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For Dads

People care: they just don't know what to say or how to start talking about it.

This was your baby. You might feel like the forgotten mourner right now as everyone shows concern about how the mother is doing, but you hurt, too.

You might find that your grief takes a back seat as you tunnel your energies toward "being the strong one" by caring for other children at home, taking care of your partner's needs, dealing with hospital forms, funeral or memorial service arrangements and phoning friends and family about the loss. There doesn't seem to be a lot of time to reflect on your sadness right now.

If you have displayed your grief openly only to find others uncomfortable with your sadness, you might feel others are not responsive to your needs and this could further push your grief underground.

You may find that you and your partner are dealing with the loss much differently. The mother, who had a physical as well as emotional attachment to the baby, and you might be hurting so badly that neither one of you is capable of comforting each other at this time.

The loss of control you feel over preventing your baby's death might make you feel more vulnerable, that life's tragedies wait for you around every corner. It's not unusual to feel angry over your baby's death when so many children are born healthy into a life of neglect and abuse. Many questions you are asking yourself now are unanswerable, but are still a part of the process of trying to cope with the loss in your life.

Your focus immediately after a pregnancy or newborn loss might not be on yourself or on the baby, but on your partner's health and well-being, especially if the circumstances surrounding the loss included medical interventions. You might be feeling relief that "it's over" and your partner's health is no longer in jeopardy.

Work can give you a daily reprieve from the sadness you are feeling and can make it easier to get back to a routine quicker. In the workplace, you might find just a few people who are able to ask you how you are coping with the loss. Be careful not to let the routine mask the hurt, anger and sadness you might be feeling. Some people find it helpful to discuss these emotions with their partner or a close friend or family member.

Sharing your pain with your partner is essential to your recovery and is important in maintaining a strong relationship.

It is not unusual for you and your partner to experience some sexual problems in the relationship after a pregnancy loss. What once brought comfort might be a source of contention between you. Sex might be viewed as a form of enjoyment you and your partner are not entitled to while you are grieving. You, too, might fear that another pregnancy would be devastating at this time in your lives.

The emotional and physical burdens of a loss can be dealt with constructively, eventually enabling you to move on with your life. Sharing your pain with your partner can be helpful to your recovery. Professional counseling and/or group support may be helpful.

How can you share your sadness, anger and hurt?

The following suggestions have been helpful to other couples after a pregnancy or newborn loss:

  • Establish a regular time each day to discuss your feelings with your partner. One couple shared their feelings while walking their dog every night. Uninterrupted by the television or phone, they would each voice their concerns without criticism from one another.
  • Pick a night each week to spend with one another and do something you both enjoy, like going to dinner, the movies, bowling, skating, and so forth.
  • Share your feelings with someone else; a close friend, family member, clergy, rabbi or a therapist.
  • Read articles and books dealing with grief, especially grief after a pregnancy or newborn loss.
  • Attend a pregnancy or newborn loss support group. Sometimes it helps to hear how other fathers are coping with their losses and to share your concerns and feelings.
  • Sharing your pain with your partner is essential to your recovery and is important in maintaining a strong relationship.
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