Mother’s & Father’s Day: Help for Grieving Parents

man-when-he-does-not-grieve-hardly-exists-quote-1Are you spending Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? Are you a father dealing with grief as Father Day approaches? 900,000-1 million couples in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

As you face the sadness of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, you can both give yourselves a very simple gift – acknowledge that you are a mother and father. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you both have one to hold in your heart.

If you are grieving during this time that we celebrate parenthood, there are some tips that can help. Men and women handle grief very differently, so we have included separate help for each, adapted from the book  Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Mothers:

Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you.

Here are some tips that can help:

– Let Your Family Know What You Need.

If you feel uncomfortable being recognized as a mother at a banquet or other function, substitute an activity you would feel good about. If you would rather not receive or wear a flower, then wear an item that helps you to connect with your baby, such as a piece of jewelry that includes the baby’s birthstone.

– Remember Your Baby.

Mother’s Day can be a great time for a husband and wife to talk about their baby and what the baby meant to them. Take a walk, have a quiet dinner, or just set aside some time to remember your baby together.

– Decide Ahead of Time.

The way you chose to spend Mother’s Day should be your decision- and one you make ahead of time. Setting time aside to remember and talk about your baby will make you “feel” more like a mom on the very day designed to do that. Remember that your spouse may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.

Fathers:

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation. Be sure to let your family know how you would like to spend Father’s Day.

 Here are some ways to handle your grief:

 

 – Talk About It.

 

You may feel uncomfortable putting your feelings into words, but talking about your loss with trusted loved ones will help. Don’t be afraid to cry and express your emotions. Discuss any questions or concerns that surface about how you are handling your grief, and know that your process will be different, but equal to your wife.

 

– Ask for Space. 

 

If you need space to experience grief in your own way without criticism, ask for it. Explain how the time alone can help, rather than giving the impression that you are “shutting out” your loved ones.

 

– Deal with Anger.

 

While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward your spouse or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response to grief, however hostile behavior is not. If you are feeling hostile, or having difficulty dealing with anger, get help.

 

Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone; especially on a day designed to celebrate new life, that instead, brings sadness. Mothers and fathers can support one another and ensure the day has meaning for your both.

“Tough” Love: 9 Tips for Grieving Couples

Father's Day Can put a strain on grieving couples.

Father’s Day Can put a strain on grieving couples.

Father’s Day can stir a mix of emotions after a miscarriage. Fathers and Mothers can be affected by the event – which can be a painful reminder of loss.

You will often hear that grief and loss bring couples together, but it can actually do just the opposite. It is possible to emerge on the other side of grief with a closer marriage, but it does take work.

Here are some tips adapted from the book “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” that can help your marriage survive the stress of loss:
1. Give each other the freedom to grieve in an individual way. Resist the temptation to feel that your way is the only way to handle loss. Do not be fooled if it seems that your spouse has not been affected by the loss.
2. Remember the good times. Think about activities you enjoy as a couple and make time to do them- even if you do not feel up to it yet.
3. Expect tough times. Be tolerant with your mate and understand that you are both going to fail each other during this turbulent time.
4. Do not lash out at one another. In a weakened state of grief, this will only push you apart. Find constructive ways to release the stress and anger of grief.
5. Prepare for change. Loss and grief change people and it will change the face of your marriage. Decide together that this trial will bring you closer and commit to your relationship.
6. Reach out. Resist the urge to spend time away from your mate or reach out to others who better understand your grief.
7. Avoid placing blame. Tossing accusations at your spouse will only place a wedge in your relationship. Understand that feelings of guilt, anger, and confusion are normal during this time.
8. Love each other. Be sure to offer the hugs, cuddling, and love that each partner needs to feel secure and supported. Be sure to resume your physical relationship as soon as possible.
9. Seek information and support.

Educate yourselves on grief and try to understand one another. If you are having difficulties resolving your grief as a couple and you feel your marriage is in trouble, get help immediately! Do not wait until it is too late to seek help.

There are no easy answers for couples dealing with pregnancy loss. It is crucial that you make the decision to put your marriage first and then do it!
Lisa Church is author of “Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Infant Death” and founder of HopeXchange, a company dedicated to helping women and their families facing miscarriage.

Father’s Day After Loss: Men Have Feelings Too

man-when-he-does-not-grieve-hardly-exists-quote-1
 After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. They will often hear friends and family asking their wives how they are doing, but rarely do men recieve the same type of attention. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation for them.
It may sometimes appear that a man is not experiencing the pain of pregnancy loss. It is critical to understand how men and women grieve differently. Life experiences, along with cultural and personality differences mean that men and women are going to have separate, but equal dealings with grief.
If the lines of communication and support break down during loss, you will find a man feeling alone and unsupported. Here are some ways to help a man during grief:
  • Remember that men normally grieve in private- not in public. You may not see outward signs that a man is grieving, but do not be fooled. Understand that a man in grief will find himself in a difficult position- he will be shamed if he expresses deep emotions in public and he will be shamed if he does not.
  • Be aware that men often experience anger differently then women during grief. While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward you or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response, however hostile behavior is not.
  • Listen. Remember that some men want to talk, but they feel there is no one to listen. A man may also be uncomfortable putting his feelings into words. Encourage him by listening during those times when he does talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do. It is very important to ask what you can do to be of service to a man during his grief, and then do your best to meet his needs.
  • Keep an open mind. Remember that grief is an individual experience. Assuming that a man is not feeling pain if he grieves differently than you will only cause strife and misunderstanding.
Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone. Understanding a man and him giving the space and support he needs will be critical.
The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death. We share this article each year near Father’s Day.