Bereaved Fathers

I started this piece in the morning of June 16th. Father’s Day. It’s no longer the holiday but I wanted to share this regardless. 

Today is Father’s Day.

A day I have not celebrated in over a decade. I have not been in touch with my family for almost twelve years. Don’t feel sadness for me, or pity, please. It was a choice I am thankful I made when I did. If I hadn’t . . . I know I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of my healing and emotional health.

My family was broken. I am assuming, maybe incorrectly, that they still are. Being that my son was told, by my sister, half a dozen years back that “her” parents were not interested in seeing them as “their life was full and happy” as it was . . . I lean toward their continued dysfunction. Without going into great detail I will share a few facts. My father was physically abusive with me. To the tune of two (probably three) broken noses and his choking me to near unconsciousness as recently as the one year date of my daughter’s death. I was continually told that I pushed him to these actions. My mother scolded me, in an emergency room because of an injury caused by my father, for even thinking of making a police report and “getting him into trouble”. Abuse, neglect, indifference, blame. I’d had enough.

I often think of other “father figures” in my life. Not to me . . . but to my children.

My daughter’s father didn’t truly come into her life in any real way until after she was eighteen. And, only because, she pursued the relationship. They had three, maybe four, years spent as father-daughter together. During that time she got to know her baby brother so after her funeral I wanted to give her father something to give to her little brother. He and I were in my sons’ bedroom alone, talking, when I asked him if he regreted not having been in her life for a longer period of time. His response? “No. I am satisfied with the time we had together.” I was incredulous. I’m still saddened by his response.

Through his own actions, my sons’ father removed himself from their lives for a period of time by going to jail. A good portion of their younger years were spent without him. They’ve had years of anger with him, anger towards me, anger at their sister’s death, anger at circumstances but have come out on the other side, whole. I am in awe of them and know, if they choose to, will be great fathers some day.

Recently, I was scrolling through Facebook and stopped on an article that said losing a pet can be as difficult as losing a family member. As always, when reading this “fact”, I feel angered. I don’t know why I do it, but I read through some of the comments posted, and could feel myself getting madder. This time, I read a comment posted by a bereaved father who said he’d lost pets, and a son, and he could tell you which was worse. My heart hurt for him: both for his the loss of his child and because other’s were saying “don’t judge someone else’s loss”. I felt the need to let him know he was understood. So I responded.

I told him I could relate. That others who had not lost a child couldn’t. And, that I was thankful they couldn’t. But, that I knew his pain and shared his point of view. He ended up private messaging me and we chatted. We shared stories about of deceased children. How we lost them. The time that’s passed since they died. How we feel now. How we felt then. We have had good conversations.

It’s not often that I get to talk to a bereaved father so intimately. To hear about a man’s emotions after child loss is interesting. His words made me consider how the men in my daughter’s life had grieved her death. Not well, I told myself. But, after talking to this grieving dad, maybe I am judging them a bit too harshly.

Are they so different from grieving mothers merely because of gender? And, it it is because of gender, does the difference lie in our physical makeup or rather the emotional? Men are taught to be “strong” and “stoic” and keep their feelings to themselves. Crying is a weakness. Boys don’t cry. Crybaby. Young boys grow up learning what society will accept from them in reference to their emotional behavior.

If it’s not so much the nurture part of things . . . then is it nature? Do hormones play a part in how demonstrative each sex is? Women are said to be “more emotional” when they are on their periods. We are told that our hormones are out of whack during this time and that’s why we cry so easily. Or, get angry. Even rage. This is why we are irrational we are told.

Or, is it because we carry our child tucked under our hearts, for months before they are born? Is our son or daughter more real to us because we are physically bound together for nearly ten months? A father isn’t physically affected by the pregnancy which produces their child. Only the mother. Before the child enters the world . . . the mother has already felt the baby move separate from herself. The baby hears its mother’s voice from the inside . . . from all around them. Mother and child are in love with each other long before the father has a chance to forge that kind of bond.

I am not saying a father’s bond is less. Just different. How could it not be? So, in truth, I have no way to begin to understand what a bereaved father goes through. Maybe Becca’s father wasn’t being so callous afterall. I am going to have to give that idea more thought before I reach a conclusion.

I am thankful I got to talk to a grieving father just prior to Father’s Day. I am sad that I know another parent who has had to survive the un-survivable. I am happy to know my two sons will make much better fathers than the one I have.

There is now a deeper interest inside of me to understand the point of view of the bereaved dad. I think men suffer alone after this loss. They have to be strong for everyone else. They have to “fix it”.

This man told me he had written his first blog about child loss from the father’s perspective. I applaud him for his courage in opening up in such a transparent way. It takes courage to write about the ugly stuff. To lay pain open for the world to see. To be brave enough to say: damn it . . . I hurt and I can’t do this alone.

Maybe, if I’m honored, he’ll let me share one of his pieces of writing in my blog. I believe it will be helpful to so many people and informative for me. Pain connects grieving parents. When we find someone, who is like us, it’s easier for us to open ourselves and be vulnerable

My story, my loss and subsequent path, will hopefully be a survival guide for the unfortunate bereaved mothers (in the future) who stumble across my writing. I think his writing will be a guide for other fathers who have experienced child loss, too.

When we share our stories . . . we help others in numerous ways. Be brave.

Share your story tomorrow. I guarantee there is someone who needs to hear it.


Author: Diane Neas

I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. I find writing, and painting, heal me. Sharing my story of loss and healing lightens what I carry. And, hopefully, my words help another along the way.

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