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Helping Father's Hearts to Heal

 

Welcome... as we move into June and the month of Father's day, I wanted to do something especially for bereaved Fathers, so this is the first year of running this support project (2016). My hope is that you will find some comfort here, maybe just one little gem that might help to ease you through this significant date with a little more peace, or act as inspiration for how you can plan your day.

Whatever you do we send you love and light for this run up to Father's Day and congratulations on being an amazing Father to a child who is no longer with you here on earth. Val and Patrick x

June 1st

 Helping Father's Hearts to Heal: Day 1

 

As we enter June and Father’s Day approaches I want to focus on Fathers grief and loss and how it uniquely impacts your lives.

Whether your baby exists only in your heart without ever quite making it to conception, or as an tiny spark of life that only stayed for a little while, or as a baby who you held in your arms, or as a child who you had the honour of nurturing for a time, if your baby is not here on earth with you for whatever reason, we are honouring you as a Father throughout the days ahead.
You remember them,
You yearn for them, 
You search for them,
You honour them,
You protect them,
And you parent them. 


“This parenting - instinctual, unstoppable - happens in so many different ways, on so many different levels, ways and levels that are nearly impossible to explain to those who are only parenting children here on earth.”


Wherever you are on your journey through this thing we call grief, whatever the nature of your loss, however you choose to mark this Father’s Day, or not, my hope is that you will find some comfort here, some touchstone to help get you through to the other side.
Where, after all the hype and celebrations surrounding you have been survived, you will be stronger for the surviving and slowly you arrive at a place where there is less conflict between your grief and your love, and as that happens you become more aware of your baby's light and your shared love, even while your grief may remain strong.
I honour you dear Fathers, You are the Father of all Fathers, parenting the children you hold in your hearts forever.
Blessings to you, Val and Patrick x

 

June 2nd

 

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 2

 

Parenting the child you hold forever in your heart is “instinctual, unstoppable – it happens in so many different ways, on so many different levels, ways and levels that are nearly impossible to explain to those who are only parenting children here on earth.”

It takes great heart work to walk this path, and can feel both completely natural and utterly unnatural simultaneously – one of the many paradoxes of life after child loss.

When your child dies you learn to parent them in a different way. 

Opportunities to say their name, talk about them, remember them, create something for them, be the best version of yourself you can be in their memory, and show others you are a Father to your child, these are all an important part of                                                                               honouring your child.

Fathers have forever been seeking to express their grief and love in a myriad of ways – some have made films, created art installations, written books, started support groups, and others quietly build a memory trunk, or a beautiful garden, or shelf for their baby’s pictures and special things, get a tattoo, or run a marathon. The list is as endless as the ways there are to express love! 

My husband Patrick disappeared into the garage after our daughter Lily died, I jokingly say I didn’t see him for a month, but it actually did feel a bit like that. I didn’t know what he was doing in there, but I did trust that whatever it was, it was about his grieving process and something he needed to work through. When he finally emerged he gave me a beautiful piece of wood he’d been working on for Lily. It was as smooth as glass, lovingly carved with her name and a heart, it invites touch, it’s surfaces polished with pure love, its grain concealing his hidden tears. I couldn’t have witnessed any greater expression of love and parenting for our child, held forever in his heart. It sits near the top of our stairs, people pass by it often, some know what it represents, others don’t, but for us is it another place in our home where Lily exists, evidence of her place in our family, our hearts and our lives.

How do you continue to Father your child? Have you something you’d like to share with us? We welcome your stories in the comments below… 
The photo is one of Patrick arranging things for Lily when we brought her home for a brief time. (I was going to share a picture of the wood he carved, will do so later in the month) but then I love this image as for me, it captures the essence of a Father’s great love and devotion for his baby. I just love his attention to detail, getting things ‘just right’ for his special girl. Surrounding her with the things we’d bought for her, making her ‘comfortable’, acts of deep love and devout parenting.
Strength and love to you dear Fathers, Val and Patrick x

 

 June 3rd

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 3

 

Resources 

Unfortunately there just isn’t as much information or resources out there specifically for Fathers who have lost children, however, we hope that much of the information and support we provide is relevant to Fathers as well as Mothers.
When child loss occurs, for some reason most of the sympathy expressed is pointed in the direction of the mother of the child. Maybe the feeling is that mothers mourn losses more deeply, or perhaps the reasoning is that fathers are the stronger ones. The reality is that fathers grieve the death of their child, too, and they need support during this difficult, lonely time.


Because of the differences between men and women, men cry less often and less openly than women. That one fact often attributes to the thinking that men grieve less. That is so incorrect! Men will work through grief in a different way than women, but the pain of losing a child can run just as deep for a father as for a mother. 


Where does a father find support when child loss occurs? Men are not as social as women, and therefore don’t seem to need as much social interaction as women. Men also don’t seem to like the idea of support groups or counseling as much as women because of the uncomfortable feeling of expressing their deepest emotions to others. However, we have several Dads now attending our support groups and I have so much respect for them showing up.


