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Are You Prepared?
Nothing can prepare you for losing a child, I know that I was not ready. When thinking back to almost 7 years ago when we had to say goodbye to our first born Olivia Hope, I can remember it being a very numbing experience. We only had 5 hours to spend with her after she was born and then she was gone. In some ways, I only truly felt like I was a Father during those 5 hours that her mother and I had to spend with her in NICU. We sat with her, holding her, kissing her, praying and crying over her.
Society’s Definition of Being a Father
I am her Father, no one can take that away from me and yet I struggled that first Father’s Day. Just weeks earlier we had celebrated Mother’s Day and I was emotionally drained after that. I found myself really lacking a sense of “being” a father in the world’s view. We were in our 30’s and got pregnant really quickly once we set out to do so. We should have had a healthy 7 month old daughter at home.
Our society does not realize how common it is for pregnancy and infant death. Honestly, I did not want the spotlight on me. I felt pressure to feel like I belong in the circle of Dad’s when I had a completely different experience with my baby. I had no baby to take home from the hospital, to watch over and protect, to teach them life’s lessons. There is something about feeling left out of the circle of “Traditional Fatherhood. How can I relate to other Fathers that have their living children? They have story after story to share about them, when I only have one and it is tragic.
Toni and I simply stayed home for that first Father’s Day and spent the together. I am not sure what we talked about but knowing us we probably vegged out and drank a bottle of wine while talking about what was on our mind and in our hearts. I was thankful that we did not have a home church at the time as I did not want to have to decide whether I would stand or not when the pastor invited all the dad’s to stand in recognition. We didn’t even get together with family.
I just flat out did not want the pressure to keep my chin up and be strong for everyone. Also, I did not want to see the sympathy or pain others like to display when they know you are going through something tough in your life. I know they mean well but all it does is make me feel burdened, like my pain is causing them pain. I am not sure if that makes any sense but it is my feeling and still feel to this day.
How Do I Know I Am Doing the Right Thing?
At the end of the day, what you choose to share and how you share about your baby is up to you. There is no wrong way, just your way. There will be awkward questions, statements and assumptions from others. It might be tough to figure out how you wish to navigate in and through those situations. I can tell you for me almost 7 years later, it does get easier year after year to talk about my baby, my Olivia Hope Brabec.
Father’s Day can be very challenging for dads of child loss. During this day, we force ourselves to re-evaluate our identity from the traditional sense. Some men do not struggle with this, some do and on different levels. The best thing that we can do is remind each other that they are Father no matter if their child is living or not. No one can diminish that title for another. You are and will forever know you are the dad to your baby(ies).
So What About This Father’s Day?
For those who may be in similar circumstances and may have conflicting feelings regarding Father’s day, we hope you find these options helpful in facing Father’s Day and honoring your fatherhood. First things first, there are a couple of ground rules. 1. Slow down and allow yourself to take in the Father’s Day weekend at your pace. 2. Do your best to convey to your partner how you would like to “do” Father’s Day. They may not understand completely why but it is important to do what you believe is best for yourself.
- A weekend away or staycation. This can be a great way to get away from the daily grind and unwind with little to no obligations or responsibilities. Depending on your situation this would ideally be with your partner. Alternatively, this could be with a buddy or simply alone. We suggest that you turn off as many distractions as possible (phones on silent). Do whatever makes you happy during this time. Binge that T.V. series that everyone is talking about. Watch that movie you never got to see when in the theater. Read your favorite book or one you have been salivating to get your hands on. Ultimately there will be times of quiet and this might be when either you or your partner ask a question or just start talking about your baby. I encourage this, let it happen naturally. After all the grief journey is long and there will be plenty of opportunity to talk over the years to come.
- Home Project. Go ahead and tackle that project you have been meaning to get to. Sometimes we just need a bit of an escape to take our minds off of things for the moment. Depending on your situation this would ideally be with your partner. Alternately this could be with a buddy or simply alone.
- Help Others. For some, the best medicine is to do something for someone else. This process will allow some grace for your pain and suffering while maybe for just a moment alleviating someone else’s. If you know of someone that needs a helping hand go do it. You could alternatively contact your local church and ask if any of their members have asked for help/ assistance. There is something about going out of your comfort zone and they will not know your story unless you decide to share it. Another option would be to visit with the Homeless in your community, you pass by them weekly if not daily. Take them prepared food or make them meals ahead of time. You could volunteer at the local Food Pantry. Don’t just clean out your pantry and drop off food, stick around, help organize it and hand it out.
Geoff and his wife Toni Brabec are the founders of GTBrabec, a personal family brand that is centered around the loss of their first born child Olivia Hope. In 2019 they created and launched, Our Little Sparrows Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support. Together the Brabec’s support families that are currently faced with a life-limiting or fatal pregnancy diagnosis no matter the outcome. They provide personalized doula services during the pregnancy as well as Grief Care through teaching the Grief Recovery Method© after their pregnancy. Geoff is on the Board as the Volunteer Coordinator and a current volunteer facilitator supporting grieving parents through their losses with Sharing Parents of Sacramento Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group. After they lost their sweet Olivia almost 7 years ago the Brabec’s found Sharing Parents and soon became volunteers with the organization that gave them so much when they needed it. Facebook| Instagram| LinkedIn| Twitter| YouTube