This feature from www.midwivesonline.com really struck a chord with me as I remember very vividly the loss of my sister from cot death when she was 3 months old. I was only 5 years old at the time and my parents themselves were so very young. The hardest part being the surviving child is that you can’t fully comprehend why your parents are so distraught and emotionally unavailable. Reading this article has helped me; some decades later understand what it must have been like for my father. This article really touched a nerve so I thought I would share it in the hope that it may be able to help one person make sense of what they or someone they know are going through.
Men and relationships
Fathers are often expected to be rational, strong and in control in order to keep things stable during a family crisis and their own emotional needs are sometimes overlooked. Many men feel inadequate when they are unable to protect their families from pain and this leads to intense anger and frustration. Often men do not have the same opportunities to talk about their loss as women do and some may find it difficult to put their feelings into words. Back at work, men may be expected to leave their personal lives at home and focus on the job at hand with little or no recognition of the full impact of their loss.
The sense of isolation and detachment associated with grief makes relationships of any kind very difficult. People deal with grief in different ways but difficulties arise when men and women do not understand each other’s ways of coping. It may help to get through the day by being quiet and withdrawn. Keeping the lid on things helps to avoid breaking down at work. However, this way of coping may be seen as a cold and uncaring at home.
The need for sexual intimacy may also increase or decrease and this too can be a source of tension. One partner may want more reassurance of love and commitment and will experience a strong need for physical closeness. The other partner may be filled with fear at the reminder of sex and childbirth.
Acknowledging that you both have different needs and different ways of coping may feel like there is a gap that can’t be bridged between you and this can feel like another loss. It is important to remember that you both have to work through your grief in your own time and in your own way and allow each other the space to do that. Other family members, friends or professional support services can help you through this difficult time.
The other children
It is very difficult to explain what has happened to other children especially when the parents are feeling fragile and confused about it all themselves. However, unanswered questions and difficult silences leave children with a sense of fear and insecurity. Children need reassurance that they are not to blame for their parents’ sadness and their parents still love them. Some parents explain in very simple terms that the expected baby was very sick and has died. Parents often feel extremely guilty and inadequate for being unable to provide emotional support for their children while they are suffering intense grief themselves. Other family members and close friends can help by providing children with brief periods of respite from their parent’s sadness and a return to normality in their lives. It may also be helpful for the child’s teacher to know that there is a loss in the family if the child’s school work is affected.