What Father’s Day means to an older Dad & why quality bereavement care is so powerful

Written by Brian English

The words and actions of healthcare professionals play a crucial role in the care of bereaved families. Compassionate care can make a profound difference during the most difficult times.

This Father’s Day, read a heartfelt perspective from an older dad and discover the importance of compassionate care after death and how it impacts families deeply.

Our baby daughter, Siobhan, was our first baby and she was stillborn after a 42 weeks pregnancy in January 1989. In those days the bereavement care was very different to now, there was no bereavement suite, virtually no memory making and it was still the practice in some hospitals to whisk the baby away from the mother in the extraordinary belief it was best that no bond was formed!

We therefore in hindsight know we were lucky that the midwife on duty encouraged us to spend time with Siobhan, get our parents to come to the hospital to visit and we took our own photos (that we had to get developed days later) and a lock of her hair.

In all we were with her for about 6 hours and I remember feeling a very confused mix of gut wrenching painful anguish and also pride at being a Daddy.

gray and black point and shoot camera with case

The labour was extremely difficult and long so my wife was really struggling during the 6 hours obviously emotionally but also physically too, so her recollection of those 6 hours has always been blurred.

I will remember to my dying day the pain of the midwives saying they had to take Siobhan away finally and I saw the wonderful mother my wife is and was when as they took her away she said “please keep her warm and wrapped up in a blanket and do not leave her all alone!” 

little baby covered with blanket in black and white

If we’d have had a cold cot my wife would have been able to better recover from the birth and be more present with Siobhan, our grainy photos may have been clearer, we would have been more prepared for our goodbye rather than the premature way we left her.

We would have had precious time to come to terms somewhat with the trauma we were now enduring alone whilst being cared for by empathetic professionals, whereas after 6 hours we went home all alone with our world turned on its head inside a few hours! We would have had some priceless memories and memory making to go with us. The foundations we needed to rebuild our lives would certainly have been more solid with the time and memory making a cold cot would have enabled. 

Initially Fathers Day was very tough after Siobhan however the birth of another daughter 18 months later and a son 2.5 years after that certainly dramatically changed the emotions of Fathers Day. The truth is though there are so so many moments and triggers for bereaved parents you in time come to roll with them with the anguish, pain and all the “what ifs” being a normal part of your life experience. As indeed is the odd tear or voice wobble – that’s normal too. You know nothing else! I think about her every single day, even 35 years later, and it doesn’t take a Fathers Day to make that feeling hugely different.

What I’d really love on Fathers Day is when someone remembers Siobhan and that I am the Dad of 3 children – now that is what would make the trigger of a Fathers Day less poignant and actually I’d feel very very proud! 

All these years on we are now grandparents to 2 very special grandsons. Our lives are happy and 35 years ago I’d never have believed that could happen. We’ve worked hard to enable us to say this; we shared our feelings with each other and sometimes with very close friends as it was too painful to share with each other; Sands support Groups were not available in our day – and I wish they were; we’ve looked hard to see the gifts Siobhan has given us both in the miracle of new children but in the love and care we’ve found in certain friends and those we’ve met on our journey; I’ve read some great books I’ve found inspirational to help me cope; I’ve done some physical challenges to raise money in Siobhan’s memory which I’ve found immensely bonding with her and actually therapy and I’d urge Dads especially to do the same as talking is often not as easy for us men.

Finally to any recently bereaved Dad I’d say let your feelings out as there is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a man had the greatest courage – the courage to suffer! 

Finding support after loss is incredibly important. Below are just some of the resources available to Dads.

To learn more about CuddleCot’s clinical led and evidence based bereavement care training, visit: cuddlecot.com/training

To talk to a qualified bereavement counsellor online for free visit: cuddlecot.com/grieving

Online Support Groups for Dads:

Sands Facebook Support group for dads – “A community of bereaved men, including dads, grandparents, brothers, and, uncles all helping each other through pregnancy and baby loss.”

Lily Mae – Dads and Grandads WhatsApp Groups – “If you would like to be a part of our Dad’s and Grandad’s Whatsapp Group get in contact with Matt at Matt.whitehouse@lilymaefoundation.org to be added and become a part of our Support group!”

4Louis – Tiny Footprints Brotherhood Online Support group for Dads, Grandads, Uncles and Brothers. First Saturday of every month. 10am Uk/7pm AEDT

Sad Dads – Online support group weekly and monthly (US) A safe, supportive community for dads and non-birthing parents. 

Football teams:

4Louis FC Football team – “this isn’t just any football club – it’s a place where Dads, Grandads, Uncles, Brothers who have lost a child come together to find support and solace.” beacon of Light, Sunderland UK

Sands Football team – Sands United is a unique way for bereaved men to come together through a shared love of sport, find a support network, and feel at ease talking about their grief when they’re ready.  

Podcasts for Dads:

Dads Still Standing podcast “Award-winning podcast and bereavement support for dads following the loss of a child.”

Still Parents Podcast – “A candid podcast. how do Dad’s tackle the train wreck of baby loss?”

Guys and Grief Podcast – “Supporting men that have experienced pregnancy or infant loss”

Miscarriage Dads – “Humanizing the experiences of miscarriage by normalizing dads openly talking about its impact on us as men and fathers.”

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