Did you know that Women and Men grieve differently?
Everyone grieves in their own particular and individual way, it is a very personal time and how we cope or don’t cope will affect us differently. We are probably more aware of how women grieve as they are so much more public with their feelings. But if men are to be adequately and appropriately supported, we need to understand how their way of grieving often differs from that of women.
Women and Grief
Women are usually very good at seeking support for themselves and supporting each other. They tend to relieve their emotional pain through open expression of it, and verbalising it in the company of others. When women encounter difficulties with grieving, it is more often not because they don’t accommodate the emotional experience of grief, but because they pay to little attention to the tasks, challenges, and practicalities of restoration: attending to life changes, doing new things, forming a new identity and new relationships.
Men and Grief
Contrary to the popular view that men do not cope as well with bereavement as women, research suggests that only when men are deprived of social support do they fare more poorly than women. But what is important to note, in comparing men and women, is that they exhibit differences in their way of grieving, and not just by choice, but because of differences in biology (brain functions and structure, and hormonal systems) and in society reinforced, and hormonal systems) and in society reinforced roles that have endured since the beginning of recorded history.
How men tend to respond to grief
- Men are not as self-caring or help-seeking as women.
- Men pay less attention to emotional pain than women, until those around them appear ‘safe’ and things appear ’in order’. This is because men often distance themselves from emotional content of difficult or ‘threatening’ situations in order to remain vigilant and protective towards others.
- Men tend to need more time and have to make a more conscious effort to connect with grief emotions.
- Men often need privacy, aloneness, or a ‘safe’ ritual place (like a cemetery), before facing and experiencing emotional pain.
- Men are generally much less verbal than women, preferring to ‘mull things over’ and think things through.
- Men tend to exhibit more anger that women do. This compose a problem for men, because people tend to be sympathetic to the more subtle emotions that women exhibit, and unsympathetic to men whose dominant emotion is often anger. Unfortunately, what is not realised is that behind anger are usually all the subtle emotions (like sadness, yearning, and helplessness) and suffering, just as others are experiencing, but in different order of presentation.
- Men often respond differently to pressure to be more public in their grieving than they feel comfortable with.
- Men usually achieve through activities, action, small rituals (connected to their grief) and ‘mulling things over’, what women do by talking, and ‘crying out’ their grief.
- Men benefit much from the company of other men (or working alongside other men); not necessarily by any verbal exchange, but just by another man being ‘present’ who cares but doesn’t intrude.
How men can best help themselves
- By showing courage in allowing themselves to experience the painful emotions of grief (rather than continuing to push them underground).
- By communicating clearly to others their need to be alone and deal with their feelings in private.
- By not shutting others out, but keeping communication open in their relationships.
- By ‘tuning in’ to their bodies (because feelings that have built up are often exhibited there can, once recognised, be released into experience).
- By consciously using rituals and activity through which to express and work through their grief.
- By slowing down, and making time for being reflective, and to connect with their grief (making time to grieve in order for there to be time to heal.
- By stayng close to reliable friends and talking to them.
- By taking time out in the natural environment (away from work, to be open, vulnerable and reflective.