Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dad’s & Grief: An Interview with a Grieving Dad.

Today I will be interviewing my wonderful husband, Nicholas Henke, on what it is like to be a bereaved dad after the stillbirth of our daughter, Nora.

Lindsey: Thanks for taking on the task of representing grieving fathers and for being willing to share your answers with others as I know you are more of a private griever.  This is a big stretch for you in your grief process.  I appreciate your willingness to do this.

Nick: I'm happy to help out.  Hopefully, other grieving fathers will realize it's okay to talk openly about it too.

Lindsey: So let's get to it. What is it like for you to be a grieving dad?

Nick: All I can do is really give you examples.  I notice that there are certain triggers that come now and then. Like when I interact with my friends and coworkers about their children.  It usually doesn't bother me but when one of them mentions their real young daughter, when they talk about their daughters, I become less engaged in the conversation.  That one hits closer to home.  Also, seeing kids at the store or park or something isn’t too bad either.  But again, little baby girls, that’s a trigger I guess.  Or it cues me to think about what happened to us and what Nora might be like now and as she gets older.

Lindsey: Okay, sometimes I know I need to be more specific in the questions I ask you in order to get the answers I am looking for. (That also might be a difference in gender too.)  So now I want to know, how does it feel to be a grieving dad?

Nick: It’s tough, confusing, I don’t know if I consider myself a dad. I like to consider myself a dad but…I don't know. I think as a man you are expected to be stronger and not show emotions. Typically I don’t get overwhelmed by the emotion of grief or sadness when I’m out in public, but sometimes when I am at home the flood of emotions comes easier, maybe because it’s safer at home to grieve. I also think being a guy, other guys don’t, or aren’t, comfortable with emotions.  I’m not comfortable talking about grieving in general.  My friends will ask how I’m doing and I'll say, "OK" or "fine."  I think some want a real answer and some don’t. I think it's not really expected that I talk about how I feel or if I'm having a bad day.

Lindsey: Are you okay with that?  That you perceive that it is not really expected that you talk about how you feel? 

Nick: You're always wearing your therapist cap, aren't you?  (He said this with a playful smile).  

Lindsey:  So to wrap it up, because I know you are a man of few words.  Do you have any advice for grieving dads?

Nick: Find people that you can talk to.  Hopefully it is your spouse or significant other.  Hopefully you have friends close enough, family close enough, that you can talk to about these things too. Find some way to actively grieve, something I think I 'm still struggling with.  I don’t know how to actively grieve.  I don’t know what that means really. 

Lindsey: Thanks Nick, for participating today.  I think you gave others a needed glimpse into what it is like to be a grieving dad.  

If you are a grieving dad, or a partner to a grieving dad, below are some great resources to check out and help both of you understand more about what it's like to be a bereaved father. 

Healing A Father's Grief, by William H. Schatz
Strong and Tender: A Guide For Fathers Whose Baby Has Died, by Pat Schwiebert
Still Standing Magazine : Author Paul De Leon's Articles on Being a Father of Child Loss

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