Men and women both feel pain and they both grieve over a loss. The way they cope with grief is where differences appear. The differences we see in ‘his’ and ‘her’ grief responses are due to different styles of coping with pain and loss. There are myriad factors that cause these differences. Most often we are carefully ‘taught.’ It takes time to unlearn old habits and ways of thinking to really understand how men respond to grief. Once you understand how it works, it may be easier to find a pathway to healing.
What Grief Looks Like
From childhood, men and women are taught gender roles. Whether you like it or not, you were socialized to some degree as to how to behave, think, and even feel. Little girls are often taught and encouraged to share feelings and express needs. Boys are treated differently sometimes, where they are taught ‘big boys do not cry, be strong, and do it alone.’ In society, men are unprepared to express distressed feelings and loneliness because of the way they are expected to cope. Men are ‘expected’ to be strong and be assertive. They should achieve goals, bear pain, and fix things. It is no wonder why men are reluctant to express painful emotions of grief following the passing of a loved one.
How Men Cope
Men are often challenged with finding different ways of responding to grief when it hits. They typically:
- Experience isolation during grief and loss
- Don’t talk about feelings
- Are expected to be ‘self-sufficient’ and independent
- Expected to accept difficulties with non-emotional responses
- They often isolate to protect themselves and avoid feeling embarrassed by emotions
Men often desire support but don’t know how to reach out. They see their loss as one to endure alone. Often men feel the need to ‘disconnect’ because they feel alone. It is difficult, even perceived as unacceptable, for a man to feel helpless and out of control.
Men can find healing pathways through their grief by asserting some positive emotions around the loss. Some of the following may be helpful:
- Acknowledge the death: expressions of sympathy must be honest and heartfelt. Acknowledge pain without expecting a response
- Express genuine interest in feelings, concerns, and conditions of loss. Accept expressions which reflect conflict and mixed emotions
- Be a safe space: hold griever’s sharing in confidentiality and be willing to say you will keep their words sacred
- Accept and encourage tears: it’s okay to feel what you want, when you want to feel it. Sometimes hearing that is important
- Share silence: sometimes much is said in silence. Silence builds trust like a nod, a touch, or certain look that conveys what the person needs to know
- Perform incidental acts of compassion: be willing to help. Don’t ask what he needs. Ask if you can help with a certain task and take it over quietly
Gender male conditioning acts strongly and in opposition to what you want to achieve. You may not be able to do all these things or offer all these for a friend. It is hard to do when you don’t know how and haven’t done it in practice. The biggest thing is to offer support and be there for one another. When you offer support, it is a means to supporting their journey of healing and when you need help, someone can hopefully offer the same meaningful support for you.
The Last Resort provides a safe, supportive environment for men in a retreat-like setting. Our goal is to help you understand how to grieve loss, move forward, and heal in recovery. Nature is an important component of recovery and healing. We strive to provide a place of enrichment that cultivates the inner as well as the outer journey of recovery. However you find your way to the Last Resort, we endeavor to provide a haven where you can journey through recovery feeling like your life and story have meaning and a purpose. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750.