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The grief of fathers1

Moving through grief

The symptoms and emotional reactions of fathers during perinatal bereavement are often different from those of mothers.

Men often initially respond to the situation by caring and supporting their spouse and managing administrative concerns. Most feel the need to stay “strong” to remain functional, calm and in control. Many fathers do not allow themselves to cry or let their emotions well up. However, even if they do not express their sadness as openly as women, their sorrow can be just as great.

Many men minimize their suffering, deny it or avoid it by taking refuge in their work or other activities. Others express no apparent symptoms or emotions and withdraw into themselves.

Some fathers may experience more intense reactions such as irritability, impulsiveness, sometimes even aggression, or they may feel overwhelmed by helplessness, guilt, shame, grief, anxiety, etc.

In order to cope with grief and to try to reduce the level of suffering, some fathers may employ some avoidance strategies for a period of time.1

For example, they can:

  • Avoid the subject
  • Over-invest themselves at work
  • Deny their needs
  • Consume excessively (drugs, alcohol, shopping, video games)

These avoidance strategies may complicate grief if they persist over the long term. They can also create conflict and misunderstanding within the relationship.

Men have generally been socialized to endure hardships stoically and not to express emotions like fear, pain, and sadness. In addition, men are often reluctant to seek help and are reluctant to ask for help.

However, there exist many different outside resources that can help and support you during the grief process.

Suggestions

It is important to consult a health professional if you need help.

Here are some suggestions that can help you express your emotions and get through grief:

  • Take a leave from work
  • Go on a trip
  • Start a new project
  • Play sports
  • Sing, play music or another form of art
  • Talk to a friend
  • Write

NOTE: In some cases, this section can also apply to a mother’s same-sex partner.

Bereavement of the father or partner

Question addressed in this video:

  • Is it common for the partner to experience delayed bereavement?

To learn more...

Here are some books that explore the perinatal mourning experienced by fathers in greater detail.

  • Décès périnatal : Le deuil des pères

    De Montigny, F., Verdon, C., Lord-Gauthier, J. et Gervais, C. (2017). Décès périnatal : Le deuil des pères. Montréal, Québec : Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine.

    • Visit the Website
    • the Website

  • Readings

  • Au-delà des mots

    Bachand, S., et Labrie, C. (2011). Au-delà des mots : Recueil sur le deuil périnatal. Québec : Publications du Québec.

    • Download
    • .PDF
  • Les rêves envolés

    Fréchette-Piperni, S. (2005). Les rêves envolés. Traverser le deuil d’un tout petit bébé. Boucherville, Québec : Éditions de Mortagne.

    • Download
    • .PDF

1 De Montigny, F., Verdon, C., Lord-Gauthier, J. et Gervais, C. (2017). Décès périnatal : Le deuil des pères. Montréal, Québec : Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine.

About this page
Updated on 12/10/2019
Created on 11/7/2019
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