This week marks Children’s Mental Health Week and this blog post, written by our team in the South East of England, looks at the impact the death of a father can have on boys, including the pressures from society. For more information about the areas we work in and where our offices are based, please visit the Contact Us page.
Here in the South East Team, we were asked to think about what we see to be the impact for boys who are bereaved of their fathers. We talked about what we have heard and seen while working with families in this situation. The themes that came up that were specific to boys seemed to reflect on wider societal opinions.
For example, men and boys being strong emotionally, not crying and needing to look after the family. Some of the boys that we see tell us that this is the way they feel, that they feel a pressure to protect family members. Sometimes they have been told by people that they are, ‘the man of the house now’.
It has also come up that it is seen as more acceptable to be angry rather than sad. Occasionally boys in the groups we run have compared stories of their angry behaviours. They have initially found that anger is easier even to talk about than sadness. Alongside this, they have expressed that they are more afraid to appear vulnerable in front of their peers.
Another theme was about more general practical things. Like boys and men do the DIY jobs, or watch and go to football together, rough and tumble play, learning about issues around puberty; all of this assigned to the male role.
In reality, all families are different. But we definitely hear that Dads are missed for all of these things and more. That there is a sense that a son, especially the eldest son should take on those roles that his father perhaps held.
It is really important that boys, just as it is with girls, are given the opportunity to express their grief in creative ways. Through play, art, talking and maybe meeting others who are in a similar situation. Bereavement impacts differently on every family and individual. But often the things that can help are the same.
For more information and for support, please call our Freephone National Helpline on 08088 020 021. You can also speak to other organisations about support for boys and young men, including CALM and Young Minds.