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David Baxter

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How Men Grieve
September 12, 2002
by Colin Allen, Psychology Today

Male grief is often conveyed differently than in females. Neil Chethik, the author of Fatherloss, discusses a study on how males deal with father loss. grief, loss, death, bereavement, coping

The conventional wisdom on grief: Face what bothers you, talk about it, cry about it. Otherwise, you could fall into denial, something worse than grief itself.

Men don't always do that.

"I think that there is a great misunderstanding about how men deal with loss," says Neil Chethik, author of the book, Fatherloss. "I found that men grieve but they did it in a way that does not look like grieving. When we don't have access to tears, we can find others ways to express that energy."

The book details a national survey done by the University of Kentucky that asked how males dealt with the loss of their fathers. Many studies on grief have used a disproportionate number of women, neglecting males and the ways they deal with loss. Men do grieve, but they generally do so in a different manner.

"While women seem to grieve more through talking and crying, men grieve through thinking and acting," says Chethik. The survey finds that most men choose to grieve their fathers' death through action, such as continuing their fathers' hobbies. This bereavement process is slower and more gradual, but it does effectively resolve grief.

Neither form of grief is better than the other, reminds Chethik. Other studies have found that men and women cope with loss with equal degrees of success.
 

adultorphan

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I like the insight on grieving through "active reminders" such as the hobbies that were mentioned plus old photos, memorials, reminescence or continuing in an activity that father and son once used to do together.
 

David Baxter

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Yes. I like the concept of "legacy", too... trying to focus on the person's life instead of his or her death, and trying to create a living legacy to that person -- not necessarily something concrete or tangible, although it can be that too, but perhaps more in how you live your life, trying to do it in a way which honors what the person stood for and believed in and taught you.
 

adultorphan

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Yes, I guess there are all sorts of ways to remember and pay homage to a person in order to still feel connected to that person.

Oddly enough, I think rebellion can serve this purpose also. I've heard a lot of people (myself included) say, "I don't want to be like my dad" or mom or whomever and live their lives in a kind of rebellion against their parents.

I think even through this rebellion, it can keep the rememberances and connection alive even when your loved one is gone. At least it does for me. I will do something I know my parent didn't approve of and I remember to old conflict in a kind of nostalgic, missing you kind of way.
 

David Baxter

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That's also true, adultorphan: as an old joke says, "a bad example is still an example".
 

stargazer

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It's been over two years since Mom died, and I really didn't consciously think about her much at all until about four months ago. Since then, I've come into more frequent contact with my older sister, 16 years my senior, whom I never really knew very well. Now, I am finding that I see in my sister similarities to my mother, and if I don't watch out, I tend to call her too frequently, or for frivolous reasons, which concerns me that I might be beginning to "lean" on her the way I leaned to heavily on my Mom. What does anyone make of this?
 

David Baxter

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Your sister is part of your mother's legacy, as are you. It's not necessarily a sign of dependency. Perhaps it's just trying to get closer to the memory and legacy of your mother.
 

stargazer

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It does help to view this in terms of legacy, rather than dependency. Also, perhaps both my sister and I are enjoying in each other certain personality traits that remind us of our our mutual mother, whom we both miss so much. So the new friendship may be helping each of us to cope with her loss.

And on another level, it's rather a nice thing to be forming a friendship with my sister, for the first time in my life. As she is 16 years my senior, we didn't grow up together, and it's interesting for us to finally discover how much we have in common. I just want to make sure that we don't get into some kind of surrogate mother-son role relationship, as that would result in weirdness of some sort.
 

ThatLady

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Fatherloss is a great book! It really puts things into perspective in a way that anyone can understand and with which anyone can identify. It's a must read for those who have lost someone dear.

Most men do, in fact, grieve differently than most women. However, it should not be forgotten that there ARE exceptions. I'm a male-type griever; although, I'm definitely female. In my work, I've often encountered men who need to cry and talk it out, just as one would expect a woman to do. These are not effeminate men, but their grieving process is not like that of the majority of men, just as my grieving process is not like that of most women. In short, we're each individuals.