Here I will share a few of the resources available online where you might find comfort, ideas, support and identification to help you along your journey. Love and strength, Val and Patrick x

Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back

This project is designed to reach out to all bereaved dads and to provide a conduit to share their stories. “One of my goals is to bring awareness to the impacts that child loss has on fathers and to let society know that it’s okay for a father to grieve the loss of a child. A father shouldn’t have to hide his pain or feel ashamed to show his emotions.”
“Since I too am a bereaved father, I realize that there isn’t much information or support services for men that have lost children. As men, we may get a few pages in a grief book that tell us how to respond to the grieving mother, but I haven’t been able to find many books that tell us how to help ourselves. Often times, men feel shame for not being able to “get over it” or “get back at it” like society thinks we should.”
“The ultimate goal of this project is to create a book that represents a cross-section of bereaved fathers. I want anyone who picks up this book to be able to relate with someone else’s story so that they don’t feel so alone in their journey through grief. To let them know that other dads have traveled this path or are currently on the same path.” Kelly Farley. grievingdads.com

Video interview with Kelly Farley  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2dk86-Df0c

 

SANDS Booklet Mainly for Fathers. Downloadable Pdf.

https://www.uk-sands.org/…/MAINLY%20FOR%20FATHERS%20THIRD%2…


Fathers Grieving Infant Loss Blog
http://fathersgrievinginfantloss.blogspot.co.uk
“My wife, Monica, and I suffered the full-term stillbirth of our second child, Kathleen. While that was a number of years ago, I have stayed connected to the issue through my writing and speaking on the topic of father’s grief following the death of an infant. I, like many men, had trouble talking about my feelings after my daughter’s death. I’m hoping this blog might be a place for dads to share their thoughts about what they are experiencing and find support from other dads.” Tim Nelson

 

 

June 4th

 

 

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 4

 

For Friends and Family


As Father’s Day approaches you may be thinking of how you can best show your support for your friend, family member or loved one on this significant day.
You may be wondering about whether to get him something to acknowledge his loss. 

I want to stress that everyone is different in how they react to their grief, so what I am sharing are suggestions for you to consider, they are offerings from my own heart, just take what resonates or ‘feels right’ for you and the type of relationship you have with a bereaved Father.

One of the things I hear repeatedly from fathers are stories about significant dates coming around, and having everyone act like nothing happened. Not only does no one ask how they are doing, some people avoid them because of their discomfort with the situation, rooms go quiet when they walk in, people just don’t know how to be around grieving parents, but especially grieving Dads. 
Saying nothing at all only adds to be pain of loss, any acknowledgement, however small, will be appreciated and remembered. Yes, you will remind him that he has an Angel, but you will also remind him that his child did exist and you recognise his loss and his pain, and that you care.

I personally think the difficult question is WHAT you might get him to acknowledge that you are thinking about him. 
Depending on a lot of different factors, including what your relationship is normally like with him, I would definitely say a card would be appropriate – I would say in the card that you were not sure what you should do to acknowledge his loss, but that you are thinking of him and just really wanted to do something...
Honest expressions of feelings are what most of us want at these significant times.
Please avoid cards that say ‘Happy Father’s Day’ instead choose a blank card so you can write your own message – ‘wishing you a peaceful Father’s Day’, ‘thinking of you this Father’s Day’ 

Also, most Mums and Dads I know wish that people would use their baby's name when speaking to them about their loss, since one of the biggest fears as a parent is that everyone will forget your child ever existed or that they were not "real" to others—we want to know they mattered not only to us but to you too. So a personalized inexpensive gift with the baby's name would be very nice, in my opinion.

Father’s might not want a lot of special treatment on Father’s Day, but this day without a child can be just as emotionally heartbreaking for a father as Mother’s Day is for a mother without her child. We need to be sensitive to the needs of fathers, too! 

So show support on Father’s Day to a father who has experienced the deep pain of losing a child. Acknowledge the fact that he is still a father even though his child is no longer living on this earth. Refer to him as a father, and express your genuine sorrow for his loss. Fathers who have lost a child as early as miscarriage should certainly be included among the group of grieving fathers. Sadly, often, fathers of miscarried babies are never given any recognition of being a father. 

Give him the gift of recognition that he is missing one of those who made him a Father, that he is still a Father; a gift in memory of his child; or simply a hug, an arm around the shoulder, or a compassionate word will assure him that although he does not grieve outwardly much, those who truly care about him have not forgotten. 

Whatever you choose to do on Father’s day remember that a bereaved Father is not just a bereaved Father on that day, he is so forever. So spare a thought for him on other days too.

With Love and light, Val and Patrick x x x

 

 June 5th

Christian’s Beach – A Son’s Legacy – A Father’s Healing

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 5

 

“As a husband, a partner, a man - you are a passenger on the pregnancy express. You can look out the window and watch the scenery go by, her belly grow, her skin glow and if you’re lucky, catch your baby’s elbow as it presses against her belly like the dorsal fin of some alien sea creature making it more real for you. But you’re not the engineer. When the crash comes, you are struggling with your own emotions, grief and loss, desolation and depression, and watching as your wife, your partner, your life jumps the tracks. Twisting metal tumbling out of control in slow motion. Prepare for impact.”
Writes “Return to Zero“ writer/director Sean Hanish, whose son was stillborn in 2005.

