Renegotiating father’s identity following stillbirth: what and who am I?

Jones, Kerry (2017). Renegotiating father’s identity following stillbirth: what and who am I? In: BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, BioMed Central, 17(1) p. 1457.



This study examines the experiences of men following stillbirth in particular the challenges they face in claiming their identity as a father of an absent child. Fathers felt diminished when concerns about how they were coping were directed only to the women. Contrary to the notion that father’s experience suggests men suffer less distress, this research shows that men also deal with loss at an emotional level.

This investigation into men’s accounts of loss forms part of a larger study in which 28 men and women participated in interviews and focus groups about their experiences of perinatal death.

By listening to narrative accounts of loss, the passage to parenthood for bereaved men represents a disruption and re-evaluation of who they are, what they knew about the world as they negotiate the incomprehensibility of the death itself. Narratives by bereaved men also reveal how their sense of self and identity is mediated by the social and cultural milieu to which they belong and are largely disenfranchising experiences when friends, family and others, at times, fail to acknowledge the enormity of their loss.

The findings suggest that recognition of the death of baby who is stillborn as well as the impact of the death for father’s is intertwined with personal identity. Men in this study needed to receive recognition as fathers, both at the time of their loss and after. In examining the reproductive and bereavement journey of men, several domains occurred to illuminate the experience of men including; men as support partners; the impact of the death; parenting an absent child [advocate, protector]. The findings from this study will offer insight into the experiences of men that will resonate for others including practitioners who support individuals going through similar experiences.

Ethical approval for the study was granted by the University of Bristol Ethics Committee as part of doctoral research. Written informed consent was obtained by all study participants. No formal recruitment was obtained through the National Health Service or Government Institution and was entirely voluntary.

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