Thursday, October 13, 2011

Allowing Fathers To Grieve

I remember clearly the first time after we left the hospital that I really cried. I was standing on the stairs talking to my wife about how she was doing. She told me she was having an ok day. She was feeling better than she had in the weeks since we lost Oscar and Bella. As we were talking I let my guard down. A guard I didn't know I had even put up. I broke down, I cried, a good hard cry. The first cry I had in over a month.

Why did it take my wife telling me she was doing ok in order for me to grieve. It is simple, I was the strong one. I was the one she could count on. I had to be strong in order to be counted on, at least that is what I thought. Feeling like I wasn't needed in that role let me take on a new role, the role of the grieving father.

We have since that day talked a lot about allowing me to grieve. It was not her fault that I was not, but she did need to help me. We had many conversations about the grief process, and how it was more helpful for me to go through it with her than for me to try and be "her rock." I found out that being the strong man was not helpful, and was in many way hurtful.

Being allowed to grieve without the burden of "taking care of my wife" has offered me the chance to be a better husband, a better dad, and ironically be better at "taking care of my wife." Any fathers reading that should really take note of that. Being a man/husband in the classic sense is all about taking care of your wife, so in this way crying and grieving is the only way to "be a man."

My wife and I have also set up a non-verbal way to show grief. We use this when we want to let the other person know we are having a bad day. It is almost a "FYI, I am still grieving" method of communication. We have what we call the Oscar Bella, and Tittle candles. If we see them lit we know the other person is not having a good day. The thing is I light those candles probably 70% of the time they are lit, and is the way I express myself much more than my wife does. The candles don't mean we have to talk about it, or even want to talk about it... it is just a simple method of letting the other person know were we are that day.

Since I am assuming the majority of the readers of this are mothers, mothers who have suffered a loss, here is my advice to you as a grieving father. Make sure you allow your husband/significant other to grieve. Give them permission, let them know that is what you need. Encourage them to talk about it, ask them questions, but also try to find them a way to grieve without having to talk about it.

I have found that writing has been more helpful that I ever imagined it could be. Opening up about my experience has been a wonderful, and powerful experience. I encourage everyone, mother and fathers, to break the silence and speak out about their loss.


  1. It's ironic...I WANT my husband to grieve more. (We haven't had any pregnancies...but I would love to hear how he feels about the experiences we've had...waiting...not knowing the future.) I want to know that I'm not alone. I know that he is supportive, but I feel like he should feel like this is his journey, too, and sometimes I feel like he is watching, not participating. Does that make sense?

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  3. Hi - I am the editor of a newsletter in South Australia for parents who have experienced the death of a baby. I would like to have your permission to reprint the above article. I can be contacted on

    Many thanks