The Early Days and Weeks (In the Beginning)


1. Don’t Rush The Funeral

“One tip I would say to any newly bereaved father or indeed family, in terms of planning funerals and all of those sorts of horrible formal things, take your time, there’s no rush. I know when it happened to us, once the initial shock had worn off for a moment, your brain switches into that mode of thinking: ‘I’ve got to organise a funeral, I’ve got to do this, ‘I’ve got to do that’. No you don’t. Just wait until you’re ready to organise it, take a week, or a month…no one’s going anywhere.”1

“For us, we did take our time. We had a bit of an enforced time, because of the way our son passed at the hospital, and as the coroner had to get involved, there was a two to three week pause. Now just looking back, that was a blessing in a moment of horrendous tragedy because it enforced us to take a step away and just wait. And that was the best thing.”1

“It felt like you had pressure to do it and yet no chance to actually grieve and think about it.”1

2. Link In To Information

“In my case where there is an enforced time. We have a custom that the burial has to happen very, very quickly. So maybe getting ideas in that window of a 24 hour period, ideas of things we should look at before the funeral, would be wonderful. Having a handout or some documentation to point out things you might want to think about, or providing links to things, like the photographers who will come out, would have been good.”1

“I had the task of planning the funeral and I got the feeling when I was planning that I had to get all these resources together, and act independently. I wasn’t sure at all. Am I sticking to a plan, am I forgetting something? Because of the shock and what was going on in my head - it’s surreal, even for the fairly organised person that I am - I didn’t know whether I was being too efficient or not.”1

“It would be great if I had a link that I could just tap onto, from a website, to have something to read up on and get the information I want.”1

“For most fathers who have never had to plan a funeral for anyone and who don’t really know what their obligations are, it would be good to learn about the distinction between what is optional and what is mandatory. I am not experienced in stillbirths; I did not know that after 20 weeks, funerals are compulsory.”1

“It would have been great to be asked if we wanted to be called by SIDS and Kids (now known as Red Nose Grief and Loss). After the death it was just too hard to pick up the phone.”1

3. Dealing With Pressure

“My wife was in labour for several hours, overnight, then an induced labour. It was quite harrowing and then it was I can’t ring mum and dad and tell them right now, so I rang someone else. I needed to call someone else first, someone I used to work with, who was a good mate, someone to talk to, in order to diffuse how I felt. I wanted to release it to others who were close to me and something around that communication gave me a bit of courage maybe. I found it useful and it gave me more strength to ring mum and dad.”1

“We had pressure from my sister in law. She was really well meaning and out of the goodness of her heart she tried to help us out and found someone to take photos. We always felt that pressure that you have to ring them and so forth. We are private people and in that personal circumstance we didn’t necessarily want to have a professional photographer. So that was something we had to deal with at that time. Well-meaning but yet some people wanted to do it a certain way, without asking us. We were happy to take some photos taken with family members but we didn’t want external people involved when we didn’t have to.”1

“I felt the pressure. I felt that it was up to me as the man of the family and as a father to initiate funeral plans.”1

4. Handling conflict

At moments of high distress it is common for emotions to be high and for conflicts to arise.

“There were big issues in my family over where to bury our daughter and what would happen next. We did work it out in the interim, as we had some enforced time, and this helped a bit. But there were decisions to be made in the interim which was stressful. Not only are you feeling this hurt and loss, but you’ve got decisions to make and other people’s feelings to consider.”1

“I know my own parents (grandparents) didn’t cope with the grief so they didn’t say anything or really do anything. This extremely upset my wife which made her say horrible things, like she never wanted to see them again. I was caught in the middle and a lot of that stuff happened over quite a period. It was hard to deal with. Then my sister had a little boy only a couple of months after our loss and my wife didn’t see him for the first year of his life. It was too hard for her and that became an issue in the family too. It seems everybody’s got these issues around how they feel and how other people are feeling.”1

“The one thing that can help family conflict is to understand that there are support groups for bereaved fathers, mothers, parents from 5 years, from 10 years and from 20 years ago, grandparents and extended family members. So the tip is to find the right support group. You are right; conflicts within the family are just hard to deal with at this time. Sometimes you just have to take time out from it and realise that your own healing and your own grief is important too.”1

“Ours wasn’t a family conflict as there was a lot of internalising going on, of not even wanting to think of it again. Even my father in law brought it up on the Friday and said: ‘You will you be back to work on Monday’. Yeah, that’s pressure and also that attitude of just getting on with it.”1

“Something I want to mention is conflict to do with funeral arrangements. I didn’t want my daughter photographed after she died but they did. There were issues over where to bury her and what was going to happen, but we worked it out together.”1

‘We had a slight disagreement on whether to proceed with the Coronial Inquest for our son. It was a really sore point between me and my wife. It was a really tough time, as I was adamant that I did not want to read any more documents telling me what was going on. The Coronial process set up a lot of emotion and divisions between us. Finally, they sent us a letter and we just let it go and our tensions subsided. I just think different personalities deal with things differently.”1

“Acceptance is vital but, at the same time, you have to be at peace with the way you feel, and accept your own feelings too. My wife would try to change my mind on something and I felt I was getting emotionally pulled in one direction and then another. I suppose I wanted to be just comfortable in saying: ‘You feel your way and I feel my way.’ Part of accepting her is also accepting your own feelings and being able to stand on your own two feet. I needed to say : I need to live comfortably in my own skin and with my own decisions, and also live comfortably with yours’ - for better or worse, you hope.”1

“You certainly don’t want to force it, it doesn’t work. But you don’t want to be led too much by your wife. I guess responding to her in a way that lets her know: this is where I’m at, and I’m not where you are yet, and maybe in time and maybe if we work on it together, like get more counselling, things will be easier.”1

“At the moment neither of us feels that pressure. It comes from me accepting how she feels and hopefully she is learning how I feel. It’s valid that we may have differing opinions; we just need to accept one’s differences. Some fathers here one time or another would do anything for their wives even if it meant making sacrifices, which meant putting their own feelings on hold. From my experience you can’t do that all the time.”1

Last reviewed: 20/6/24