Father’s Day can be a particularly difficult and lonely day for fathers whose baby has died, however long ago.
Peter Byrom, a volunteer befriender with Bristol Sands and founder member of Sands United FC Bristol, has written about why this is a day he still finds tough 16 years after the death of his son Thomas.
Father’s Day. It’s a day on the calendar that I never look forward to as much as I think I should.
Growing up and wanting to have a family I always thought Father's Day would be brilliant. Handmade cards from the kids, big bars of chocolate or bottles of whiskey for presents. All that changed after the loss of our first baby Thomas. I’ve not looked forward to a Father’s Day since – that was 16 years ago.
It doesn’t matter how long ago a loss was, it’s on days like this that loss feels like its highlighted a bit more. We all will try and cope with it differently. For me, the first few Father’s Days after losing Thomas were limited to opening cards from my wife and our rainbow son Harrison (who is 15) but after that it was just another day. It was always a day of conflicting emotions. Trying hard to be enthusiastic about it for my wife Denise and Harrison who were trying hard for me, while all the while quietly reflecting on what could’ve been with 2 sons ‘spoiling’ me on Father’s Day.
I’ve read before that parents who’ve lost a baby are the best actors in the world – always acting as though they are fine, despite the pain they are suffering. Father’s Day is one of those days where I’m acting that bit harder for those around me – for my wife and son.
This Father’s Day I’m going to have to act a bit harder - it's my first without my own father who passed away last year. It has made me think about how this day in the year affects all men who’ve been affected by the loss of a baby. Grief can be a very selfish journey. In my grief for our loss, I’d forgotten how the loss of Thomas had affected my dad. For years, I’d never thought or considered how widely the loss of a baby can be felt within a family on days like Father’s Day.
I remembered the day I’d told him that we had lost Thomas and how, despite his own pain at losing his first grandchild, he’d tried to comfort me. I also thought back to what would’ve been his first Father’s Day as a grandad and realised the loss he’d have felt too. He’d have been looking forward to that extra card and present and a visit from his tiny grandson. I felt bad for not acknowledging that loss he was feeling.
While writing this, something a friend recently said popped into my head. It was something like ‘as a bereaved parent, we are always upset, please don’t think you’ll upset us more by asking about our baby.
So, it made me think, this Father’s Day, if you know a bloke (whether it’s a dad, grandad, uncle, or brother) who has experienced the loss of a baby, try dropping him a message and asking him how he’s coping. If you are a guy who has experienced the loss of a baby, I hope the day is as gentle on you as it can be and remember there is support available for you.
Find out about the support on offer from Sands for bereaved dads and for anyone who knows a family member or male friend whose baby has died.