Today is Fathers Day, a whole day dedicated to celebrating daddies. Up and down the country, fathers are enjoying time with their little ones: perhaps tucking into hearty fry-up; heading out for adventure packed day; or eagerly awaiting a beer in a sun-soaked garden.
But what about those fathers who have children missing?
The ones who have experienced the joy of those little blue lines, only to have it snatched away from them?
The ones who heard the rhythm of a beating heart, but never the chorus of cries?
The ones who held their beloved children in their arms, then had to give them back?
When a baby dies, so much of the focus and attention is on the mother. She is the one who carried and delivered their child in to the world. She is the one whose body bears the marks of motherhood, even when her arms are aching. All too often, fathers are pushed into the background; they take on the role of supporting and caring for their partner, cradling her through the devastation of her grief.
But a father is also grieving; the loss is as much his. And yet, sometimes it seems that the world doesn’t notice that.
When Findlay died, Tom was my strength. Without him I would not have survived. But whilst he was looking after me, making my meals, stroking my hair, holding me tightly as I howled through the night, my body wracked with pain, who was taking care of him?
I’m ashamed to say that for many weeks and months I was so consumed by my own sorrow and heartache that I neglected to check in with the one who shared it with me. Tom’s role was that of protector, he was the one being strong when I was too weak to even swing my legs out of bed. When people would come round to the house, I would hear them asking ‘How’s Laura?’ their concern for me blinding them to the fact that Tom was also suffering.
It’s a societal thing, isn’t it? Men and grief remains an awkward, slightly taboo subject. The notion that men hurt and cry and struggle is so often pushed under the carpet or ignored, and this is compounded by the expectation for them to be brave, to be strong, to be tough.
How many times have we heard little boys being told to ‘man up’ or that ‘big boys don’t cry’? Such assertions are not only loaded with gender inequality but they are downright damaging to boys and men, threatening to stunt their emotional well being and invalidate their feelings.
We need to change the way we talk about male grief. Yes, often it is different than for women, but it is no less real and no less painful.
Today, I want to celebrate all the incredible daddies out there: the ones who parent the children they carry in their hearts but not in their arms; the ones who hold their families together when they are on the brink of falling apart; the ones who have loved and lost, but survive each and every day.
Happy Fathers Day.