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Fathers Grieve Too

My name is Damian and I’m sharing about our son Elias. He was born at 21 weeks. My wife experienced amniotic fluid leaking and by the time we went to the hospital it was too late. We were living in Finland at the time where there’s a policy of not rescuing pregnancies before 22 weeks. We were devastated - and it felt even harder being in a foreign country with no family or speaking Finnish. A lot happened that we didn’t fully understand. I remember holding Elias’ body in the hospital several times. Only after reflecting later did I think about the chance to take some photos. No one offered at the hospital. Grieving is tough, exhausting work and even though we had a community of friends and colleagues to support us, sometimes we felt very alone. Daily life felt insurmountable, never mind the many decisions that come with the death of a child. Being sad tires you out. We found a support group of parents who had also lost a child. It’s strange but we found comfort in hearing similar stories of loss. There is something comforting about not being the only one who has had to live through such a terrible experience. While Finns aren’t known for their openness or willingness to talk about emotions (especially in English), it was better than not having anything. I found it challenging to fully process everything and grieve while working. I remember getting a call from my boss while in the hospital asking me to make a career choice. It was like what happened only impacted my wife and wasn’t really something that happened to me too. Part of it was definitely cultural but there’s often an idea men aren’t impacted as much by pregnancy loss. My experience was certainly very different from what my wife went through and the physical and emotional upheaval that comes with losing a child.

But as fathers, we too grieve and wonder if we will ever feel normal again. Plus, the self-induced pressure to “be strong” for your partner (at least for me) meant I had to actively plan to grieve and think about what happened. This is why the work that the Butterfly Run does is so important. It is important to honour the memories of our children who are no longer with us. The resources the Run helps fund are crucial in helping men and women deal with the trauma of losing a child. It’s now been 18 years since Elias died. We wonder what Elias would be like as a (now) young man and all the might-have-beens. We remember his birthday every year with a cake and celebration for our family - with our other two children.

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