Support for dads after the death of their baby
7 Min Read
The death of a baby is devastating and can feel overwhelming. Every parent will handle this differently and may feel that society’s expectations of them vary. We often talk to fathers who feel there is a lack of support for them, and that they can face extra pressure after losing their baby.
The common themes we hear are that they are often seen as the ‘strong’ one and they put pressure on themselves to look after and protect their partners rather than looking after themselves. Some dads will describe feeling that the death of their baby, particularly if they were stillborn, was ‘worse’ for mum as she had to physically go through the pregnancy and labour. This downplay of their own emotional trauma can have a negative impact on their grieving process, particularly if it is reinforced by friends and family focusing on supporting mum.
Dads can often also face a financial pressure after a baby’s death. Often following a pregnancy it is expected by the family that mum will be on maternity leave while dad will return to work after a brief period of paternity leave. Families will plan their finances based on this. Therefore, when they are unexpectedly faced with the devastating death of their baby, dads often feel a pressure to continue with this plan and return to work even when they aren’t emotionally ready. They want to continue protecting their partner by ensuring the family has an income.
These difficulties can often combine with the dad’s own belief that they don’t need or want to talk about what happened. That there is a taboo around sharing their emotions, that it isn’t ‘manly’ and they just need to keep moving forward. For some partners, this will be the right thing and it can help them to focus their attention on something more positive. We regularly see heart-warming stories of dads raising money for bereavement charities and Hospitals – this is a positive outlet for processing their grief. However, for others, these beliefs can be the starting point of a difficult journey of isolation, depression and feeling overwhelmed. It is vital that men are reminded and encouraged that support is out there and they should access it whenever they need to.
We have provided some information below regarding father’s rights after losing a baby and where they can go for support. This article references fathers because it is based on anecdotal data from people we have worked with, but aspects of the financial support will apply to any partner whose significant other has just lost a baby.
What emotional support is available for bereaved fathers?
The majority of baby loss charities are open to all parents, regardless of gender or whether they were the birthing parent. However, we understand that dads can find it difficult to talk about what has happened and the impact it has had and continues to have on them. In these cases, you may find it easier to open up to charities or support groups that have a ‘dad’ focus. Also, seeing other dads open up and share their feelings on blogs and in social media posts might empower you to share your story.
There are many baby loss charities and organisations that are either directly aimed at supporting dads, or they have a specialist area for dads, and we have listed a few of these below. We hope that dads feel able to reach out to these organisations and understand that they are not alone.
JOEL: The Complete Package
• JOEL primarily provides support for families during a rainbow pregnancy and parenting after baby loss. They have a main Facebook group and several smaller groups, including a closed support network for families. More information can be found on their main Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Joelthecompletepackage/.
• JOEL also have a specific Facebook page for Dads. They have groups set up across the UK and aim to promote positive mental wellbeing in men, particularly in life after baby loss. Some of the activities they have held in the past for dads include outdoor conservation walks, a bushcraft session, and planting bulbs/tending to the ‘Joel Tree’. Information about joining a Dads group can be found on their charity website (https://joeltcp.org/joel-support.html) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sands United FC
• Sands are a UK based charity who provide bereavement support services following a stillbirth or neonatal death.
• Sands United FC is a unique way for dads and other bereaved family members to come together through a shared love of football. It provides a support network where members can feel comfortable and talk about their grief when ready.
• There are multiple teams across the UK and each team member proudly commemorates their baby by displaying their names on the kit worn for each match.
• More information including how to sign up can be found here: https://www.sands.org.uk/get-involved/sands-united-fc
Daddy’s with Angels
• Daddy’s with Angels provide support to those who have experienced the death of a child at any age. They run separate Facebook groups for dads and other members of the family. The groups provide a safe place for men and their families to open up about their feelings and breakdown any feelings of isolation. Their website also contains articles that bereaved dads may find helpful.
• More information including group details can be found here: https://www.daddyswithangels.org/about_us
Shoebox of Memories
• https://shoeboxfullofmemories.wordpress.com/ – This blog is written by Rich who tells his story of the impact the death of his twin sons had on his life, their siblings and the miscarriage that came after.
He shares deeply personal reflections and links his posts to music, describing what the songs mean to him. Up to date posts and news awareness are also shared to his Twitter page: https://twitter.com/shoeboxofm
What are bereaved fathers rights in terms of pay?
If your partner experiences a miscarriage, unfortunately you are not entitled to paternity pay. You may be entitled to Compassionate Leave or Sick Leave and Sick Pay but you will need to check your employment contract and speak to your employer. If your employment contract doesn’t offer sick pay, you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.
Since 6 April 2020, if your baby is stillborn or passes away before their 18th birthday, you may be eligible for Parental Bereavement Leave and Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay. This entitles you to 2 weeks’ leave within 56 weeks of your baby passing away. This will be in addition to your Paternity Leave (if applicable). More information can be found on the Government website.
If your baby is born alive, but then passes away, your right to Statutory Paternity Pay is the same as if your baby had survived. If you and your partner have booked Shared Parental Leave, these payments only apply if your leave has already been booked and notice given to your employer. Unfortunately, this can’t be booked after your baby has died.
You may also be eligible for other financial support such as:-
• Child Benefit for 8 weeks, starting from the date your baby died;
• Child Tax Credits for 8 weeks, starting from the date your baby died; or
• Paternity Leave.
You may find it useful to use the Gov.uk benefits calculator to see whether you are entitled to any other support. https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators
Are you considering whether you need legal support?
A medical negligence claim is an opportunity for parents and their families to make sure the same mistakes aren’t made again. If you have any worries or concerns about whether your baby’s death occurred because something went wrong in either the care before or after the birth, Enable Law can work with you to help you get the answers you need.
We recognise the devastating impact that losing a baby has. We will work with you to determine what happened, whether the care provided was substandard and are committed to helping you get the answers you need.
If you have questions about the care you or your baby received and believe mistakes were made, we are here to help. Contact us today.