As Lynne Anderson, a SHARE Atlanta volunteer, wrote in her poem. "What I Have Learned" in our winter/spring 2005 newsletter "..If men cannot fix it, they see no need to dwell on it. AND, "..That men's grief is often overlooked." (Note: And, I would say "misunderstood.") Dads usually grieve differently then moms, and therefore, bring a different element to the bigger picture of grieving and healing. Dads have and do continue to provide input on projects and support in SHARE Atlanta...just differently than mom. Which is a blessing...
Part of a letter received in February 2005 by a SHARE Atlanta mom...
While we had once felt very close after our baby's death, (as the year passed) we started feeling like the grief was tearing us apart and we stopped communicating. We need help to figure out how to understand each other, best practices for communication, and how to take a step forward into our future.
Marcia McGinnis' response:
Two different Directions
Communication in a marriage after a loss is difficult - to say the least. Even in the most loving situations, the normal need to cope differently becomes more obvious as the year moves on. The longer from the actual death, the more the wife is moving in one direction and the husband in another. It is important to acknowledge this fact and not to force each other into a defined mold. Usually, if the couple can agree that their is a difference in approach and agree to embrace this difference, it isn't as fearful for each person in the marriage.
The coffee break
Dad is usually more ready to move on (not to discuss and focus on the loss and the baby everyday, weekly or "at all") then mom is - or can. It causes tension and to keep from fighting, couples close down for a time. I have always suggested the "coffee break" to help parents through this period. A time together (away from the stress of the household..phones, computer, etc.) where each briefly, 10 minutes, shares where s/he is around the loss. He will listen while she shares and he will share as he can and she listens. She will not cry and he will not get upset. Often the feelings of pain are the same and "there" for each, but the way the other is reacting (overtly) is very different. He hasn't forgotten, but can't relate like mom can. That is fine...he is not her.
This is why, it is often important to keep friends in the SHARE Atlanta group that you can talk with about your feelings - because he usually just can't go there any more. He is normal...it is a different way of handling grief.
We communicate differently
This scenario isn't true for everyone...yours might be different, but it is a typical one. Learning that the lack or difference of communication is NOT the lack of love...but a very different approach is essential for a marriage. Allowing our partner to grieve as s/he has to is the ultimate in a loving relationship. Hard..yes...very hard. But, if we can remember that there are many ways to show love and support - it helps us through. (hugs, little things to let each other know that you still care, compromises, etc.)
My husband, like many men, really does not wish to have numerous 'deep' talks. He can and does talk very deeply about topics, but he needs to not go there repeatedly. I need to talk. I have learned that I will close him down if I wish to use him as my sounding board on the same topic over and over. (We often do want our husband to do this...because he is our best friend. He is, but we communicate differently with him than with a girlfriend. That is good, too!) It isn't that he doesn't care or love me, it is that he, like many male people, gets the facts, arrives at a decision and needs not to dwell on it. I on the other hand, need to get the facts and look at them from every direction.
He is pleased for me to share with good friends and work through my ideas, then he will revisit on a topic if I need for him to do so. I have seen it over and over within our group. Men in our groups often thank their wives for finding other moms who can review the important issues, feelings, and facts with them as many times as is necessary for healing to happen.
The booklet I that made specifically for the Men and Women's group discusses different ways to communicate with each other.
As our first anniversary approaches tension is usually high because mom is usually much more keyed into the year mark than dad. (Dad has not forgotten but usually handles this time in a different way.) Many parents choose something that they can do together that will be special for them on their child's anniversary. (See our Holidays, Due Dates, Anniversary section)
I hope that you continue to work it all through. Please know that it is normal to have this time in a marriage after a death of your baby. I don't know many couples that don't feel this to some level at some point...usually nearer the year mark. Just when everyone assumes that the tenseness should be gone and all "is well." Well, it is different..and a different tenseness. JoAnn writes about this with her husband in JoAnn's Diary that is on our website...near the middle to end of the first year after the loss of her son, Ian.
JoAnn's Diary ~ A First Year Diary ~ Entry #7 ~ 4/11/98 is where JoAnn talks about the different paths that she and her husband are taking...it had been 7 months.
Father's Grief Menu ~ More support for men and women...
Holidays, Due Dates and Anniversary Menu ~ support for these different times after a loss...
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