When a baby dies much of the focus of support may be on the mother or birth parent but of course fathers and partners also have an important relationship with the baby or young child that has died so will also be grieving.
From early pregnancy onwards, a lot of parents will daydream about what their babies will be like and imagine them at different life stages; as a child growing up, taking their first steps, playing with siblings, starting school, even them starting their own family. They may also think about the things they want to do together, like teaching them to ride a bike. So, grief will be not just for the young baby or child but for the whole life you imagined with them.
Others might find that they don’t feel a connection to the baby until after it’s born, and this can affect how they deal with a loss.
How grief gets expressed will vary a lot according to how you were brought up to deal with emotions, the society you live in and the culture you are part of. There is no right or wrong way through grief but it’s important to find something that works for you.
What we do know is that generally it helps to try to find a balance between being immersed in grief and focussing on adjusting to life without your baby and thinking of the future. It also helps to find a way to keep a sense of a bond or connection with your child.
If you are comfortable speaking, it can be good to talk or message with others who understand what you are going through. Some groups base support around an activity like going away for an activity trip or playing sport. Others might have online support via Facebook or provide peer to peer support.
You might like to take on a challenge that could be linked to fundraising for a cause that’s important to you, in your child’s memory. Paul took on the February 50 challenge and cycled in memory of his son Toby.
By having support for yourself or an outlet to vent emotions, many people find they can be more supportive of partners and can cope better with life.
Lullaby Trust have Befrienders who you can speak with. You can read about Rob’s story, one of our Befrienders here. Our befrienders also answer our Freephone support line 0808 802 6868, 6-10pm on weekends and public holidays.
You might like to create a Lullaby Trust Memorial as a way of remembering your baby or child. It can be a focal point for family and friends to post messages and photos, light candles in remembrance or make a donation in memory.
Many couples worry about the effect of the bereavement on their relationship and worry it might cause a breakup but there is no evidence to suggest this is more likely to happen.
You may find that you feel brought closer together by the sadness that you share and may not want support outside the couple. Sometimes partners have very different ways of coping with grief or be out of sync with each other in terms of having a good or bad day and this can cause misunderstandings and tension.
One partner may want to be kept busy and find distraction whilst the other wants to retreat and be with their feelings. One of you might really need support at a moment when the other just hasn’t got the resources to give this.
It can lead to feeling the other person doesn’t care. So, it is important to listen to each other and keep channels of communication open and to get outside help if things seem to be getting worse between you.
In western culture there can be a pressure for fathers/partners to be the one who provides support and strength for the mother/birth parent and may feel this means not showing how they feel. This can be misunderstood as being uncaring and lead to distance between couples. It can also mean that people around you don’t know how you are really feeling so may assume you are ok when you’re not.
There can be a real strength in realising you need help and finding what’s right for you. If you are better resourced, you may find you can be more supportive of your partner and can cope better with life.
When you go through a traumatic loss it can make you both question a lot of things in your life and want to re-evaluate things. It is important to keep talking about this together and not make major decisions in haste.
What if I can’t face talking about this?
Everyone copes with grief in different ways; ‘What’s your grief‘ website has some ideas for managing grief when you don’t feel comfortable speaking about it.
As a non-birthing mother or partner you have had to face the loss of your child whilst perhaps not always being acknowledged as a parent by health professionals and having your role misunderstood. Your feelings may be just as intense as your partner who gave birth.
As a couple, you may have had to go through a lot of procedures in order to have your baby which may make it extra hard and financially challenging to be able to consider having another baby.
Much NHS bereavement support is focussed around the birthing mother even though you are grieving too.
Resources for LGBTQ+ parents
Jess from @TheLegacyOfLeo has collected links to a series of LGBTQ babyloss blogs and resources: thelegacyofleo.com
The Queer Parenting Partnership Home | Queer Parenting (parentingqueer.co.uk) was formed to address the lack of parenting support for LGBTQ families in the UK and includes links to bereavement support.
Rainbow Families is a non-profit org based in USA dedicated to serving the needs of all LGBTQ+ families and those considering parenthood. They provide educational programs, online bereavement support groups, empowerment and community connections. You contact Rainbow Families on Info@RainbowFamilies.org or take a look at their Facebook page.
Resources for bereaved Dads
- Daddy’s with Angels (DWA) are an international charity providing support and guidance to all family members affected by the loss of a child at any age or gestation and by any cause
- Sands United FC is a unique way for dads and other bereaved family members to come together through a shared love of sport and find a support network where they can feel at ease talking about their grief when they’re ready. The teams also commemorate their babies’ all too brief lives by proudly displaying their names on the kit worn for every match.
- Strong Men supports men following any bereavement through weekenders and peer to peer support
- Angels United FC A football club, support group co-founded by a group of dad’s that all have one thing in common
- Miscarriage For Men A page set up to help men through miscarriage; links for advice, blogs from personal experiences, a chat support function & forum to share experiences in order to support each other moving forward.