Over recent decades dads have become more involved in pregnancy and raising children. When once they were excluded from the labour ward, now there are antenatal appointments, parentcraft classes and presence at the birth. We don’t just pace up and down outside waiting to light the cigars anymore. And so, when a baby dies, there’s a deep impact on many dads but it‘s one that’s not always recognised by society. Men are expected to be ‘strong’, to get things done. Does that mean they’re expected not to care? If so, it’s totally unreasonable.
It’s sometimes said that men grieve differently from women. This is open to question. What’s certain is that men do grieve. Grief is an individual process but it is also totally natural. People move through it differently. Whether that’s because they are male or female is doubtful. It’s also true that, very commonly, a baby’s death puts enormous strain on relationships. Couples may grieve in different ways and at different times, and this can lead to difficulties or accusations that one or the other doesn’t care, or cares too much. It can be very tough. There can be physical effects of grief – it can be exhausting, affect concentration and motivation, cause symptoms such as chest pain and anxiety. It can also affect self-confidence and self-esteem.
Tips on coping
Answering ‘how do dads cope?’ is difficult, precisely because everyone experiences grief differently. Having said that, many men find that:
- It helps to talk – to a friend, partner, GP, helpline or at a support group, even though it can be hard to express feelings. Understand that friends may not know how to cope with your tears or know what to say, but they do care and want to help.
- Bottling things up can be damaging, by being ‘strong’ for your baby’s mum and at work you can be storing up problems for later. Allow yourself to react to whatever it is you are feeling, don’t hide your emotions.
- Avoid self-medicating with drugs or alcohol as this doesn’t help anyone.
- Vigorous exercise can help to improve your mood, help you to sleep and reduce anxiety.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us via our live chat service, email us at email@example.com or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.