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Grieving Fathers Need Support, Too

Losing a child is the most unimaginable thing that can happen to parents.

I know expressing that heartbreak can be even harder for the father.

Crying over the loss of my daughter is often a normal part of the grieving process if you are a mother. People expect to see a mother sobbing over losing a child. However, in our society, there has always been that absurd notion that has been instilled into us since we were little that boys shouldn’t cry.

A little boy falls down and starts to cry and someone was there to say, “Suck it up. You need to toughen up.” Because of that stigma, men feel they need to suck up their feelings of anguish and grief. They don’t feel they can openly cry in front of others. They bury that grief so deeply, they are almost numb on the inside.

After our daughter passed away my husband immersed himself into keeping busy. He would work, and then he would be in the yard working, or in the basement working on his side business. A lot of the time even to do that, he would have to be drinking. At least by doing that, it would numb that pain if only for a short time.

It didn’t matter how hard he tried to stay busy, or how much he drank, that pain will never go away. Not in days, months, or years. It is a forever heartbreak.

It was Mother’s Day and my husband and I were sitting on our back deck talking. I was really missing my girl more than normal that day. We started talking about life and how much we miss our daughter. My husband then said, “I still don’t think I’ve accepted that she isn’t coming back.” He started to cry. Immediately, he started to wipe his tears, and I could see and feel that he was inwardly struggling. He wanted to get the feelings out and share, but at the same time, he felt he should keep it in. It made me sad for him and for all the fathers who feel like they can’t freely and openly express their grief and unbearable heartache.

They are screaming on the inside and feel they can’t express those feelings of utter devastation that they are carrying, bottled up inside of them.

One of my vices, so to speak, is to write. I can sit down at my computer and pound on the keys and spill my soul. But my husband and so many other fathers are like a tea kettle, who can’t blow the steam that needs to escape.

There is also the ignorant misconception that after a few months or a year we should have moved on. We should be over it.  Those who have never experienced this degree of devastation will never understand. This soul breaking loss is utterly devastating. He lost his little girl! Daddy’s girl. The bond they had was indescribable. Their bond was mesmerizing.

Our daughter suffered a severe brain injury at birth. Complications arose and I was rushed into emergency surgery. He was left there alone to imagine the worst. He watched them paddle and bag his baby girl for 15 minutes. He was told she wasn’t going to make it. He was the one who had to tell me when I woke from anesthesia. From the first second the two of them had a bond that was so strong. It was so pure and perfect.

Daddy’s girl underwent too many surgeries to count over the years. Daddy was always the one who got the smiles. His unconditional love, compassion and sense of humor were what carried our family through over all the years of medical scares, sleepless nights and uncertainty. He carried all my worries and burdens on his shoulders. He always kept us grounded. He never once complained.

Our motto was, ”Our kids didn’t ask to be brought into this world, we chose that for them. So it is up to us, no matter what the circumstances they are facing, to ensure they have the  best life possible.”

For 30 years, he has done just that.

He is my best friend, the love of my life, the man I dreamt of as a little girl. I love him with all that I am. I felt compelled to let all the dads that are grieving know, “You are not alone. You have a brotherhood of grieving dads who are trying to navigate this heartbreaking journey. Waking up every day, putting on the mask of strength yet silently screaming inside.”

The 2018 Father’s Day celebrations have come and gone, but I ask you to say a prayer for the dads out there who were missing a child on that special day, and every day since.

It’s not too late. Send him a text, email, or a phone call and let those grieving dads know you are thinking of them.

My husband counts his blessings every day. He has two amazing sons and a beautiful granddaughter he celebrated Father’s Day with, but there is always that place in his soul that will forever be broken and missing.

A part of his soul was ripped away on that horrible August day. Not days, nor months, nor years can ever take it away.

A part of him will forever be screaming silently.

Photo submitted by contributor.