The concept of legacy is a powerful healer for many. If one can simply grasp the value of honoring the best of the memories and putting the rest aside, one can find the peace beyond the grief of loss. Sharing with siblings is a wonderful way to do this after the loss of a parent. Through exchaging memories, you'll find new aspects to the relationship you had with your deceased loved one...some of which you might never have recognized without the focus of another person's viewpoint. By continuing a collection, or celebrating a specially remembered day, whether with a sibling or with friends or other relatives, you can commemorate the life of your lost loved one rather than losing yourself in the matters of death. That's a very freeing experience, once you get the hang of it. :)
 

stargazer

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What's still blowing my mind is that more and more, I find myself flashing on something my mother did or said, and it's almost as though her spirit is guiding and comforting me. But this is a new phenomenon. It was almost two years after her death before I was able to think about her at all. I wonder if it was because her passing was so painful I couldn't face it?
 

momof5

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I think, IMO at least, that most men have trouble wtih all emotional expressions.

I don't know about other men, but my husband has always had trouble relating to our children. He really doesn't know how to have a conversation with them, other then to talk work with my next to the oldest who works in the same construction field. Otherwise he is at a loss in a converstaiont with them.

Though if it comes to politics, he is strictly democratic, and if anyone chats with him in that area it becomes an arguement if they aren't following his believe system and how he thinks they should believe. Which is the same as him because he is right about anything.

Heh, Joke:

If a man speaks in a forest and there isn't any women to hear him speak, is he still wrong? :-D

My 12 year old told me that one! roflmbo
 

David Baxter

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stargazer said:
What's still blowing my mind is that more and more, I find myself flashing on something my mother did or said, and it's almost as though her spirit is guiding and comforting me.? But this is a new phenomenon.? It was almost two years after her death before I was able to think about her at all.? I wonder if it was because her passing was so painful I couldn't face it??
I have also experienced this many times, stargazer. I do think initially the grief is so intense and so painful that the mind often does go into automatic defense mode until we are strong enough to open the door up a bit...
 

stargazer

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I think that's pretty much what happened.? It was too painful to look at, and my defense mechanisms kicked into high gear in order to help me to function.? Also (as I might have mentioned earlier) I was directing a Rodgers-and-Hammerstein revue at a private school, and we were nearing the Opening, and there was no way I could pull out.? I think I was sort of stuck in defense mode, and I found I couldn't focus on grieving, even during the break.
 

momof5

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David, I think we all grive some people in drastic ways, if man or woman.

I watched the movie Ghost the other night, not the first time, and each time I watch it at certain points of the movie I have to get up and leave the room because it makes me think so much of kenny. You would think since he died in 1980, I would be over it by now, but I still get giant tears when I think about him. Times I still sob over his death.

I ran into his parents in the store one day, it wasn't easy, we left each other in tears. I know where he is burried now, but can't bring myself to go to his grave. It still hurts so badly.

Does that mean that I havne't faced his death? I don't think so, I think it is just that I loved him so much that part of me did die with him.

I think we can face someones death, but love them so much, that the grieving can just be too much at times for us to handle.? :-(
 

momof5

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I think a more appropriate gesture on her part would have been to congratulate me for a job well done, rather than all of a sudden to get personal with me. Anyone under the circumstances, trying to direct a show while dealing with the complex family issues that always surround the death of a loved one, not to mention his own heart, would have been a little bit stressed. I didn't need a reprimand for it, and she could have been a lot more sympathetic.
You are so right about this part.

btw, I am sorry for the loss of your mom, from how you speak of her, I'm sure she was a wonderful person. You have my prayers getting through this.

I know it will be tough on my husband when he loses his parents as they are his life. He listens to them more then to me, always has.
 

stargazer

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Perhaps I was right about that one part, but the resentment in general didn't do me any good. (Resentments never do, in my opinion.) And thanks for expressing the condolences. I was a little closer to my Mom than was healthy, and I depended on her psychologically and emotionally more than I knew. Of course, I was unmarried, so there wasn't the aspect of listening more to a parent than a spouse, which I would think is inappropriate, though common.
 

momof5

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I have always worried about my oldest being really close to me. He was always trying to get me to move to california so that he could take care of me. He is a good kid, and a marine.

He now, finally has a girlfriend. She sounds wonderful, and is a bit like him, if not more so. Meaning that he is very organized, nothing out of place type of person, a perfectionist.

I'm anxious to meet the girl who managed to steal his heart. He always told me that he did not have time for a girlfriend, and never would, lol. I told him when the right one came along, he would not think like that. So am so anxious to meet her. I have seen photos and they look very happy and both are in the marines, and very much into making a career out of it.
 

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