“If you’ve suffered a stillbirth, a miscarriage or infant loss, you hurt in a way that you can’t readily explain to anyone and you don’t truly understand it yourself. If you’re like me, you struggle with those feelings and you often end up somewhere between ‘tough it out’ and ‘break down’. We all share a common feeling — we’re missing someone. But we all process that grief differently and that can be really hard to deal with. I know Father’s Day can be tough, but I also know that memories are beautiful. I wish you gentle thoughts today and every day.” Brian Henry.

 

 

 June 6th

 

 Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 6

'Fix it'

 “Often the Dad’s are put to the side when a baby dies. They are sometimes even forgotten about. They are expected to just take over and fix everything. Men are often pushed quickly back into the work place and are made to feel like they should not show emotion. The fact is that dads grieve too.” Carly Marie”

 

A Father naturally often wants to be a strong supporter of his partner during the painful months following child loss. Being conditioned growing up to ‘be strong’, not express his emotions ‘big boys don’t cry’, be the protector, to create safety and security for his family – then when tragedy strikes, when life suddenly jumps the tracks and is catapulted into the nightmare of child loss, this derailing can be particularly hard for men.

Men instinctively want to make things better, they are usually the ones to ‘fix’ things and often look at grief as a ‘fixable’ problem, they want to make ‘it’ better. But there is no making it better, child loss is something nobody can fix, not even a Father. This forces men to go through all kinds of identity changes in the aftermath of their loss.

Men are far less verbal than women by nature, and it makes it much more difficult for family members and friends to understand the changes that are taking place with a father when his loses a child. He often feels like a total failure because he was unable to prevent the death or to fix the death once it took place. This is especially true if the child’s life was lost due to an illness. Fathers are notorious for fixing things that are broken or in need of repair, and when they cannot fix their child’s illness and the end result is death, a father goes through a deep grieving period of feeling tremendous guilt and failure. 

A father who loses a child also loses such a large part of his dreams. Fathers don’t always openly talk about their dreams of teaching and playing with their children, or of taking bike rides together, of tossing a ball in the garden, or going fishing, but they think about these events all of the time. Fathers of girls daydream about walking their daughter down the aisle and dancing that first dance at the wedding. They dream about taking care of all of their child’s hurts, wiping their tears away, and being called “hero” for all of the ways they show their strength to their son or daughter. Child loss, in a father’s eyes, often represents weakness. Men believe fathers are to be strong and in charge, not at a loss for knowing what to do when death turns life upside down. Child loss is such a helpless feeling, and often this is a foreign emotion for fathers who have been immersed in a life of being a tower of strength for their family. 

What is a father to do? How can a father go on and feel whole once again? It takes time to work through the pain of loss. It takes a long time to build back a feeling of belonging as a father. It will often take years for a father to be able to reclaim his identity of a father. It will take lots of working through feelings of failure and loss to feel like a man who can always proudly wear the name father. 

Take it a day at a time, a step at a time. Begin by telling yourself over and over that you will always be a father. Nothing can change that – not even death. Remind yourself often that some things cannot be fixed by you. Remember often that lost dreams are part of the pain every parent feels when a child dies. It takes a lot of tears and years to work past the milestone markers of such things as dreams of your child playing ball, driving a car, dating, getting married, and having children. These are not easy dreams to release, but with time you will be able to more vividly remember the times you had with your child than to sorrow over the time you never had. Be patient with yourself! Be kind to yourself! And, when you fall into the emotional pain of feeling like a failure, remind yourself that you will always be a father and nothing can take away that badge of honor, not even death! 

Lastly, remind yourself that you will make it! There will be a day when you can say with confidence, “I am a father – always and forever, and I am so thankful for that!”

 

June 7th

Helping Father's Hearts to Heal: Day 7

 

To lose a child ... was something that could end one's world. One could never get back to how it was before. The stars went out. The moon disappeared. The birds became silent. - Alexander McCall Smith
Mark Twain said that there aren’t enough words in all the languages in the world to express the sorrow of losing a child. This is a short film I produced while grieving for my daughter, Willow, who was stillborn.
This short actually forms the centrepiece of a feature length surf film I made, called Seaworthy. Since the film’s release, I have received many heartfelt words of sympathy & encouragement. There have been scores of letters & emails from surfers from all over the world that have been sensitive & authentic & moving. I have been especially touched by the messages from those who have travelled their own grief journeys. I am awed & humbled that my work somehow resonated with others’ broken hearts.
A common theme echoed among the beautiful feedback I’ve received is that the story deserves a wider audience. Surf films, by definition, appeal to only a limited demographic, & the kind of surf films I make are left-of-centre even within surfing circles. So I decided to post this online, in the hope that it may reach a few others, especially those who may be living with loss & longing.
All of us experience & express grief in varied ways, which is a good thing since we’re all different. Because I’m a surfer, this is how I gave expression to my experience of bereavement."

