By ELAINE FORD
A father who lost two children due to miscarriage has helped set up a volunteer male-to-male peer support service for other grieving dads.
Wayne Faulkner, who lives in Western Australia and has a full-time job, also volunteers with Sands Australia – a not-for-profit organisation of bereaved parents that support other parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn deaths.
Mr Faulkner started the volunteer male-to-male peer support service where “dads, granddads, brothers and workmates can come to gain more information on how they can understand and cope with the tragic circumstances of the death of their baby”.
“The male peer-to-peer support thing came from what I’m doing and that’s now filtering out into all the states, which is fantastic,” he said.
“We are all volunteers, we all have other jobs – real jobs.
“I work in the oil and gas industry in logistics and that’s as stressful as a job I’ve have at the moment anyway.
“To take this on board on top of that, I thought ‘well, maybe it’s going to take off fairly slowly, and as we develop it, there’ll be more blokes want to come on board, and maybe husbands of the mums that are already involved as volunteers will want to help and assist’, and that’s slowly happening.”
He said the main theme through everything that Sands does was about peer support.
“There are other groups that offer professional counselling and all those sorts of things [but] we don’t put ourselves up as being counsellors – we’re not, we don’t do that,” he said.
“We’re here to listen, we’re here as a peer group, we’re here to let you understand that we understand.”
‘Talking about it is the key’
Mr Faulkner said there was nowhere for men to go in the 1980s when he was grieving the loss of two children with his first wife.
“As a man I had nowhere to go and nowhere to express my own grief as Sands had not been started at that time,” he said.
He said he thought a father’s grief was “a different sort of grief” to a mother’s.
“It’s still just as strong and just as important to be recognised,” he said.
“Guys just don’t know how to talk about it and they don’t know who to talk about it to.
“You don’t go to work and talk about it – it’s sort of buried inside and it sort of festers away at you.”
He said over the last 10 years or more, there had been a “huge improvement” in men wanting to be more open and share their emotions.
“It is a relief and you can see it – you can actually feel it in a room when a guy finally realises ‘whew, that took a load off’,” he said.
“They can actually understand more about it’s not just about them, it’s about a lot of other people sharing, and they’re not alone.
“It’s very difficult and very brave I think for a man to make that initial call.