Suggestions for Helping Yourself
“You just need to know that everyone is different. What helps one person is not always best for another.”1
- Take time out from activities. Although attending social engagements and events will take your mind off your memories, you cannot escape your grief. What many fathers need now is time to work through their grief.
- Learn to express your needs to your family so they can understand how you need to grieve and what you need to do to help yourself.
“I needed some private time to sort out what had happened.”1
“Just because I didn’t cry didn’t mean I loved her less.”1
- Make time each day to think about your loss. There will be a million questions in your head – some have answers and others are beyond any human understanding.
“I found writing in a journal helpful. It helped sort out my thoughts and feelings.”1
- Cry. Often when emotions surface, men do not know what to do with them. Crying is the most effective and efficient way to handle the emotions of grief. Learn how to cry. If you think you cannot, remember that you still have the same tear ducts you had as a child. They have not dried up. If there is anything worth using them for, this is it.
“A grief counsellor once told me that when I feel all choked up I should pant rapidly. These short breaths make crying easier.”1
- Express your anger constructively. When a child dies, it is very likely to bring out anger – directed at a rational object, such as a doctor, the driver of a car or God, or your anger can be less rational and you can seem to be angry at everyone. Both forms of anger are normal.
What is needed is a helpful way to express and resolve anger. It is better to be angry at things than at people.
“When my anger and frustration reached a peak, I would swing at a tree with a cricket bat. I know a dad who bought up lots of plates from garage sales and would smash them when he felt mad.”1
Some men try and release built-up tension through increased sexual relations. This may create problems as many women associate sex with child-bearing, particularly the bearing of the child who has just died.
Direct anger can also be tackled by direct talk. Talk about it with a friend. Try several friends. And talk several times. If you meet judgement and criticism, pick someone else.
“I went through a stage where I was really angry for a period of time. In fact, I was pretty mad for a long time. For me, it was part of the grief process and I was angry with the world. I thought it was just how it was, and then I started to realize how I was being, and I had to work on it and accept how I was, and try to modify it.”1
“The anger is not so much over what has happened but it is a manifestation of your inner feelings stuck inside. You are angry about the fact that your baby has died. It’s your emotions doing irrational things.”1
“My frustration was when I was reading through the pregnancy loss pamphlets and discovered that 1 in 4 pregnancies are lost. Why didn’t we know about this? If there is so much of this, why didn’t we know somebody who had been through this? On the third day after my wife came home from hospital, that’s when we started to tell our story.”1
“I was in the fire brigade when one of my colleagues went through a pregnancy loss six months ago and we didn’t know about it. We have now realised that no one wants to talk about it because no one knows how to deal with it. That’s where our frustration was – either they don’t want to talk to you about it or it is really obvious that it’s too uncomfortable. People shut down.”1
- Find a Support System - If you have been conditioned to be self-sufficient, it will be hard for you to ask for any kind of help. One source of support you may find easier to access is other bereaved fathers. SIDS and Kids and The Compassionate Friends run support groups for bereaved dads, where it helps to share with others and to hear others talk about their grief.
Seeing a grief counsellor can be really helpful too.
“Just having a sounding board, someone to play back your thoughts helped me get things into better perspective.”1
“SIDS and Kids (now known as Red Nose Grief and Loss) for us was, pardon the pun, a lifesaver in terms of being able to help us, to get ourselves together in enough time to be there, you know to be ready, to be capable of welcoming our daughter into the world. And you know it has been a really great relief for us to meet a whole heap of great people who are in our unfortunate situation as well, and just to be around people who truly understand what you are feeling and what you are going through.”1
“SIDS and Kids helped us to stabilise and try again.”1
“When we came to SIDS (now known as Red Nose Grief and Loss), I don’t think we really knew what to expect or how to get through it and I know there are still times when it can be quite hard, so it’s nice to be able to come and talk to guys about this kind of stuff.”1
“Our counsellor took us all to the pub, we all sat there and we all told the same story. It was like we were all married to the same woman.”1
“It’s been three years since we lost our daughter, who was stillborn. I didn’t reach out to others at the time. It’s interesting to hear that there were groups and when I look back now I think perhaps I should have gone to one. Hearing stories of others, sharing stories, probably would have been helpful at the time, but you don’t know what to do really.”1
“We found the group sessions to be a great help just in terms of meeting parents in a similar situation and almost build up a bit of a social circle outside your normal ones and obviously with people that who can understand and/or relate to what we were going through.”1
“I used to come along and I wouldn’t say boo but I would sit in and take it in and it was so helpful.”1
“I don’t think men would necessarily, initially, go by themselves. I wanted to support Rosie but then I don’t think you truly open up until you actually go into a room with other blokes and just talk about the things that have happened to you and how you feel because you don’t necessarily want to say all your stuff, especially in the raw times. You don’t want to upset her more by saying ‘these are the things upsetting me’ or this and that. I found that I would rather stay quiet and just try and help her through.”1
“I love the fact that a couple of the other guys and I got to have a chat that was separate from our wives, and talking to you guys ,I think I would rather make sure that my wife was alright than worry about myself. But then you would say you should look after yourself because if you don’t than you are not going to function. But you feel the natural pressure that you are the one who has to do the funeral. You also think you need to look after everybody else before you look after yourself, and then you try to deal with that. Some people don’t deal with it well and they hold themselves back.”1
“I didn’t go to any support groups, I didn’t feel like I needed to go but I felt a lot a pressure being put on me that I should go to support groups. I felt more mentally wise that I needed to go and find my own way and I did that by talking to mates that I knew. That’s how I dealt with it. So I don’t think we should be just pushing support groups, there are some blokes out there, the more you push the more determined that I was that I was never going to go to one.”1
Last reviewed: 17/2/19