How to Celebrate Bereaved Dads on Father’s Day

Bereaved dads don’t get enough support – and our society doesn’t encourage them to ask for it when they need it. My husband Aaron grieved so differently than me. We were night and day. I was open, crying, needing to talk about our loss all the time, and could not focus on day to day concerns; they were meaningless to me for so long. For Aaron on the other hand, he shoved his emotions down and threw himself into his work. He didn’t talk about Zachary very often, if ever, unless I brought him up. He said all the right things to me, but was disassociated from our loss and our relationship. This was his way of coping. It was an extremely challenging time for us both.

I have learned that the typical male and female grief patterns are not right and wrong in themselves, but that everyone regardless of gender must respond to loss in the way that is authentic for them. That may mean the way society teaches us, but we all should not pass judgement on one another based on these types of extremely personal expressions.

Just as bereaved dads grieve differently than bereaved moms, they also need different support.

Fathers Day WCP BLOG

How to Celebrate Bereaved Dads on Father’s Day:

Acknowledge they are still a dad. Even if their child is not with them, they are still a parent and deserve to be recognized and celebrated on Father’s Day. The child is important and the relationship to the dad is special, just like the bond between mothers and their children.

Small gestures go a long way. A pat on the back or a hug. A blank greeting card with a personalized message. A phone call to say, “I’m thinking about you.” A gift that may prove a welcome distraction. There are many things you can do, but thoughtfulness is key.

Plan an activity, gathering or escape. Go camping in the mountains. Have family over for a barbeque. Play a game of ultimate Frisbee. Let the dad know he is supported by people that care. If he wants to open up and talk, he will – in his own way and time.

One novel idea: ask the dad what he needs, how he wants to celebrate and be supported. Let him set the tone. Father’s day can be a challenging time and its best if he’s on board with whatever plans are being made.

Check out the book list below, meant specifically for bereaved fathers.

I sincerely wish all dads without their children a kind and gentle Father’s Day. The holiday is overly commercialized, taking us away from what really matters. Relationships matter. People matter. Love is the most important thing on earth.

On Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21 I will be opening up the discussion here on Wanted Chosen Planned and on Twitter, and I hope that dads will speak-up and share their experiences. Follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtags #stilladad and #babyloss, and my handle: @_Alexis_Marie.

Here are some books specifically for bereaved dads:


Miscarriage: A Man’s Book – Rick Wheat

Written by a Marriage and Family Therapist who has experienced the difficulties of miscarriage first-hand. The first page is devoted to an emergency page, nine items a man should know right away when his wife has just had a miscarriage, including “recognize the importance of this event. This may well be the worst thing that has ever happened to your wife and maybe to you, too.” He talks about things that will be difficult and discusses the stages of grief and some of the responses that may result such as guilt, depression or withdrawal. He also gives some practical tips on how to keep the marital relationship strong after such a devastating event.


A Guide for Fathers: When a Baby Dies – Tim Nelson

The author of “A Father’s Story” and co-founder of A Place To Remember, Timothy Nelson, published this small pocket-sized guide. It lays out the basic information that a man needs to know when his child dies–and does so in no-nonsense, easy to read, non-flowery language. Includes chapters “The Early Hours”, “If You Have Other Children”, “The Arrangements”, “Going Home”, “Back to Work”, “Guilt/Blame”, “Anger”, “Going to a Support Group”, “Communicating In the Month Ahead”, “Future Pregnancy”, and “Life Goes On.”


Coming to Term: A Father’s Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival – William H. Woodwell, Jr

Kim and William Woodwell’s story is every parent’s nightmare. Pregnant, Kim was rushed to the hospital with a severe case of pre-eclampsia, a condition that can be fatal to mother and baby. Doctors held off delivery as long as possible, but after only 24 weeks of gestation, Kim gave birth to twins. William, a freelance writer and editor, gives a riveting, poignant, often piercing account of these events, following the twins through birth, the death of the smaller one, Nina, and the survival and ultimate health of Josie.

Woodwell gives power to his account with minute, seemingly inconsequential details such as how, on his way to the hospital where his wife has been taken by ambulance, he turned the radio on and off, “wanting but unable just to think.” The hospital scene is described in similarly vivid detail: the wires, tubes and monitoring machinery, and especially the “clop-CLOP clop-CLOP” of the babies’ heartbeats. “Their hearts beat on like nothing’s wrong. Kim says they sound like horses…. It’s hard enough coming into the world the way most of us do. For them, it will be that much more of a surprise, that much more of a shock. Fact is, we’re essentially powerless to help them now, except to keep them in there as long as we can.”

Though the doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit did their best, tiny Nina’s organs begin to fail one at a time and she finally dies. Though she has mild cerebral palsy, Josie is now four years old and is progressing well. Woodwell’s honest account of the events and the emotions he and his wife shared will be felt by all readers.


Heart Works: A Father’s Grief – Jerre Peterson

This is a book for everyone who has ever loved. This is a book about the beauty of life. Across the pages of this book, a father makes a courageous effort to put into print his deepest feelings regarding life. Heart Works explores the paralyzing depths of grief, the awesome power of love and the incredible light of hope.
The newly bereaved, unable to concentrate, can pick this book up, read a page or simply gaze at the photographs and feel a connection with their own emotions. People who have swallowed their grief for years can use this book as a tool to open themselves up and allow the grief to start lifting. Those who have not yet experienced a death, yet have sadness due to a divorce, relationship breakup, or loss of a job will find solace by the words in Hearts Works.
All who read this book will be reminded of the fragility of life, and be encouraged to love more, show more patience, and slow down to enjoy the beauty of this world.


Strong and Tender -Pat Schwiebert, RN

Strong and Tender: a guide for the father whose baby has died is filled with helpful suggestions and tender stories from grieving fathers. It gives dads permission to feel their pain and help them understand some of the responses they’re having to the death of their child

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