The increased use and uptake of the many social media platforms that we now have access to has provided a much-needed way for bereaved parents to connect, share their loss and grief, and support one another. In scrolling through apps like Facebook or Instagram, however, it’s clear that women are the ones who are doing most of the talking. So, what about dads and birthing partners? Perinatal loss profoundly affects them too, so how can we best provide support and hold space for their experiences and their grief?
Perinatal loss affects the whole family
Historically perinatal loss has been thought of primarily as a “women’s issue”. Although it does impact women in many significant ways that don’t apply to dads or birthing partners, they suffer a huge disservice when it is categorized in this way. Leaving fathers out of the conversation perpetuates the stigma around pregnancy loss and reinforces the antiquated notion that “strong men don’t cry.” Perinatal loss affects the whole family and men, just as women, need to be given permission to both recognize their grief and process their loss.
How can we best support dads and birthing partners throughout perinatal loss?
Recognize their grief
Many on-line resources state that men and women grieve in different ways – would it not be more accurate to say that every person grieves differently? We all know that grief is not a linear process and that it can be experienced and expressed in so many ways – sorrow, anger, guilt, confusion, depression, anxiety just to name a few. Some people need to share their pain openly while others prefer to process their emotions through quiet reflection or journaling. Providing genuine support to someone who is grieving is achieved by honouring their grief experience - by not trying to ‘fix it’ or shape it to fit our own personal, cultural, or spiritual expectations of what it should look like. For example, for a grieving dad, don’t simply assume that he doesn’t want to talk about his loss. Saying something like “I’m thinking of you today and I’m always here if you need to talk” is a simple but compassionate way of reaching out and supporting a grieving father.
Support them emotionally, practically, and spiritually
Ask him how he’s doing. Encourage him to take the time he needs to grieve. Do something to let him know you’re thinking of him - something as simple as an invitation to go out and grab a coffee. Remember him on key days when he may be struggling such as Father’s Day. Adriel Booker’s website recommends:
In addition to the expectation that he’s not to miss work, he’s likely supporting his wife emotionally, assisting her practically as her body recovers, caring for other children, maintaining the home, and so on. He might seem to be holding it all together as he strives to maintain the status quo for the sake of his family, but he’s grieving too. Ask yourself if there are small ways you can ease Dad’s load, validate his pain, or demonstrate your support to him in a personal way. Include his name in cards you write and texts you send. Encourage him. Affirm him. Make room for his grief—welcome it, in fact.
Link to reference
Reaffirm that there’s no “right or wrong” way to grieve – grief is messy
March of Dimes notes: In general, here’s how your partner may show his grief:
Showing grief doesn’t have any rules or instructions. There’s no right or wrong way for you or your partner to grieve or share your feelings. It’s OK to show your pain and grief in different ways. Be patient and caring with each other. Try to talk about your thoughts and feelings and how you want to remember your baby.
Link to reference
Encourage them to give the baby identity
Miscarriage and stillbirth can feel ‘abstract’ abstract to a partner who is not physically growing the baby within their own body. As such, the father/birthing partner may appreciate finding ways to help make the loss more tangible. Gentle ways to give the baby an identity and create an experiential memory around their life may include: naming the baby, writing a letter, song or poem to the baby, releasing a lantern during a ceremony or planting a tree or small garden in the baby’s memory.
To all the bereaved dads and birthing partners out there
Option B - How to help parents who are grieving on Father’s Day:
Lily Mae Foundation:
Still Parents (Podcast):
Men and Miscarriage:
Dad Still Standing:
Dad Still Standing (Podcast):
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network:
Parents Orphelins (Bilingual):