People treat a father differently than they do a mother after the loss of a child. This is probably because they feel that the mother has had a greater connection with the child having carried and given birth to him/her. But, in reality, the father is grieving the loss as much as the mother. His grief is also complicated by the fact that he has other “feelings” going on.
These “feelings” come in three categories. The first has to do with a man’s innate need to be protector of the family. The second is their desire to be strong and not show emotion. And, the third category has to do with a man’s need to fix things. These other “feelings” compound their grief and can lead to guilt, anger and withdrawal or loneliness.
Should Do This: Prevent the death somehow, Shield Family from Bad Things
Feels This: Guilt, Weak
Role: Strong One
Should Do This: Have a Clear Mind, Be Prepared, Not Show Feelings (Broken); Be macho (Pretend)
Feels This: In a Fog, Like a Failure, Deep Pain; Jealous (of Wife’s Attention)
Role: “Fix It” Person
Should Do This: Do Something to Make It Better
Feels This: Anger* (that they can’t fix it)
*The anger is magnified by “stuffing” all the other feelings.
These “male” roles that a father tries to fill are impaired by the grief and actually make his grief more difficult to deal with.
ACTIVITY: In the spaces next to each picture, jot down some things you can do to help yourself be the man you want to be.
Instead of being… The Warrior/Protector
He becomes… The Invisible Man (while wife gets all the attention, he’s left with a head full of questions)
Instead of being… The Rock
He becomes… A Broken Stone (in pain with so many decisions to make and the inability to make them)
Instead of being… The Stoic One
He becomes… A Mask (with a flood of tears to cry)
Instead of being… The “Fix It” Man
He becomes… An Explosion (with destruction he can’t fix and anger just waiting to be triggered)
Fathers need to grieve too. Because of the roles the world places on them, they tend to delay their grief and allow themselves to “feel” things only when their wives are doing better. Understanding these differences can be helpful to both the father and the mother as they navigate the grief journey.