At Schoedinger, we understand that no two people grieve in the same manner. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. There is no predictable time period for working through grief. Loneliness, anxiety, deep sorrow, anger or confusion are all common symptoms of grief for many people. What is important to the health and well being of every individual is that grief is expressed. The manner in which grief is expressed is far less important.
That being said…Do men and women express grief differently?
Elizabeth Harper Neeld, author of Seven Choices, offers this summary. “Researchers suggest there is what might be called a “male model” of grief and what might be called a “female model” of grief. But all women do not display the “female model”; and all men do not display the “male model.”
Historically speaking, men have been expected to keep their emotions in check and remain stoic following the death of a loved one; while women where granted more tolerance to grieve by expressing their emotions openly and crying in front of others. As traditional gender roles, professional and domestic, become far less rigid might we see more women restrain their grief and more men shed tears?
Individuals that are inclined toward the “male model” (they might be a man or a woman) work hard to avoid losing control in front of others, will keep grief to themselves, and refrain from asking for help. Other characteristics of this “male model” may include:
• feeling that they must remain strong
• tendency to mostly want to work things out on their own
• feeling their independence and autonomy are critical
• having a preference to “get on with life”
• keeping busy, involving themselves in work or other activities
• preferring time alone in order to heal
• way of healing may be less visible and more subtle
• grief is often connected more with the future than with the past
• more concerned for the grief of a spouse and family members
• expressing few feelings verbally
• demonstrating less intensity in their grief
• reporting less anxiety and depression
• expressing only anger and guilt outwardly
People, male or female, that demonstrate the “female model” of grief are more inclined to display grief to others, reach out to one or more persons around them, and to talk more openly about the loss. In addition, the characteristics of this “female model” may include:
• the feeling of being related or connected is of paramount importance,
• tendency to share what they are going through with friends and family
• tendency to look for others with similar experiences
• being more inclined to participate in a grief support group
• communicating thoughts and feelings with others
• verbally expressing their grief
• demonstrating more intensity in their grief
• reporting more anxiety and depression
• may have feelings of anger toward a “male model” partner for not sharing their grief
When individuals look to a spouse or other family members to share in the grief process, the differences between the “male” and “female” models of grief can become very apparent. The disparities of the coping styles can sometimes result in family members being unable to communicate effectively or support each other successfully. Neeld observed “Often when a husband and wife are grieving at the same time, one will think the other is not feeling the same depth of pain because the outward expressions are so different. Or two siblings may respond very differently to the death of an adult parent, causing one to criticize the other for not caring or not giving proper respect.”
No matter the gender, there is a response to grieving that holds serious ramifications…the unwillingness to express grief in any form. Repressed grief lasts much longer than acknowledged grief and can lead to complications. Persons that choose not to fully acknowledge the emotional loss and engage in the journey through grief may face a life plagued by illness, bitterness, anger, and lack of joy.
Individuals of both the “male” and female” grief models should strive for reconciliation. Bereaved individuals need to address the process of restructuring their life, changing personal or family goals, directions or relationships. Reconciliation is what occurs as a bereaved person works to incorporate the new reality of life without the physical presence of the person who has died. With reconciliation comes a renewed sense of energy and confidence and the ability to become re-involved in the activities of daily life.
If you know someone who is grieving (male or female) and might benefit from extra support, refer them to our website. There they can find grief support in a variety of forms, such as daily affirming emails, informative e-newsletters, and other resources. http://www.schoedinger.com/grief-and-healing/
Do you grieve like a Man or a Woman?