 

 

June 8th

Helping Father's Hearts to Heal: Day 8

 

Acts of Love


Maybe because men tend to cry less than women, or because they tend to prefer to grieve privately, they often, in my observations, seem to find comfort through physical activity, performing acts of love as a means of processing their grief.

He may find a special project to complete, the time and attention spent planning and executing it being his way of working through the grief that is lingering heavily in his heart.
His hard work being his way of moving forwards in his own personal walk with grief. Each and every hour spent on this special project is an hour spent acknowledging and working through his grief and moving towards a point of healing.
By finding an activity he can immerse himself in he is not only honouring his child, but his own journey as a bereaved Father.

There are so many ways he can perform these acts of love, in fact it can actually be anything at all, because what’s sacred here is his intention whilst he performs these acts of love.

Some of these acts of great love have looked like planning and creating a special flower garden, making a memory trunk for his child, making a special shelf or display area for precious photographs and mementoes, building a memorial bench, or writing or journaling. But it can also look like cleaning out the garage, or decorating a room, or cleaning the car – everyday activities done with specific purpose and love. Sean Hanish, creator of the film Return to Zero built a small boat and let it sail out to sea, Nathan Oldfield made a surfboard, Patrick made Lily’s Wood. I often think making a special kite would be a really lovely project, as not only the time spent designing and making it would be deeply sacred but also every time it was flown could be time spent thinking about and consciously honouring your child.
Almost any physical action can be a vehicle to move forwards in the process of grief and healing. Fathers need time and space to readjust their thinking, to find ways to express their love and grief that are acts of great love and devout parenting. 
Please feel free to share anything that has helped you along your journey in the comments below.
Much love and strength, Val and Patrick x

 

June 9th

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 9

 

Writing

Writing and journaling, putting pen to paper in whatever form, or purpose, whether it be to tell your baby or child’s story, or record your own journey, expressing your thoughts and feelings can be such a therapeutic process.
It’s one often more associated with women perhaps, but can be even more valuable for men who often don’t express their thoughts and feelings verbally. The act of writing helps to sort through the tangled web of grief, sheds light on thoughts and feelings, and illuminates the dark places. It can be a very creative way to chart ones healing journey and show how far you’ve travelled through your grief when looking back.
Writing without censoring, letting your every thought and feeling pour out onto the page before you can lead to discovering new depths and nuances to your grieving that, left unnoticed, can become stagnant and fester.
Most things, expressed in a healthy way are much much better let out than kept in.
I have been looking for poems relating to Father’s loss, thought I’d share some with you here.
Please feel free to share any poems you have found relating to Father’s Grief in the comments below.
Much love and light, Val and Patrick x

A Baby and His Daddy – by Robyna

It’s very early morning,
The clock is nearing one,
And the tears are finally falling,
For himself and for his son.
The girl beside him sleeps,
He doesn’t want to wake her,
For when the morning breaks,
The grief may overtake her.
In these still and silent hours,
He can let himself feel,
He can let himself be broken,
He can start to heal.
For those still and silent hours,
Before the sun lights up the sky,
Belong to a baby and his daddy,
The time that he can finally cry.

 

Hello Mr. Hallmark Man – by Lyndell Maree

Hello there Mr. Hallmark man,
I wrote to you in May
To ask that words of love be shared,
With my mom on Mother’s Day.
Just as there is no card for Mum
To let her know I care,
There is no card for my dad, too,
And I have so much to share.
It’s very hard for my loving dad
To know that I’m okay.
To protect me was his job, he feels,
So he thinks he failed some way.
Although I had to leave this world,
While still considered young,
There is no way he ever failed—
There’s no more he could have done.
My dad he tends to question
Those things he cannot see.
I always send him little signs
To say, “Hey, Dad, it’s me!”
I hear him crying in the car,
The shower hides his tears.
He feels he has to be so strong
For those he holds so dear.
My dad he often gets so mad
At what became of me.
He wants so much to understand,
He says, “How could this be?
”I somehow need to let him know,
Though impossible it seems—
For him to live and laugh again
Will fulfill so many dreams.
The card I need to send right now
To a dad as great as mine,
Will thank him for the love he gave
Throughout my brief lifetime.
He’s still the one that I call Dad
,Our bond’s forever strong,
‘Cuz even though he can’t see me,
Our love lives on and on.
Please help me find a way
To tell my dad that when
It comes his time to leave the earth
I’ll be waiting there for him.
And also, Mr. Hallmark man,
Please help him to believe,
That nothing will ever change the fact
That my dad he’ll always be.

 

 

June 10th

 

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 10

 

This is a letter written by a bereaved Father in America, although it’s long I thought I’d share it in it’s entirety as it charts his journey through a year of significant dates.

