Everyone experiences grief differently. We are all individuals, and our mourning experience is completely personal and unique. We really don’t want to generalize and lump people into groups that will determine how their unique personal experience should feel. However, recent studies have proven that women and men actually do process grief in much different ways.
The Same Old Situation
When we think of a grieving family the traditional male and female roles are nearly stereotypical. We think J. Scott Janssen of the Social Work Today website describes it best “…the situation seems familiar. A woman in tears, openly expressing her pain, wanting to connect with a male partner whose impermeable stoicism has left her feeling alone. A man, his heart breaking on the inside, confused amidst a world shattered by loss, locking his pain behind a wall of silence, unsure how to express vulnerability or receive support.”
On Men and Grief
There is now evidence that the American man is more likely to isolate himself, take part in action-oriented forms of grief expression (like taking risks or driving haphazardly), or to throw themselves into work to distract themselves from the grief process. Research is also suggesting that men more at risk of abusing alcohol or substances, and they are much more likely than women to commit suicide after the death of their spouse.
It begs the question: Do men and women actually experience grief differently according to their sex? Or have they been culturally and socially trained to react differently to their emotions?
Dr Lou Wallace of the Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro writes that a man expresses his grief differently than a woman because of how he was raised as well as actual physical differences in the brain-makeup of men and women.
For instance, men may be expected to:
- Be the “strong one”.
- “Take charge” of the situation.
- See grief as a “challenge” to overcome.
Men are known to mourn by:
- Avoiding thinking about it.
- Visiting cemeteries more often than women.
- Replacing / re-marrying rather quickly.
- Trying to take action or resolve a death by launching lawsuits, investigations or autopsies.
Again, everyone is an individual. Some men may not follow these above examples at all. Yet these examples tend to be categorically true of males.
On Women and Grief
Women are usually much more open and verbal about their grief. Perhaps this is because the traditional American role of females provides allowance for women to cry, to retreat, or to indulge in food as a coping mechanism.
As per Thomas Bekkers of Green Bay Oncology women will re-hash a death over and over. They will repeatedly discuss the story, the deceased, the situation of their death and their emotions.
A grieving woman is more likely to:
- Call friends on the phone and talk about the death.
- Use social media to express themselves.
- Host or attend repeat gatherings honoring their loved one.
The social role of American women allows them more latitude for expressing grief. They often report frustration with husbands or other male counterparts, who they see as being cold or unfeeling because men tend to avoid thinking about it, so they retreat from the conversation.
On Both Sexes
It’s crucial to note here that regardless of your sex, grief is a very real and very natural process. People need to give themselves time and outlets to successfully grieve, or they will suffer repercussions later. The exact outlets don’t matter: whether you grieve by crying for an hour or by silently hitting the golf ball at the range for a few hours, give yourself the time and space you need to cope with loss.
Grief Can Last For Years
Even if the loss you experience is for “just a friend” not a spouse or close family member, grief can last for several years. In fact, grief you experience for a friend may be more difficult to process (for both sexes).
This ABC Life Article describes it as “disenfranchised grief”… the grief you feel when you lose a good friend. Deep grief might not be as expected nor as accepted by others in your life like your family or employer. While it is perfectly acceptable to miss a week of work after losing a spouse or a child, employers do not extend this sort of grace to a grieving friend. Friends are expected to simply move on.
Funeral Homes Can Help
It’s their job to help you with your grief experience. They do this with traditional funerals and burial services, celebrations of life, custom memorial cards and other services. If you need help coping with grief check out Griefwords, a web page dedicated to resources for grieving friends and family.
We’d also like to note the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Don’t hesitate to call if you need their help now.