Sunday, January 24, 2010

Something I Have Been Wanting to Write About

Sadly, we have experienced that the father's of our very special children are so very often ignored. Unintentionally, I'm sure but none-the-less, ignored. I can't tell you the countless times I have been approached with hugs and condolences, offers of prayers, etc....and Jerry would be right there with me yet never acknowledged. I KNOW when this has happened that it is not intentional, I think it is more like the man is supposed to be the "rock", the "tough" one...but let me tell you, when your child is terminally ill, the father is just as sad as the mother. He needs just as many prayers, hugs, condolences, etc. as the mother. Maybe even more because while the mother is at home taking care of the child, the father is out, away from the family, working....please, I ask each of you who read this update to thank the father of the children that you are following on other sites....

While researching grief, I came across the following....sure hit home with me.

Fathers - The Forgotten Grievers

The death of a child is probably the most traumatic and devastating experience a couple can face. Although both mothers and fathers grieve deeply when such a tragedy occurs, they grieve differently, and it is most important that each partner give the other permission to grieve as he/she needs. This may be the greatest gift each can give the other.

Parental grief is strongly influenced by the nature of the bond between child and parent. Bereavement specialists actually speak of "incongruent grieving" patterns in mothers and fathers and of differences in the timing and intensity of the parental bond for mothers and fathers.

For the mother, the bond is usually more immediate and demonstrable, more intense at the beginning of life, more emotionally and physically intimate. The mother's bond with the baby is usually tightly forged from the moment of conception and continues through the pregnancy, the birth, and the nursing process. The maternal bond involves the present and the baby's immediate needs, while the father's bond with the baby more often concerns the future and dreams and expectations for the child. Today, however, many fathers are forging earlier and more intense prenatal bonds with their babies. Fathers also are often present in the delivery room for the birth. Some fathers become direct caregivers of the newborn, developing early and close bonds with their infants. Yet, still in many cases, "the father's emotional investment in parenting tends to occur later and less intensely than the mother's. This has implications for the way parents grieve" (Cordell and Thomas 1990, 75).

When is it my turn to cry? I'm not sure society or my upbringing will allow me a time to really cry, unafraid of the reaction and repercussion that might follow. I must be strong, I must support my wife because I am a man. I must be the cornerstone of our family because society says so, my family says so, and, until I can reverse my learned nature, I say so. - A FATHER, IN DEFRAIN ET AL. 1991, 112
In spite of the trend towards earlier bonding between fathers and babies, the influence of cultural expectations about men and grief persists and is powerful. Typically, the societal view of parental loss is not the same for the father as the mother. Most of the literature on parental bereavement still tends to focus on the mother's grief. Often, men are not acknowledged as experiencing grief; or more importantly, men are not taught that it's necessary to grieve and are discouraged from demonstrating signs of grief openly. Bereaved fathers frequently feel that they are the forgotten mourners and are often referred to as "second class grievers" (Horchler and Morris 1994, 72).

Fathers are expected to be strong for their partners, to be the "rock" in the family. All too often fathers are considered to be the ones who should attend to the practical but not the emotional aspects surrounding the death; they are expected to be the ones who should not let emotions show or tears fall outwardly, the ones who will not and should not fall apart. Men are often asked how their wives are doing, but not asked how they are doing.

Such expectations place an unmanageable burden on men and deprive them of their rightful and urgent need to grieve. This need will surface eventually if it is not expressed. It is not unusual for grieving fathers to feel overwhelmed, ignored, isolated, and abandoned as they try to continue to be caregivers and breadwinners for their families while their hearts are breaking. "Fathers' feelings [often] stay hidden under layers of responsibility and grim determination" (Staudacher 1991, 124). Bereaved fathers often say that such strong emotions are very difficult to contain after their child's death. Fathers often fear that they will erupt like volcanoes if they allow themselves to release these feelings and so, too often, fathers try to bury their pain with the child who died.

It is most important that a father's grief be verbalized and understood by his partner, other family members, professionals, coworkers, friends, and by anyone who will listen. Fathers need to try to free themselves of stereotypes and societal expectations about men and grief; they must be able to tell others that their grief is all they have from their child's brief life. Fathers repeatedly say that for their own peace of mind, they (and those who care about them) need to move away from this mind set and allow them to grieve as they are entitled.

In too many instances, fathers' responses to infant loss tend to coincide with how they believe they should act as men, rather than how they need to act to confront and resolve [their own] grief. - CORDELL AND THOMAS 1990, 7


  1. Thank you for this Brenda. wish it were easier for men to grief and not be seen as weak for crying or breaking down. women do and it's acceptable but men are human too.

  2. hey you! thank you so much for this! i'll be using it as reference for sure! (for us, for others...and to help ME remember to mention the prayers for dads too.)

  3. Thank you Brenda for this heartfelt writing. I apoligize if I have left Jerry out when I comment. It is so much harder for men to show emotion. Can't wait to see you very soon.

  4. Hi Brenda;
    First of all, you're right, they are the CUTEST! Also, thank you so much for reminding me of my husband's silent pain. I'll never forget the only night I saw him cry and all he kept saying was "I never got to change his diaper". It was heart breaking and I for once got to console him.

  5. Babe,

    Thank you so much for recognizing and acknowledging my pain and grief. This shows me the love and concern you have for my feelings and by this posting it makes me feel that much closer to you. I hope this helps others recognize Fathers suffer more internally due to society pressures but that does not mean they suffer less. I love you.

    Your Husband