 

“It’s that time of year again, a time for renewal. It’s time to say goodbye to the dark, gray, cold days of winter and hello to spring. In late February/early March I start to search desperately for the first signs of hope; hope that spring is right around the corner. The first Winter Crocus to peak through the ground or spotting the first Robin after a long winter is a welcoming sign that winter is leaving ever so slowly. By the end of March, the days become a little longer and a little brighter, bringing with it new growth and color. I love the smell of spring in the air, the beautiful spring flowers, fresh cut grass and the sound of a spring thunderstorm washing away the winter gray.
However, for me, the excitement of spring turns to uneasy anticipation in April as I face a series of dates I don’t really want to deal with. The days of naively enjoying the spring are gone, they have been gone since the spring of 2004. Can’t I just enjoy the spring for what it is? Unfortunately, the answer to that questions is “no”.

 
With the arrival of April comes Easter and the reminders; the reminders that my daughter Katie and my son Noah are not here. No Easter dress for my sweet Katie and no smiles on Noah’s face as he finds the Easter eggs hidden around the yard. I was never fortunate enough to have experienced these events with my children before they died, but they do play out in my head as to the “what if” and “what should have been”. I keep most of these thoughts to myself and don’t really say much about them to anyone else. I don’t want to upset my wife by saying them out loud, even though I am sure she is thinking the same things I am during this time.
Late April brings Katie’s original due date. This year would have been her fifth birthday. As we do every year on her due date, we order a cake, sing her Happy Birthday and blow out the candles. Then we head to the park to release balloons and watch them until they disappear. Some would think this is a sad and depressing way to remember your child’s birthday. But for me, it isn’t, it’s my way to let her know that I love her and I miss her and look forward to the day of holding her in my arms. 
I am sure that many of the people that know my wife and I think we should just move on, to let her go, but I really don’t take much stock in what they think because it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask them to understand. How could they unless they themselves have lost a child?


The month of May brings another uneasy day, Mother’s Day. Though I still go through the motions of calling my mom to wish her well, I have been given the burden of watching my wife’s face turn to sorrow as this day approaches. It’s just another reminder that she doesn’t have a living child to call her mommy. She never got to experience the love and hugs of a living child, only the heartbreaking feeling of being a mom to two beautiful babies that have died. As her husband, I want to take away her pain and replace it with all of the joys of motherhood, but that’s not possible.
The first couple of years after the losses, my wife didn’t even want to acknowledge that it was Mother’s Day. I wasn’t sure if I should get her a card or not. In my mind she is a mother to two beautiful children, but I also understand her pain and realization that she is the mother of two beautiful children that have died. I remember the first year that she had hinted that it would be okay for others to celebrate Mother’s Day with her. On top of buying her a gift to memorialize Katie and Noah, I wanted to get her a Mother’s Day card. I remember standing in the aisle of the local Hallmark store looking for a Mother’s Day card for mothers that have lost a child. Certainly we can’t be the only parents that have lost a child, so why isn’t there a card that acknowledges these parents. When I told the lady behind the counter that I was looking for a Mother’s Day card for my wife that has lost two children, she paused, absorbed what I just said and replied, “I am so sorry for your losses”. It took me off guard since most people either act like you didn’t just say that or they acknowledge the pain of the mother, not so much the dad.


It’s finally June and the last difficult month for a while. Once I get past Father’s Day, I’ll be in the clear until the Holiday Season starts again in November. Early June brings the day we lost our sweet baby Noah. It has been five years since we lost Noah and the day of his death is permanently burned into my memory. I know it’s a wound that has healed with time, but it left a scar that remains forever. We spent his Birthday together and just like Katie’s, filled with cake, songs, smiles, tears and balloons. 
The day that Noah died was the day that I realized I was a father. A father that didn’t try to run from or deny the pain I had festering inside of me since the loss of Katie. With Katie I tried to bury the pain by keeping my mind occupied with work and anything else that would distract me from what I was feeling inside. I responded like most men are expected to respond. You put your head down and keep moving. But I found out that doesn’t work for very long. The day that Noah died was the day I realized I needed to deal with two losses. The one I had been trying to avoid for the last 18 months and the one that was right there in front of me that day in early June 2006.


It took me a while to fully grasp the concept of being a father to a child that has died. It’s tough to accept that I will not be getting any hugs or kisses from my babies on Fathers Day. There are times where I feel like I have been cheated because I know that I will never experience the “traditional” role of fatherhood. I’ve lost the experience of being their daddy, someone to hold and protect them when they are scared and someone to spend time with and share my life with. I know that there will be no first steps or words, no dance recitals, no bike rides without training wheels, no playing catch, no Christmas mornings, no first dates, no graduations, no college, no weddings and no grandchildren.
But I can’t change any of this. I wouldn’t even if I could, doing so would deny their existence. No matter how short a time I had with them, I would never give up the opportunity and privilege to be their dad. So as difficult as it is on Father’s Day, I know I have been given a gift from them. A gift you can’t buy in a store. They gave me the most precious gift I have ever received, the gift of a father’s love for their child. A love I never understood until they came into my life.
Should I celebrate Fathers Day, should I not? Not really sure how to approach this day. But as Father’s Day approaches this year, I am still trying to learn to embrace this day and embrace my role as their father. The uneasy anticipation has lifted over the last couple of years and has continued to be replaced with feelings of hope and renewal.


