New help for grieving dads

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 Photo: Getty Images

There is no doubt the loss of a baby is one of the toughest things a couple can ever face.

But while a mother's grief for her baby is expected and supported, a father's pain following his baby's death is often overlooked.

Sands Australia is hoping to change that with the launch of a Male Parent Support line dedicated to helping dads dealing with the loss of a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth or a newborn death. 

"A father's grief following the death of a baby tends to be overlooked by society," Sands Chief Executive Officer Andre Carvalho said. 

"There is no doubt that carrying a child results in an intense emotional bond for the mother, however research and anecdotal evidence from our work shows that fatherhood for so many dads begins as their child is in the womb.

"Dads also experience acute grief following miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death."

An estimated 103,000 pregnancies (one in four conceptions) ends in miscarriage in Australia each year, and approximately 3000 babies are either stillborn or die in the first 28 days after birth.

One father who suffered the loss of his third child to stillbirth said he ignored his own grief due the pressure to support his wife and family.

"The pain was so intense. I wanted to grieve, but I felt like I had to support my family – my responsibilities as a husband and father came first," the dad, known only as Luke, said. 

"It was so tough on my wife and suddenly she wasn't able to take care of our children and I had to shoulder all of the work and parenting alone.

"I didn't know where to go where to go or who to speak to."

Research shows that men are less likely to seek help for any type of emotional problems, including stressful and heart-wrenching life events such as the loss of a baby.

"We recognise that bereaved dads also need a safe space to grieve and that is why we have developed our dedicated Male Support Line," Mr Carvalho said. 

"Calls to the support line are answered by a team of trained male volunteers who truly understand what a grieving father goes through as they too have experienced the heartache of pregnancy loss or newborn death."

Sands is a not-for-profit organisation that provides support and information to parents and families who experience the death of a baby, as well as offering resources and education to healthcare professionals. 

The Male Parent Support Line will complement Sands' existing services including the National Helpline (1300 072 637), local support groups, live web chat and email support.

Appointments for Sands' Male Parent Support Line can be made on their website.