Pillars of Strength: A dad's story about losing his son.

It is just on a year since my son Isaac’s passing and losing your baby (whether it be stillbirth or like me passing away in the NICU) your world is changed forever. Your state of normality is not the normal from a year ago, which unfortunately only the people from our select club would seem to understand.

Here is my story of the loss of my son Isaac and how I have tried in a small way to help myself by helping others who may be or may go through this difficult situation…………………

On the 8th December 2010, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our son Isaac at 26 ½ weeks (13 weeks early). He spent two days in the NICU at Royal North Shore Sydney before sadly passing away on the 10th December 2010.

A father is expected to be the pillar of support (strength) for his wife/partner, extended family and friends. He is the communication channel to the outside world and on many occasions, if he has other children, he becomes the chief caretaker of those children whilst his wife/partner recovers from surgery and the birth.

In Isaac’s short time with us, I spent many hours in the NICU and worrying about my wife and child. I was expected to have broad shoulders with minimal opportunity to get away from things and in many cases continue with work to ensure that there was money still coming in to pay for the mortgage, bills, doctors fees etc.

Being in this situation you will find that friends and family always offer support or to do something for you but there really isn’t anything they can do to help you with your grief and the guilt of not being able to do anything to fix things. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a couple of mates who took me out for a round of golf (with the blessing of my wife) which allowed me a sanity check, some personal time and gave me the opportunity to reflect and more importantly time out to reenergise and refocus. It was the best thing for me and prompted me to create a support program for fathers in this tumultuous time. (NB. A year on I still need these periods of time out and will continue to do so as losing your son does not ever go away).


From my own personal experience when Isaac was in the NICU and subsequently passing away, I found that there was little assistance available to a father who has a child going through a traumatic experience (or something similar). It also showed me that there was little “me time” to take care of myself as I had to be there to be the Pillar of Strength for my family to ensure that everything continued in some sense of “normality”.

I have found that the above is a common theme with fathers who are faced with prolonged periods of their child being in the NICU, sick in hospital or passing away. There is little time for them to do something for themselves or get support as they need to provide it to everyone else (particularly their wives/partners).

This has provided me with a desire to make a change in father’s lives through facilitating something that can make a difference. This is “Pillars Of Strength“.

Pillars of Strength is an Australian first initiative which aims to provide fathers with some support and time out they need while their baby is sick, or to provide some informal support after the loss of their baby. (NB it is not a counselling service but more an informal peer support network).

Since August, through the Royal North Shore hospital, the NRL, Sydney Olympic Park Golf Centre, and 2UE among others we have been operating a pilot program, assisting dads and families during this difficult time through the “Time Out” and “In hospital support” programs.

As sport has been part of the male make up for generations the Time Out Program provides Dads with the opportunity to participate in, or attend, sporting and fitness activities with mates, family members or another Dad who has experienced a similar situation. (eg going to an AFL or NRL game, having a hit of golf, going to the gym etc). This is to allow some “me” time during this difficult period. and provide dads the opportunity to reflect and more importantly time out to re energise and refocus.

In hospital support is provided in the way of accessing general financial advice provided by an accredited financial advisor, and financial assistance/support to fathers and their families in the form of parking vouchers. Other in hospital support programs are also in development to be rolled out in 2012.

We have already received some great feedback from the staff of Royal North Shore and the uptake has been pleasing in the short time the pilot has operated.

Pillars of Strength may not be the answer for everyone but it is here to help fill a massive void and through establishing the organisation, helping others  and taking time out has certainly helped me deal with the loss of my son.

For further information about our programs, whether to get involved, access or to help support us so that we can expand our programs outside of Royal North Shore please go to our website.

In conjunction with Royal North Shore Hospital NICU, Pillars of Strength has also created a survey to get a snapshot on men’s health and support when going through family trauma. The survey can be found here Pillars of Strength – Men’s support

Gary is a bereaved dad who found there was little support for men in this situation so has created a new organisation to help men facing significant family trauma.

On the 17th February Pillars of Strength is launching its Time Out program online to bereaved dads (dads who have lost a baby via stillbirth, birth complications or neonatal death in the last 2 years) and who can access activities in Sydney.

Pillars of Strength is an Australian charity which provides dads with support and time out they need while their baby is sick, and provides support and time out to dads after the loss of a baby.

To access this service or to support Pillars of Strength go to the website , find us on facebook here or follow us on Twitter.

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