Men too feel the pain of miscarriage, child loss

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 00:00 |
Men too feel the pain of miscarriage.

Men don’t cry, is one of the masculinity myths that society has passed on to men for generations.

Even in situations such as pregnancy and child loss, people believe that fathers don’t experience the pain of this loss as mothers do. 

Recently, media personality Willis Raburu took to his social media account expressing his pain whenever bloggers referred to him as a father of one or a new father.

According to the TV and radio show host, the loss of his daughter in January last year shattered his heart into several innumerable pieces and his pain was immeasurable.

Having welcomed a baby two months ago, Raburu wants to be referred to as a father of two.

“It has come to my attention while reading some of the blogs, that I am constantly referred to as the father of one.

This, however, is not the case. As many of you know, I lost my daughter Adana.

For those who have gone through such a loss, you know that it never leaves you,” he stated. 

Raburu shared how society often tends to annihilate the man, making him look devoid of feeling, because “men ought not to feel” or “you do not carry the baby”.

“What is still true is that I feel pain each day, that I still cry, that I still wish she were here, I honour her,” he said. 

According to Hillary Ochieng’ Adala, a counsellor and a lifestyle coach, pregnancy and baby loss is always viewed from a woman’s perspective.

“Depending on how “expectant” the man is, this loss can be devastating to men, only that most of the time, we are strong on the outside, but deep inside we are weak.

Men suffer more mental health issues than women because they are like the Dead Sea, they have inlets but no outlets for emotions, this can be a disaster if not addressed in time,” he says.

Hillary’s knows this too well after his wife lost two pregnancies within a year.

He says the healing process wasn’t a walk in the park as they had initially planned with the wife on the age intervals in, which their children would be born.

“As young, but intentional parents, we felt the need to get children in quick succession, then raise them together so that there was no huge age gap between them. That way they would bond easly,” he narrates. 

As Hillary says, if you have a great social support system, be it friends or relatives who create safe spaces for you to pour your heart out, count yourself lucky.

“Support depends solely on the father’s social circles. The best support would be from family and friends who have encountered some kind of loss.

It was really soothing for us when we found a few family and friends that had gone through the same.

It made us realise that we were not alone and also not the first to go through it.

We heard the story of one of my wife’s friends who had had seven miscarriages and that made us realise that after all, we were not so badly off,” he says.

Grieving differently

Hillary says men grieve differently depending on their personalities and the kind of social support they have around them.

“For some, they try their best to conceal their feelings as usual as we are culturally conditioned not to show vulnerability as it is a sign of ‘weakness’.

So many men choose to never bring the subject up. Miscarriage and neonatal death are also a taboo topic to talk about because it is considered a misfortune and has a lot of stigma attached to them.

Men grieve by exerting their efforts into whatever that keeps them busy to redirect their emotions,” he confides.

Sarah Changalwa, a counselling psychologist at Mentally Serene Hub says that fathers specifically feel responsible for a child’s well-being and when the loss occurs, they do not just lose a loved one; but years of promise that they were looking forward to.

“Contrary to myths that fathers are stronger and that mothers are always closer to their children than their fathers, men also experience intense emotions and recurrent episodes of grief following the loss of a pregnancy or a child.

Fathers are more likely to have feelings of resentment, disappointment and failure.

Fathers centre their parenting role on providing for and protecting their children, which makes them establish strong physical and emotional bonds to their children,” she says. 

Sarah quips that men carry the guilt of not being able to protect their child from death and this fill them with an overwhelming sense of failure.

During the grieving process, many men tend to avoid physical contact, especially with the mother of the child since they feel the pressure of not being able to protect their infant.

They are highly likely to experience unresolved grief, especially in cases where they have to act strong and supportive to the mother and other family members.

On the way forward, Hillary points out that by understanding miscarriage, childlessness and infertility, then society can be more empathetic and learn how to offer support. 

Sarah agrees that just like any person going through loss, fathers too need to be supported.

“This can be done by listening and allowing them to openly recount and speak about their emotions without being judged or ridiculed, being present and actively involved in supportive activities when needed, allowing them enough space and time to grieve without being compared to others or asked to man up, keeping constant communication and emotional support to constantly reassure them of their ability to cope and to recover from the loss and normalising the fact than men need to experience complex emotions that require patience, attention and support to deal with,” she says.

“Societal pressures that prevent men from grieving their loss and expressing emotional hurt are flawed and need to be reframed as they result in complex and unresolved grief that subjects men to more psychological and emotional trauma.

Pain that accompanies loss and grief is not gender sensitive. Both maternal and paternal losses need to be treated with the same intensity,” she says in conclusion.

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