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When Fatherhood is Snatched Away
Written by Clara Hinton   |  May 20, 2010
Ask any man what is going on in his life and he will immediately talk about two things: his job, and his children. Those are the two main identifiers in the life of a man. Men are less open to talking about the small, detailed items of everyday life that women love to talk about. But, they can talk forever about their jobs and their kids. Those are the things that make men tick!

When a child dies, fathers often grieve in ways that are worlds apart from the way mothers grieve. Mothers will openly cry bitter tears. They will seek out others to talk to about the heartache being felt. Mothers will often wear their emotions on the outside allowing others to see and hear their pain, hoping that there will be a circle of family and friends that will stay nearby to help during this awful time of loneliness.

Fathers, on the other hand, will often turn inward with their pain when fatherhood has been snatched away. Changes will occur that are subtler than with a grieving mother. Fathers will lose that enthusiasm they once had of their “bragging rights” of being a father. What greater accomplishment is there to a man than to be successful in his business, and more so to be successful in his role as a father? To have that role suddenly taken away is a blow to the heart of a father that is devastating and leaves lasting imprints of pain upon the heart of a father.

When a child dies, a father will often feel like he is a complete failure for not being able to prevent the unthinkable. He not only feels like he has failed his family, but most important of all, he feels as though he has failed his child that has been taken away by death.

When fatherhood is snatched away, changes occur in men that are often misunderstood. Men will often stop talking about the “father” part of their lives and act as though it never existed. Talking about lost dreams of days ahead with his child are too painful, and remembering times past of warm walks in the park, trips to the store, or drives in the car together are too hard to even think about. No more soccer games. No more coaching his son’s little league team. No more working long hours on the tedious details of his little girl’s dollhouse. When a child dies, a large part of a man’s identity is suddenly taken away and he is left wandering through a heavy fog not knowing who he is any more.

How can a father get through this loss of his identity as a father? He needs gentle and constant reminders that he will always be a father – even if his child is no longer physically here. That’s a hard concept to accept soon after the death of a child, but in time it begins to make more sense. Fatherhood can never be taken away! That is a title that will be worn by a father forevermore and he needs reassurance of that!

Fathers need space and time to readjust their thinking. Women are by nature more verbal, so it is often difficult for a man to explain his feelings to his wife or others when a child dies. Men can often work through this part of grief by building something in memory of his child – a garden, a memorial bench, a special display case in the home that holds photos, and other treasures of times spent together as a family, and especially as father and child. Lastly, remember that you are never alone in this walk! Every step taken is a step closer in this journey of grief to healing!
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