Content Warning: This article contains references to child loss that some readers may find distressing
This morning an article broke in the New York Times in which, the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor (formerly Meghan Markle), revealed she had experienced a miscarriage earlier this year. The news reopens old wounds for many and, once again, brings to the fore a public discussion on that, still all too often, taboo subject.
For many women it is still an impossibly hard experience to reveal or discuss, out of pain and sometimes, shame. Organisations such as Sands and The Miscarriage Association provide support for couples affected by miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death.
There has also been a shift in recent years towards more open and candid discussions about women who experience child loss. The stigma and culture of silence is rapidly being broken down and moments like today will help build on that momentum towards care and openness.
There is still much further to go though and all the comfort and understanding in the world will not heal the grief that couples like Meghan and Harry will feel. In this moment they are not royalty but parents reflecting on the loss of a life they were ready to welcome into theirs.
With much of the focus understandingly being on mothers like Meghan after a miscarriage, it is all too easy to forget the other half and their grief.
Scrolling through the headlines today covering this story and not one that I can find makes mention of Harry. Every article, understandably, focuses on Meghan’s words and experiences with many pieces including Harry simply as a bystander or an afterthought.
Grief and recognition of grief is not a competition. But we as a society are forgetting, in Movember of all months, that child loss can break open and hurt fathers as deeply as mothers like Meghan.
In her article Meghan writes – “Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.”
Her reflection is not just of her own experience. Her own grief: “both our tears”, “how we’d heal”. There were two of them in that hospital room, a fact all too easy to forget at times.
The bottling up of that grief for many men, stems from the same reason that many do not talk about their feelings, do not cry, do not seek help when they are at their most broken. A man must “be a man” and in these moments it kills us, literally kills, so many of us. It is so often self imposed, and on reflection, an utterly irrational act where we isolate and bury our grief and suffering in moments such as child loss. We SHOULD talk, we SHOULD grieve, we SHOULD ask for help.
But we don’t.
Five years ago this month, I experienced that hospital room. I can remember the nurse, doctor, the person is vague. I can remember them talking about not being able to find a blood flow or something like that. Though the feelings, even now, break my composure, the memories are becoming distant.
For those who have never experienced the loss of a child, I would never wish it on any of you, not even the worst person I know. I can remember me and my partner at the time, holding onto each other, crying uncontrollably as the reality hit us. I’ve never felt a moment before or since that has left me so utterly lost and overwhelmed.
Over the next month and a half I held myself together as best I could. I’ve had people praise how I stepped up and coped with the whole experience. But every evening I would allow myself some small expression of grief as I lay there holding my partner as we let out all the pain. That was my way of getting through it. Hold it all together throughout the day and be there for her, then let it all out when it was just the two of us.
I kept my grief, my pain, private.
A month and a half later, Boxing Day 2015, I finally broke down and was sent home from where I worked.
I had told myself, all through that time that I could cope, that I would be there for someone else and get through this without help. That would be enough, I would get through this.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I have spoken to many before, and since, who have been through child loss. Mothers, fathers, all grieving and continuing on with their lives in their own ways. I have had a man, much older than I, who I never thought capable of public emotion, break down in front of me as he spoke about the loss of his child.
We, as boys, as men, as whatever and whoever we are, cannot go through this alone. It is often the hardest, and the bravest thing, to say “I’m not okay.” Men are not immune to pain, we are part of that loss and we must let ourselves into that reality. It is not weakness, it is not a shirking of whatever responsibilities we put on our own shoulders.
To those men who have experienced miscarriage, “be a man.” Ask for help.
The final words in Meghan’s piece speak of her and Harry but are a sentiment we should hold in all our hearts as we look to rebuild our lives and continue on.
“Are we OK?
We will be.”
For those seeking help, these charities specialise in support for miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death.
For specific support on male mental health the following organisations can help.
For general mental health support please consider approaching the organisations and services below
A full list of more organisations than can help can be found at
On a personal note, seeking help can be one of the hardest things a person can ever do but also one of the most worthwhile. Asking for help after my breakdown from the miscarriage put me on the road back to education and eventually to here at Stirling. It is not an easy time living with mental health issues and the worst moments are still difficult to take but seeking that help has put me where I am today writing for Brig.
Feature image source: shortlist.com