This year I’ll spend Father’s Day with my wife and my dear friend and dog, Buddy. Other than my wife, I probably won’t hear well wishes for a Happy Father’s Day. Most people don’t know what to say or if they should say anything, so they don’t. I’ll spend most of my day thinking about Katie and Noah, but not with a heavy heart like some would suspect, but with a heart filled with love for my children and compassion for all of the other grieving dads that are trying to cope and survive this difficult day.”
Kelly Farley - Grieving Dads  https://grievingdads.com   

 

June 11th

Helping Father's Hearts to Heal: Day 11

 

Father's Day is Coming

Say What You Need

“After losing a baby, Father's Day can be one of those days that you face with mixed emotions. No matter what your circumstances are or how many living children you might have, it often is a day to stop and wonder what might have been.

For those of you with recent losses, I can tell you that I believe this days does get easier over time. Not because you forget, but because you heal. Healing is obviously the ultimate goal for all of us, because anything short of that robs us of our ability to truly enjoy life and I don't think any of our children would want that for us. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that in order to heal, you must first allow yourselves to hurt. Too many times, men think that by stuffing their pain as deep in the recesses of their mind as they can, they will be able to "skip" the grief and the hurt. I'm here to tell you that it won't work. You may be able to kid yourself for months -- or even years -- but it will almost certainly come back to bite you at some point.

So, keep a couple things in mind.

First of all -- whether you have other living children or not -- you are a dad. Try not to ever deny yourself that honour.

Secondly, consider letting the people around you know what would make this Father's Day special for you. They can't read your mind and you likely are not necessarily coming off on the outside the same way you are feeling on the inside. Some of us have a real gift for that little quality!

Finally, please accept my congratulations on being a dad, and best wishes for making this day meaningful to you. Not only do you deserve it, but your children do as well.” Tim Nelson 

 

June 12th

Helping Father's Hearts to Heal: Day 12

 

Surviving Loss as a Couple

As a couple you are each responsible for your own grieving process, and, for navigating your loss and grief journey together as you travel.

There are some startling statistics out there – 70% of relationships will experience great difficulty after child loss, often ending in separation or divorce. According to Dr. Katherine Gold, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and author of a large study in 2010, couples experiencing a miscarriage are 22% more likely to separate than those that have not. Couples experiencing stillbirth are 40% more likely to separate.  

Most couples broke up within one-and-a-half to three years after losing a baby, however, the increased risk of divorce or separation could still be seen up to a decade after the event, especially in couples who experienced stillbirth.

 

I was scared enough by these statistics to take the potential threat to my relationship seriously and find positive ways to hopefully improve our odds!

When I saw the emotional chaos of our grief taking its toll on our relationship I knew I had to seek help. We saw a grief counselor who witnessed our struggles and guided us towards being able to work through our turmoil together. I embraced this heart work and soon began to see that it could lead us to emerging stronger as a couple from this bewildering journey through the darkness of grief.

I often share with bereaved parents about the gifts Lily has given us – this journey and learning is one of them. Her brief life has lead us to a deeper understanding of each other, a greater ability to communicate with each other, a more compassionate and respectful understanding for our separate unique styles of coping with our grief, and made us stronger as a couple.

 

Every bereaved parent has a unique grief timeline as well as a unique grief strategy – understanding and acceptance as a couple is the key. Understanding = knowing that there are differences and what they are. Acceptance = allowing those differences and not wanting to change them.

Conflict in our relationship began when we judged some of each other’s behavior as unreasonable, unacceptable and not okay! Only when the extra layer of pain we were creating hurt us enough did we realize we needed to stop judging each other’s different grieving styles and start embracing and allowing them.

 

The following list is by no means exhaustive or complete; they are simply things that have helped us through the tremendously painful and difficult times since Lily died. Please use anything that resonates with your own hearts, apply it, and leave anything that doesn’t ‘fit’ for you.

  • Take responsibility for your own emotions and expect your partner to be responsible for his/hers
  • Be aware of your own emotional needs and address them; don’t be afraid to seek professional help if needed.
  • Be supportive of your partner
  • Trust your partner’s way of coping to be the best they are able to do and be in every moment
  • Communicate with each other, choose times when you are both open to really ‘hearing’ each other, be fully present and really listen
  • Assist your partner in knowing when and how they can support you
  • State your feelings, wishes and needs openly without necessarily expecting your partner to be able to fulfill them
  • Ask how and when you can support your partner
  • Give each other time, have plenty of patience, and let go of the need to understand everything.
  • Ask clarifying questions as opposed to making assumptions
  • Join a support group together
  • Talk about your child, when you both feel able to
  • Don’t compare your grief or judge each other. Non-judgmental observation and acceptance is the key – what if his/her way is exactly the right way for him/her in this moment?
  • Explore how each of you has been changed by your loss, share your insights with each other.

 

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is only your way, and that is different for everyone. However it is true that some people respond to grief in ways that have negative consequences for themselves or those around them. It is my hope that the suggestions above may support you in finding the most appropriate and suitable ways of navigating your grief in a healthy and positive way for you as individuals as well as a couple.

