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After Your Stillbirth

Partner Grief

 Grieving Father

Men and women often go through pregnancy loss in different ways because they have a different bond with the baby. A mother often connects with the baby as soon as she knows she’s pregnant. She spends a lot of time thinking about the baby and her physical changes. In the early stages, the father or partner may experience the pregnancy only through the mother’s eyes. Later they may feel more involved or more attached as the pregnancy develops.

It can be hard to understand or relate to your partner at this time. This is normal. Try not to judge your partner’s reactions and understand that you may each be dealing with your grief in a different way. A partner’s grief may not be considered or recognized right away. One partner may cry and want to talk about the baby, their hopes and dreams. The other partner may cope through distraction. They may return to work sooner, work longer hours, or busy themselves with sports or hobbies.

Some people grieve in private. This may cause the other partner to feel even more alone. Others may want to join support groups and talk about their loss with others who have had a similar loss. Even if you have different ways of grieving, you may find comfort in knowing that your partner is grieving too. This thought may help you feel less isolated. Remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Many things can affect how you grieve. Feelings you had about losses that you’ve had before may come back. You might also find that you:

  • ask questions like “why me?”
  • feel guilty for not being able to protect your baby
  • feel helpless for not being able to take away the pain and grief your partner is going through

It’s okay to talk to others about how you feel, especially with your partner. Grief is hard to talk about. Often family and friends don’t know what to say or what to do. You can help them support you by telling them what they can do like listening, helping with chores, making meals or just spending time with you.

Sometimes partners try to cope with feelings by thinking and doing. Doing something makes it feel like they can carry on or fix the situation. However, putting off grief only means that you’ll have to deal with it later on. It can make your partner feel like they’re the only one who is grieving. This can also make both partners feel more alone. You may feel helpless at this time. If you find this starting to happen talk to your partner and find resources, like a grief counsellor, that help you. You and your partner can help each other and connect in caring, meaningful ways during this difficult time. Accept help and support that is offered by your family and friends.

Bereavement and Relationship

When a couple experiences the loss of a baby, both parents are affected. Often, the person they have come to rely on most, their spouse, may not be able to respond or support them. Each person tries to deal with their loss and grief in their own way. While each experiences the loss, the timing of grief and the expression of grief may be quite different.

Tips to help you cope

  • Accept that your partner's way of dealing with grief will be different from yours.
  • Each person will have had dreams and hopes for the baby. Sharing your dreams can give you insight into each other's feelings and the nature of your partner’s loss.
  • This can be a difficult time for families. Being open and communicating are the keys to helping your relationship become deeper as you both heal.
  • Your spouse cannot be your only supporter. Look for support from friends, family, clergy, support groups, or from professional counsellors.
  • Work at talking about your thoughts feelings, needs, and emotions.
  • Stress in your sexual relationship may develop. Approach your partner with understanding and compassion.
  • Grief affects people and changes them. Give each other time to accept these changes.
  • Give yourself and your partner permission to enjoy life. Even though you are experiencing loss, don’t expect to be sad all the time. Share laughter as well as the tears.
  • Search for ways to nurture yourself.
  • Take time for each other. Set a time to talk each day.

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