TODAY   |  March 25, 2013

Support group helps dads widowed by cancer

An estimated 20,000 men lose their wives to cancer every year and find themselves facing parenthood alone. Psychiatrist Donald Rosenstein started a first-of-its-kind monthly support group to help these single fathers cope. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a spouse to cancer. cheer's dr. nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: another normal day in raleigh, north carolina , for bruce hamm. the father of three young girls is doing laundry, making waffles for breakfast.

>> pretty good.

>> reporter: and getting himself ready for work. but there's something missing from this picture that makes bruce 's family a little different.

>> it just wasn't registering when i went through it that she was going to die that quickly. i thought we had more time. and we just didn't.

>> reporter: in 2010 , bruce lost his wife, lisa, to cancer, after 16 years of marriage, and in that moment, bruce became a statistic, just like the estimated 20,000 other men who annually lose their wives to cancer and find themselves facing parent hood alone.

>> cancer is certainly amongst the leading causes of early parental loss in this country and around the world.

>> reporter: psychiatrist dr. donald rosenstein realized a need for these grieving families, he started a first of its kind monthly support group to help single fathers who lost their wives to cancer. bruce was one of the first to join.

>> when i heard about this group i thought you know, that's interesting to be in a room with folks similar to me.

>> reporter: the journey hasn't been easy.

>> the crying started the first night with the first person that opened his mouth, and i think it began to be a safe place for these macho guys that didn't share their feelings.

>> reporter: soon men who started off as strangers became dear friends .

>> definitely call these guys my friends, every one of them, yes, we've been through a lot together and we share a lot of pain together.

>> reporter: these men are participating in a university of north carolina project to get the word out. they have launched a website called offering resources and support for fathers struggling to put the broken pieces of their lives back together.

>> it has been particularly meaningful to watch these men pull themselves together over time , recognize that they can do this, that they're going to be all right, that their kids are going to be all right.

>> reporter: bruce 's children bailey, lucy and annie see how much the group has helped their dad as he deals with life one day at a time.

>> i think he likes meeting other guys and talking about it.

>> yes.

>> their struggles together.

>> makes him feel like he's not the only one.

>> yes.

>> reporter: a dad with new roles and responsibilities that once upon a time he could have never imagined.

>> it's critically important to me that my kids have the same childhood that they would have had, had my wife been alive. i think lisa looks down on this household. i think she laughs. i think she rolls her eyes,