Each year, thousands of dads experience the loss of their baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal or infant loss. Historically, and still evident today, we hear and see men taking on the role of getting things done, going back to work, appearing strong and moving through life afterwards with little or minimised scope for expressing their grief and emotions.
The grief of a bereaved dad is often seen as an afterthought; a supporting role to the mum whose grief is often transparent and outwardly emotional. While we understand that a mother has been through a singular physical experience of carrying a child, emotionally both parents have experienced a common grief; they have both lost a child, both lost dreams and their sense of certainty damaged. In all aspects, the father’s life has been just as devastated by the experience and his reality just as broken. His need for understanding and support at this time is just as real as his partners however it often paid very little attention.
It’s not always easy for a bereaved dad to put one foot in front of the other after such devastating loss, let alone open discussions about their baby to those around them. Experiencing the death of a baby will change the very definition of parenthood that dreams were based on and for fathers it can be coupled with the historic view that they need to supress their grief in order to be strong. But we at Bears of Hope know this should not be the case.
A father’s grief can often feel disenfranchised and focus lost, an expectation placed on them and from within that their role is to be strong and supportive. The impact and quality of the bereavement support a bereaved dad receives can directly affect his ability to process his own grief and still feel capable to provide a safe support for his partner.
It is recognised that the needs of a bereaved dad should not be an afterthought because we know they are real and they are important. We cannot minimise or downplay the need to grieve the death of a baby. Grief is not passive, it is as active and embedded within a parent. The intense emotions of grief may differ in expression however they are no less raw or lasting.
Beards Of Hope is a national awareness and fundraising campaign where any bereaved dad, family member or mate can get involved and grow their beards. It enables a bereaved dad to show their grief and to seek support from those around them.. A father’s grief sits alongside the mother’s and should never be pushed to the background or minimised. The need to acknowledge a dad’s grief should be supported as it facilitates an openness to bereavement, for the individual as well as the family unit.
Beards of Hope was established to:
1) encourage men to grow a beard and raise some very important funds for Bears Of Hope Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support
2) provide bereaved dads with an outlet to share their grief with their mates
3) provide mates with the opportunity to support their bereaved mate
4) create awareness of and discussions about pregnancy & infant loss support
5) break down the stigma attached to men grieving and needing help
6) break down the physical and emotional isolation associated with the loss of a baby
7) Enable bereaved dad’s at any time after their loss to join in
8) To establish a connection and continuous bond with their child
Sometimes it can be difficult for Dad’s to feel connected to the formalities of traditional support groups. The Beards of Hope Campaign provides an informal, relaxed and neutral setting to connect with other dads by taking the focus off having to talk about loss and allowing the atmosphere of the fundraiser to dictate conversation with family, friends and work colleagues.
Beards of Hope recognises that grief is unique for each and every person and yet as a community we can support each other. In this support, the beards themselves are a symbol that each person will be different in the type and length of their grief however all are valid and just as important as the other.