Men Coping With Grief
I’ve written, thought about, and worked with grief for my entire career as a psychologist. I’ve looked at cross cultural patterns, abnormal grief, and creative outcomes. I haven’t spent much time thinking about ways that men and women may grieve differently. Underneath the behaviors and outward signs of coping, men and women experience the same stages and emotions. In fact, grief seems to be a universal response to loss, although it is expressed differently in different cultures. Therefore, since men and women are still socialized differently, perhaps they cope differently with loss and grief. I’m drawing the remainder of today’s post from material in a book, Men and Grief by Carol Staudacher. (I like her already – she references my book, Maternal Bereavement). Ms. Staudacher notes 5 coping styles that are more frequently associated with men than women.
5 styles of coping with grief that are more frequently associated with men than women.
- To remain silent
- To engage in solitary mourning or secret grief
- To take legal or physical action
- To become immersed in activity
- To exhibit addictive behavior
Let’s look at them one at a time.
- To remain silent – Many men keep their thoughts, feelings, and pain to themselves. Perhaps this makes them feel stronger and less vulnerable or, maybe they have less need than women to express their emotions to other people.
- To engage in solitary mourning or secret grief –Many men prefer to mourn alone rather than in the company of others. Perhaps the label of “distant” or “secretive” is preferable to “unmanly”.
- To take legal or physical action –Crying can make a person feel weak whereas action can make you feel stronger and more in control. Aggression, anger and violence become substitutes for softer emotions.
- To become immersed in activity –Related to taking action is the desire to become busy and be immersed in activity. It may seem cold or frantic to others but to the mourner, his mind and body are occupied and that consumes energy and thought that would otherwise drift to loss.
- To exhibit addictive behavior –When emotions are suppressed for a long time, it can result in pathological grief reactions, including addiction. The use of alcohol is a well known method of self-medication. It may become difficult to separate the survivor who is drinking heavily from the survivor who is an alcoholic. Either way, help is needed.