Content warning: Miscarriage and pregnancy loss
Losing a child is one of the hardest things a parent can experience. When a child dies, we don’t just mourn them, but we mourn the person they could have been. This is why acknowledging a day like International Bereaved Father’s Day is so important.
What is International Bereaved Father’s Day?
While here in Australia, we celebrate Father’s Day on the first Sunday of September, across the globe, the last Sunday of August commemorates International Bereaved Father’s Day.
The day recognises all the dads who have experienced the trauma and grief caused by losing a baby or a child. It’s a time to heal, grieve and remember a child or children who didn’t get the chance to grow into the person they could have become. Additionally, it raises awareness of the stigma against how dads should grieve – because sometimes, a dad's grief looks different to their partners or fellow co-parents.
How did International Bereaved Father’s Day come about?
Both International Bereaved Father’s and Mother’s Day were created in 2010 by Carly Marie Dudley. After her son Christian was born as a still-born in 2007, Carly began documenting her grief journey. She organised the very first International Bereaved Mother’s Day as a way to honour motherhood and validate those who have or will ever experience the loss of a child or children.
International Bereaved Father’s Day was also created at this time. What began as a small way to recognise parents who had lost a child or multiple children has turned into a global day dedicated to healing, remembrance and support.
When is International Bereaved Father’s Day?
International Bereaved Father’s Day is commemorated on the last Sunday of August, every year. International Bereaved Mother’s Day is on the first Sunday of May, every year.
How can I support a loved one on International Bereaved Father’s Day?
If you’re hoping to support a loved one, you can:
Send a gift.
Although it won’t make the day any easier, it may help the bereaved dad in your life feel supported.
Make plans with them.
Your friend or loved one may want to be out in nature for the day or stop by his favourite city spots. If they are not spending the day with family, take the day off and offer to be by their side.
Light a memorial candle.
This is a great way to remember your loved one’s child who died.
How can I commemorate International Bereaved Father’s Day?
If you’re hoping to find a way to raise awareness and commemorate the day to recognise your loss, you can:
Create new traditions
Invite the whole family to a barbecue gathering or a picnic in your child’s honour. This could be a new tradition that you stick to every year on the day, or you could plan a different activity each year – like a trip to the beach, or an intimate lunch at home.
Surround yourself with the people who understand.
You may be part of a support group, or perhaps you know other parents who have experienced a similar loss. Consider planning an event so all the bereaved dads or parents can be together on the day. You could even ask that all attendees donate money to an organisation dedicated to miscarriage, early pregnancy loss, stillbirth or SIDS in their child’s honour.
Talk about your experience.
If you’d like your story to be heard, you could reach out to a podcast network or an online magazine to share your experience. If this is too much to bear, you could share your story on your social media channels. This is a great way to help other parents heal, and may even inspire them to share their grief journeys or memories with their children, too.
There are so many ways you can commemorate International Bereaved Father’s Day so that it feels special for you and your family, but it’s important that you do recognise it and allow yourself to feel any feelings that come up on the day. As we know, fatherhood doesn’t end with the death of a child. While the love and the grief will remain, know that with time, you will be able to think of your child or children with a smile, and you will always be their loving dad.
Support and further resources
Red Nose Australia - Offers bereavement support for anyone affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of a baby or child.
Sands - A volunteer-based association providing support and individualised care for those affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death.
Miscarriage Australia - A researcher and clinician-run body that aim to help all affected by miscarriage.
The helplines below provide free, confidential telephone support and counselling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Red Nose Grief and Loss Bereavement Support Services - call 1300 308 307 (interpreter services are available).
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement – call 1800 642 066
Lifeline - 13 11 14
If you have been affected by miscarriage, early pregnancy loss, stillbirth or SIDS and you would like to recognise a dedicated charity in your Will, you can leave a bequest. Start today at willed.com.au.