. You are a father.
Next, I want to validate where you are in your journey through grief. The loss of a baby, particularly miscarriage or stillbirth, is a unique type of loss. Often it does not fit in with the patterns of mourning we may be familiar with. There may not be a funeral service, or a wake, or any of the common rituals that help people process death. If your loss occurred under isolating circumstances, such as the COVID-19 lockdown, you may not have had access to your support network of friends and family. Even when your community is able to be present, you may find that they do not understand your loss or that they sometimes say unhelpful things.
The loss of a baby is a loss like no other. An overturning of the order we perceive in the world. You may find that you do not experience this event in the way that others expect, or in the way you yourself expect. You may feel internal or external pressure to grieve in specific stages, in a specific order, or in a specific time frame.
I want you to know that it is natural and common to feel this pressure. I also want you to know that your experience of this loss is completely unique and different from that of anyone else in the world. In turn, your grief response is entitled to be equally unique and different. There are no rules for how you ought to mourn. Healthy grief is grief which moves forward. The pace at which you move and how it looks from the outside are beside the point. And though your grief is unique, you are not alone.
My own grief did not manifest visibly for many months after my wife and I lost our unborn baby, Samuel. I initially felt incapable of processing the information that we had had a miscarriage. My wife felt the loss directly and intensely, and I felt powerless to console her. I poured myself into caring for her and doing the work of figuring out how to move our lives onward. I felt great anguish over the pain my wife was feeling, and great helplessness in my inability to save her from that pain. In respect to the loss itself, however, I felt only numbness or emptiness. The weeks after we lost Samuel were some of the most lonely and difficult weeks of my life.
It was not until many months later that my grief began to manifest more visibly, long after the acuteness of the initial circumstances had subsided. We had moved to a new home, and we were pregnant again. Somehow, our lives had continued. One afternoon, I was home alone, working from my office and listening to music. A song came on that made me think of our baby - our Samuel - and I began to picture the experiences I would never have with him. The rest of his pregnancy, welcoming him home, his childhood… For the first time I was able to truly think about and put a name to what I had lost. The floodgates opened, and on the floor of my office I wept loudly and openly for my son.
Your own grief may never manifest in that way. The trajectory of your grief may be more abbreviated, or you may find that feelings of loss surface months or years down the road. You may be angry at the world, angry at those close to you, angry at God. You may find that you can be a rock for your partner, or you may need someone to be a rock for you. Grief is a path forward, and wherever you find yourself on that path today, I want you to know it is a valid place to be. I encourage you to move along that path at your own pace. Be intentional about taking care of yourself (eat, sleep, hydrate, etc.), and allow others to take care of you. Give yourself grace, and take the next step in front of you.
Finally, I want to speak about your partner. As the birthing parent, a mother experiences the loss of a child with an exceptional degree of physical intimacy. I will never be able to fully understand what my wife went through during the time she carried Samuel. She knew and experienced our baby in a way that no one else ever will.
Because of this, and because of the particularity of this type of loss, it is common for bereaved mothers to feel deeply alone in this time.
You may be feeling completely powerless to help and console your partner. I know I did. I don’t have any easy answers, but I do know this: as the father, you are uniquely positioned to walk alongside your partner in grief. I believe there is a reason there are two of you. Communicate, listen, lean on each other in your grief, and respect and honor the different paces at which you process this loss. If you are worried that you or your partner are really struggling, be proactive about getting some independent help from a therapist or counselor.
We grieve alongside you. We see you in this dark hour. I pray that you, dad, feel Heard and Held in this space.