When we are confronted with a problem that has no easy solution we may feel lost. When a women feels lost she will tend to look for help and ask for assistance. When a man feels lost he will tend to look for a map. Grief has no direct routes and is very unpredictable, so a map will be of little assistance.
Men and women grieve differently. Our society makes it very difficult for men to seek out assistance, and even harder to accept help in any form. Active problem-solving is a common male response to grief.
A grieving man is often overlooked. For an example - if their child dies, the man is often asked how his wife is doing. His grief is often overlooked and one will ask him how he is doing.
A man is supposed to be “the strong one.” He is supposed to be able to cope with everything even while grieving. Boys learn very quickly what behavior is considered inappropriate for males. We teach our boys at a young age, “Big boys don’t cry.” So boys are taught early in life to suppress any sad emotions.
Men often deal with their feelings by redirecting their energies - they may turn to extra work projects outside of the home, or turn to excessive use of alcohol or drugs. Using alcohol or drugs or becoming a work alcoholic will only compound the grieving process.
Men usually are expected to:
• remain emotionally and physically strong;
• they don’t ask for support or affection
• men shake hands, only women hug
• they are to remain rational and in control;
• they don’t cry or show emotion in public - Men are to provide for the family, women are to nurture.
Men often become involved in charity work after the death of their loved one. For example: If their child died of cancer - they may be very active in fund raising events with the cancer society. Men usually are very successful when doing this type of volunteer work. Such work is to be encouraged as it brings healing.
Men may have a difficult time with special occasions like holidays and other significant days such as the birthday of the person who died and the anniversary of the death. It is important to respect this time and allow the waves of grief to flow freely.
Men need to find other men to talk with. Men who are grieving need a listening ear. Maybe you can offer both activity and time for reflection. Ask him to play golf, or go fishing. Let him know that you really want to hear how he’s doing and how he’s feeling. In the context of these outdoor activities, he just might share some of his innermost thoughts.
Men’s support groups can be very helpful. Seeking counseling can be helpful for those who feel stuck in their grief.
Seeking professional help is a sign of courage and willingness to heal.
Margaret Anne Yost nursed for 35 years and journeyed with many clients who were dying. I completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Regina General Hospital. Returning back to school I completed classes from the Red River College in the areas of Gerontology, Bereavement, Death and Dying.
I was enrolled eight years in lay ministry training, and graduated as a (LPA) Lay Pastoral Assistant. For twelve years I worked in bereavement support at a funeral home. At present I am employed as an Interim Parish Worker at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Melville Sask. I also enjoy my role as homemaker and full time grandmother.
If you are grieving at this time and you would like to share your story or comment on what you have read, I may be reached at the following numbers 1-306-621-9877 (9am-5pm) or at my home 1-306-728-4744 (evenings) Comments and articles may also be forward to me by mail: Margaret Anne Yost, P.0. Box 554, Melville, Sask. S0A 2P0.