Disclaimer: If you’re feeling especially tender today, then please come back to this post later. Some of what I share here might be hard to receive. Come back when your own inner resources are feeling optimized, so that you can hold space for something that might be a bit heavy.
I’d also like to clarify that this is meant to bring awareness, so that we can explore solutions collectively. If guilt or shame shows up, acknowledge them and surround them with self-compassion. Surround yourself with self-compassion.
We’re all doing the best we can with the tools, resources, and information we have. And if you’re in pain, it becomes harder to hold space for someone else’s pain. Take care of yourself. You are responsible for your healing and your partner is responsible for theirs. And together, you get to hold space for each other and allow yourselves to be held by the loving support of community.
And now for the article…
Almost everything that I share is specifically for women/femmes who’ve experienced loss.
However, having had conversations with some of the men in my life who’ve experienced different forms of loss, it’s clear that there are so few resources dedicated to their healing. Compared to women/femmes, men often get overlooked or deprioritized because:
There is an assumption that the person who held the baby in their body experiences more pain from the loss and is therefore worthy of more attention. And…
As women/femmes, we’re socialized to express our emotions openly, while men are socialized to be “strong” —ie. to hide their emotions, to “keep it together” for their partner or family.
Most of us share these assumptions or “agreements” even if we don’t express them verbally. I believe what happens unconsciously is that, in wanting to help men to maintain their image of the strong protector and “keep it together,” we (friends and family members, and sometimes, partners) create just enough space for them to know that we care (a hug, a compassionate look, an encouraging word), but not enough space so that they can “fall into pieces.”
Falling into pieces is liberating. It is the full surrender. It’s the letting go of the labels and expectations. It’s allowing oneself to feel the hurt so that it can be healed. It’s the release that has to happen before we can integrate the wisdom that builds a foundation for something even stronger. (When this doesn't happen, the pain compounds.)
"falling into pieces needs to happen in a space where it feels safe to do so... Safety is a prerequisite for the surrender."
And falling into pieces needs to happen in a space where it feels safe to do so. We need to be held in a chrysalis by trusted friends, family members, healers, teachers, guides…Safety is a prerequisite for the surrender.
And that’s because falling into pieces is vulnerable and messy.
We ache and we cry. Stuff from the past come up. We forget about hygiene. Dishes go unwashed. Laundry goes undone. Rooms are left uncleaned. Takeout becomes the norm. Schedules and routines become non-existent. And ideally, no one has to go to work or answer to anyone.
We don’t get to have this without community. And here’s the other thing: women/femmes are granted more room to fall Into pieces than men are.
Most Women Get to Fall into Pieces. This isn’t the same for Men
Most women/femmes get to fall into pieces because our partners hold the loving space as we do so. Or at the very least, they encourage us to get the help we need.
Our society and culture grant women the permission to be held in healing spaces without judgment. The same often isn’t true for men. Their barriers to healing are complex and layered. They, themself, might refuse support, insisting that they’re okay or that their priority is to make sure that we’re okay. (Let's keep asking. Let's keep checking in. There’s more there.)
They’re humans and they’re hurting. Many just haven’t been socialized to express their emotions or allow others to hold space for their emotions. Pregnancy loss, infant loss, or infertility is new, unfamiliar, and scary territory. If they share the depths of the pain that they’re in with us, they worry about how that might impact how we see them. They worry about adding their pain on top of ours.
We Can't Get an Accurate Measure of Anyone's Pain
"Trauma isn’t what happened to someone but how it changes them…the impact it’s having on them now."
People sometimes try to assess how worthy they are of their pain based on the circumstances surrounding it. Trauma Specialist, Gabor Maté, shares that trauma isn’t what happened to someone but how it changes them…the impact it’s having on them now.
There's no question that losing a baby we held in our body or experiencing infertility is incredibly painful for us. There’s also no question that the partners who witness us going through this (often feeling as helpless) and have also lost their child (or the hope of a child) are in incredible pain as well.
What's coming to mind for me is: When men move from experience to experience—during childhood, teenage years, early to mid adulthood—without access to the spaces to process, release and integrate without judgment, then who knows when they’ll go into shut-down? Will the next painful experience be the one that breaks them?
Their pain isn't only the pregnancy-related loss they're going through, but what's still unresolved from all the other painful experiences they didn't have the resources or support to tend to.
(My heart aches to write this. Humanity is in pain—yes. And I’m thinking of the men who never feel safe enough to ask for or accept help for their inner healing.)
The percentages for alcohol/drug abuse and addictions are often higher for men vs women. Substance abuse, addictions, and binging are used to numb and distract from the pain when there are no healthy outlets.
The question isn’t about who suffers more. There is no way of measuring that. The