Most of all be gentle with each other, be kind and be forgiving – then you can rise stronger out of the ashes of your broken hearts.

Love and light, Val x x x

 

June 13th

 

Helping Father's Hearts to Heal: Day 13

The Healing Power of Music.

 

Grief is exhausting for the body, mind and spirit. Energy is drained simply warding off the intense pain, trying to contain it or give it some boundary. We can long for a temporary reprieve, time to escape for just a little while from the enormity of our reality.

Music can be that escape: it is a soothing balm that lifts the spirit, calms emotions, restores vitality and purifies the soul. Letting a melody take over for a moment while you rest can be profoundly healing to the body and soul. Music has the power to touch the soul, and can often sum up what we are feeling better than words.

Music can also be used as a way to access and vent feelings and emotions that may sometimes feel stuck or be difficult to release.

Science is now discovering the links between musical frequencies and vibrations and their healing affects physiologically and neurologically.

Japanese researcher Dr Masaru Emoto experimented with playing music to water, he entitled his work Messages from Water, and he showed the ice crystals that formed when water was exposed to various music and sounds, like poetry and classical music to punk and aggressive shouting, beautiful words and negative words, the results are amazing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDW9Lqj8hmc

 

Music can quite literally be a remedy for the body and soul!

Music is cathartic. I have Lily’s music, which I play when I need help connecting with my feelings and allowing myself to really connect with her. There are times when I can’t listen to certain music because I’m not ready or willing to ‘go there’, and at other times I am playing the same song over and over because I ‘need to go there!’

Music is sometimes like a meditation or a prayer, resonating and awakening my sense of awe, uniting me

with the Universal Energy, the Great Mystery. It is a deep, rich, infinite expression of the soul.

Take a moment: settle in a quiet place and listen to a favorite piece of music. Be still, close your eyes and completely absorb what you hear. Let your mind go and just feel the music with your heart.

Never underestimate the power of sound.

Ludovico Einaudi is one of my favourite composers, all of his music stirs something deep in me. It's like it flows with how my mind and emotions move.

Primavera reminds me of Lily's energy, her elemental playfulness, the misty morning dew catching the light, gossamer threads dancing in the warm light of the long shadows, damselflies darting and hovering around me. It reminds me of all the beauty in this life, how we are surrounded by it.

Share some music that enriches your life or reminds you of your children. Is there a story behind that piece of music for you?

Some music links for you x

Ludovico Einaudi - Primavera

https://www.youtube.com/watch…

 

The Cinematic Orchestra  -  To Build a Home

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkP6Tf79UrM

 

Sleeping at Last  -  Light

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7egYKkIKqDs

 

Sleeping at Last  -  Saturn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3lWwMHFhnA

 

Ludovico Einaudi  -  Fairytale

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjMKFLVMoeg

 

Gungor – Please Be My Strength

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VI0pkRBPZw

 

Daughtry Gone too Soon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKBhAG2SNKE

 

Ed Sheeran – Small Bump

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3OEbh-rvmk&list=RDh3OEbh-rvmk#t=274

June 14th

 

Helping Father's Hearts to Heal: Day 14

Resources

Below are some useful resources for grieving Dads.

Books for Dads


- Grieving Dads: To The Brink and Back


- When A Man Faces Grief – By James E. Miller


- Tender Fingerprints – By Brad Stetsen


- Tuesday Mornings With The Dads – By The Dads Group


- A bereaved Father - By Steve Younis

 

Internet Resources

- Grieving Fathers Network  https://www.facebook.com/GrievingFathersNetwork/?fref=ts

- Daddys With Angels  https://www.facebook.com/DaddysWithAngels/

- The MISS Foundation  http://www.missfoundation.org/support/articles/dads

- Grieving Dads Project  https://grievingdads.com

- Pillars of Strength  http://pillarsofstrength.com.au/support-for-bereaved-dads/

- Still Standing Magazine  http://stillstandingmag.com/category/a-fathers-grief/

 

June 15th

      

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 15

Symbols of love and Remembrance

There are so many ways we continue to include our babies and children in our lives, ways that we demonstrate our love and show the world that they existed, that they matter and that are forever part of our families. One way of doing that is having a tattoo – something I would love to do but can’t quite get it together to do so. At the weekend I was given the privilege of being shown some stunning tributes in the form of tattoos to children who are so loved and cherished but are no longer with us. I honour all grieving parents by sharing some of them with you here today.

Sending love and light, Val x

 

June 16th

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 16

How do I Handle Father's Day?


Father's Day is/can be tough after a loss! GET SUPPORT!! 
This webinar is a really good listen if you are struggling to figure out how you're going to handle your Father's Day and beyond. 
Dr's, Gloria and Heidi Horsley and Alan Pedersen Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends interview Dr. Ken Druck, bereaved dad/son and leading expert on men and grief. Sharing thoughts, tips and advice on Father's Day issues.

I will be spending half the day honouring Patrick and his little girl, and the afternoon honouring my own Father, we can share both sweet and sorrowful moments though the day, together or alone.

