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Grieving Fathers

Understanding and helping grieving fathers isn't usually easy. Men tend to handle emotions so differently than women and their grief is no exception. Unfortunately this difference, added to the stress of losing a child, causes many parents to split up only few months after loosing their precious child. 

I hope this page helps grieving parents by showing the different ways men and women deal with grief. Understanding and accepting each others different ways of handling grief is so important to support each other well. It also helps to avoid destructive blame and opens the way for a renewed, deeper relationship between grieving parents.

Understanding the Situation of Grieving Fathers

grieving manPhoto courtesy of Michael Mardahl

Grieving fathers respond to the sad event very differently  - and sometimes in a way that puzzles mothers, as many don't show their grief.

To all grieving mothers: this is very common, not necessarily a need to worry and can have many, often several causes.

  • Fathers often see themselves as providers, emotional stronger, and take on the role of holding the "family ship" above water when everything else is falling apart.
  • Men are used to deal with their emotions in an different way.
  • Many grieving fathers need to return to work soon after the sad event and function there. A fathers grieving sadly often doesn't find acceptance at work.
  • A Fathers relationship to his child is often very different to a mother-child relationship. Especially, if the child died before birth, fathers have fewer and less tangible memories.

Different Ways to Deal With Parental Grief 

Buz Overbeck has written a wonderful article about the different ways men and women deal with their grief.

The insights it gave helped me tremendously during those first months after our precious sons death.  I hope the following list, that in large parts carries some of his ideas in an easier to grasp format, helps you too.

Grieving mothers very often Grieving fathers very often
need to talk, processing what happened through words don't want to talk, getting overwhelmed listening to so much raw emotion
cry a lot and seek out support groups hide their pain and make it up on their own
ask the same questions again and again, hoping to find understanding (more in themselves than from others even) don't know what else to answer, wishing they could fix things
read books on grief and write to work through the pain disappear in the shed not to be seen again
feel he should grieve her way need the grace to be allowed to grieve in their own ways
seek understanding and hugs to feel close, not sex look for closeness in sexual intimacy
"need 9 - 24 months (or more) to resolve their grief" "([...] make peace) with their grief in 3-6 months"
have the impression their partners don't grieve "feel their spouse needs professional help after 3 to 6 months"

Even though every fathers grieving is unique, knowing about the above tendencies was quite a relief for me. It didn't only help me understand my partners reactions much better, it also gave me some ideas about how I could try to cope with my own grief.

One thing we did do together for example was renovating our living room - the room we had chosen for Lars home birth (which didn't happen), and the room our son had chosen to prepare me for his death. While it was dark and old before, it's now bright and full of life. A place that we truly enjoy being in and a place that helps us cherishing the memories of our son.

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Some Typical Male Coping Styles to Deal With Grief

As seen above grieving fathers often don't show or work through their pain openly. Staudacher lists 4 alternative ways men cope with grief:

1.    Remaining silent
keeping the pain private helps to protect against vulnerability in form of tears, strong feelings and sharing emotions;
2.    Grieving secretly
grieving when no one can see to spare others from seeing, feeling or experiencing that grief. Anything else often seems against "cultural expectations";
3.    Taking physical and legal action
trying to get control over a situation that is out of control. This approach is often supported and rewarded by others as it's seen as being "assertive and courageous" in times of grief;
4.    Becoming immersed in activity
occupying all time so there is none left to think of the loss or feel the pain of the grief;

Questions that might help men in their grief

Hannah Lothrop collected the following questions that can help grieving fathers:

  • Do I feel responsible for the well being of my wife?

  • How much support do I find from my own resources, how much from other sources, how much from my partner?

  • Is there anyone I can talk to about this experience honestly and in all its depth? How could I find someone? Do I want to find someone?

  • Which impact does my work have on me? Does it block my emotions or can I change my emotions through my work?

  • What activity helps me connect and work through my grief?

  • Do I have enough time and space to grieve?

  • How do I grieve?

  • What are my needs in my grief and how do I communicate them to others?

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Your Stories

Grieving fathers: This is a place for you to share your story and how you experience(d) this challenging time.

What Other Grieving Parents Have Said

You're not alone. Click on the links below to see how other fathers have experienced this challenging time of grief.

Brandon's Gifts 
Brandon’s Gifts A Father’s Story of Love There’s a hole in my heart and a wondering that will never leave, …

Joe's Story 
...again. It was the feeling that Joey makes us complete. I still think I'm going to wake up one morning from this nightmare. My name is Joe …

A grieving father who lost a son to drug addiction  
My 25 year old son, Nicholas, died on September 30, 2016 after 7 or 8 years of addiction to drugs, but this time the heroin was mixed with fentanyl. …

A Father`s grief,( on paper ) 
I lost my daughter 6 years ago. After a long bout with beer, drugs and pills she decided to end her life by taking the pills the doctors prescribed …

Triple the grief. 
On October 6, 2007; I lost 3 kids to an impaired driver. My son, 21, his wife, 19 (they were married 3.5 months) and a young man I loved as a son. They …

Our Daughter was 33 
April 21st 2012 our world changed from a normal family with normal problems to a family destroyed by the sudden death of our daughter. She left two beautiful …

My oldest son Joshua Tyler was born 23.Oct.2008. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor of 09.July 2009. The doctors insisted it was colic or acid reflux. …

Understanding intimacy
a grieving fathers view
Lana was a mircle for us... 3 years ago, my wife was told that she could not have children. After a year of "trying" we were surprised by a pregnancy …

Click here to write your own.

Thank you so much for sharing.

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Other pages you might enjoy:

non-verbal communication skills

ages and stages of child development

tips for holistic stress reduction

Return to overview of Parental Grief

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