Thursday, January 10, 2008
Do Men Grieve Differently Than Women?
Men grieve differently from women. Our cultural roles make it difficult for men to look for support, and harder again to accept it. Men are so often silent, solitary mourners who immerse themselves in activity and private, symbolic rituals. They feel profoundly, but often can't express the depth of their loss.
A man is supposed to be "strong," to support, to cope, and to plan in the aftermath of loss. His own pain must be put away.
Grief doesn't discriminate between gender or culture. Our society has placed clear expectations and requirements upon our roles as men and women. Boys learn quickly what behavior is considered inappropriate through such statements as, “Stand up and take it like a man.” “You’re the man of the house,” and the insidiously cruel "Big boys don't cry.”
Male grief tends to have four main characteristics.
1. Moderated feelings
Men have deep feelings but don't express openly, a more readily available feeling is anger. Men deal with their real feelings by redirecting their energies.
2. Cognitive Experience
Men work more with cognitions explaining their grief or with problem-focused strategies that help them adapt and protect. Men try to find a reason, a rational explaination.
3. Problem-Focused Activity
Men may adapt to loss by practical hands-on finding solutions to problems associated with the loss.
4. Desire for Solitude
Men don't seek support groups. They want to master their own feelings and also reflect the more practical behavior involved in adapting to a loss.
Societal Demands on Men
Men are expected to be “in control” of life’s demands and have to submit to the following anxiety society has placed on them. They're expected to: -
• remain emotionally and physically strong
• always be rational
• don't cry or publicly mourn
• don't ask for support or affection —-- be self-sufficient
• remain as non-expressive as possible
• provide, not nurture
• shake hands, don't hug.
These generalizations continue to hold their influence over men in pain. Let's take the old myth about crying. The truth is it takes a truly strong man to be able to cry. Acknowledging that each of us grieve in very different ways can allow men to cope with loss and pain using their own various coping methods. We all grieve despite our gender, race or culture. We grieve because we have loved and, through our journey, we can be healed. As a retired military man I can give many accounts of how men grieve differently than women.