Blessings, Val x x x

 

June 17th

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 17

Plan your day - Exploring Possibilities

 

Today I am sharing ideas that might just help in sparking your own inner knowing of what you need to do on Father’s Day to nurture yourself. Many people find developing new rituals to be helpful, others find it easier to crawl into a hole and wait for the day to pass. It really comes down to what is right for you. Take anything that speaks to your own heart and leave anything that doesn’t resonate. There is no right or wrong, this is about what will serve you best.
You might like to take some time to create or purchase a gift for yourself, from your beloved child, that you can open on Father's Day. The act of choosing what to do; the time spent focusing on creating or gathering the most beautiful gift, is a healing process. It really doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is that it speaks to your heart, that it feels ‘right’ for you. Keep an open mind, let whatever ‘it’ is find its way to you, you will know it when it comes.

You might like to plan a walk in nature, a beauty walk, attune your senses to nature, connect with the tranquility and greater perspective found in the natural environment.
You might like to look for a memento on your walk, a heart shaped stone might catch your eye, or a feather, a shell, or a flower. Sometimes I just look for hearts while I’m walking and find them in moss and lichen, or carved in a tree, or in a cloud. Sometimes I make a heart on the ground out of stones or leaves and leave it there for someone else to discover.
You might like to buy a special plant, a lasting, thriving, growing memorial that will flourish for many years to come. 
You might like to plan to start your day with a special breakfast, or have a special meal, something that feels like a treat but doesn’t involve going to a restaurant where lots of families are celebrating. Nourish your body with healthy foods and drink plenty of water, grief takes so much energy, so be extra nourishing in your food choices.

Grief is exhausting for the body, mind and spirit. Energy is drained simply warding off the intense pain, trying to contain it or give it some boundary. We can long for a temporary reprieve, time to escape for just a little while from the enormity of our reality. 
Music can be that escape: it is a soothing balm that lifts the spirit, calms emotions, restores vitality and purifies the soul. Music has the power to touch the soul, and can often sum up what we are feeling better than words.
Music can also be used as a way to access and vent feelings and emotions that may sometimes feel stuck or be difficult to release.

You might like to take time out to visit a special place: maybe it’s going to the cemetery or the place where your baby is buried, maybe it’s where you scattered their ashes, maybe it’s a hilltop or woodland, or place where you went while your partner was pregnant, or a place special to your child.
You may like to go alone, to have your own connecting time, or you may prefer to invite a close friend or family member to accompany you, you may feel comforted by their presence.

Communication is essential with your partner or loved ones, give each other permission to grieve differently and have different needs. Express your needs and feelings, people can’t guess at what you may need. Do you want acknowledgement as a Father? do you want to celebrate? do you need help to feel deserving? Expressing your needs directly can feel difficult, especially when you feel like you have no idea what you need! But even just exploring the possibilities together can help you understand what is important to you and show you how you can take positive action.

Sometimes a change of scenery can help to reveal the unique texture of our lives. New people and surroundings can help us to see our lives from a new perspective. Temporarily abandoning your environment and spending time in one that’s entirely different can be deeply transformative. A healing adventure somewhere completely new, a place with no previous associations, where you can have the gift of time and space to honour and be gentle with yourself.

If this is your first Father’s Day without your child, listen to what YOU feel is right for you! Don’t listen to me or anyone else who tell you what you SHOULD do. Other holidays will, without a doubt, be difficult especially so the first year, but due to the intense focus put on you as a Father, this just may be the most difficult one to endure. So, if you can, take extra special care of you.
Remember you are not alone, together we can make it through another day, all be it a rather immense and intense day. In 24 hours it will be over, you will have survived and you will be stronger.

What ever you choose to do this Father’s Day, please, nurture, honour, love and care for yourself and your Father heart.

Love and light, Val x x x

 

June 18th

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 18

 

Thinking of all bereaved Father's as this Father's Day approaches....

It's easy to become overwhelmed by the unknowns of the Journey ahead or by the scale of the challenge and the potential of the opportunity.

Bring yourself back home to this moment, here and now. Reconnect to the Truth of who you really are. And just do what you can from where you stand.

Make a life that is lived one heart-centred choice at a time...

 

 

June 18th

Helping Father’s Hearts to Heal: Day 16

 

Wishing you peace this Father's Day....

You are a courageous Father, you always will be - forever more. Death does not unmake a Father! Once your baby was conceived you became a Father, you deserve the same attention and honour as all Fathers on this day. No, it’s not the way you had planned. No, it’s not how it should be. But you are still a Father. You did your best for your little one. Your heart beats for your baby. You would do anything to change the outcome. You are everything a Father should be.

When a baby arrives, be it for a day or a month...

the fragile spark of a tender soul,

you are unequivocally changed....

the tiny footprints left behind on your heart make you a Father forever.

Today let us recognise all Fathers: the ones who nurture their children here on earth, the ones that carry some if not all of their children in their hearts, and the ones who yearn just to parent a child.

‘ To my beloved father – I am so sorry that we cannot be together today physically, but I hope you feel my love and know that I am always with you ’

May you know always that you are surrounded by the boundless love of your precious child x x x