Grieving the death of a loved one is a difficult thing for anyone, no matter their gender. Because of socialization and cultural norms, many men experience grief in a particular way. Compared to women, men tend to grieve in isolation and silence.
A man’s cultural background and family upbringing have a lot to do with how he responds to difficult life situations and handles his grief. A lot of men don’t share their own grief to avoid adding to the emotional burden of others. Some men, especially fathers, may feel pressured to stay strong for their partner, children, or family members.
No matter what your personal history is, here are seven tips for moving through grief as a man.
Express your grief your way.
It’s important to express painful emotions rather than stifle them. Holding onto painful feelings can lead to physical ailments and poor overall health. From a young age, many men are encouraged to avoid vulnerability and remain unfazed in the face of difficulty and pain, both physical and emotional. For easier access to your feelings, write down your thoughts in a grief journal. Don’t be afraid to explore uncomfortable thoughts and emotions and try not to dismiss the complexity of your grief.
Reach out for support.
Society’s pressure on men to be perceived as strong, masculine, and self-reliant makes it difficult for them to ask for help when they need it, but grief often requires reaching out to others for support. Grief support can look different for everyone, depending on their needs and preferences. Maybe it’s a professional therapist, an in-person therapy group, or a grief support Facebook group. Perhaps you have a male friend who has faced a similar loss in their life. Surrounding yourself with people who understand what you’re experiencing can be healing and helpful.
Notice when you’re avoiding your grief.
After they lose a loved one, some men might find themselves slipping into hyperactivity to avoid feeling the deeper emotions of grief. Though staying physically active can stabilize your mood, be sure not to overdo exercise or another task to keep yourself from facing the fullness of your grief. Try to also be aware of when you switch into overly positive thoughts as a way of intellectualizing your grief and feeling better sooner. Remember: There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
To be sure you’re getting enough rest, try setting a regular sleep schedule and exercising a few days a week, even if it’s just a quick walk around the neighborhood. Do your best to avoid drinking too much alcohol or indulging in harmful substances, as the effects can be compounded during a time of grieving.
Write up a to-do list.
Forgetfulness is common among those who are grieving. To stay on task, write up a daily to-do list. Even if its contents are as simple as “grocery shopping,” “yard work,” and “post office,” a list can provide some direction and guidance for your day; something that grief often overshadows.
Get involved in a project.
For some men in the midst of grief, it can be helpful to throw themselves into a project related to their loved one. Perhaps you plant a tree in their honor or redesign a room in your home to reflect their design taste. No matter what activity you decide to do, it may help you put a more positive spin on your grief and feel more connected to your loved one.
Reconnecting with your social network can protect you from the isolation that so often occurs as a result of deep grief. Arrange to meet a friend for coffee or lunch. Attend a workout class at the gym. Make plans to do whatever makes you feel connected and energized. On the flip side, try not to make any major decisions or life changes such as moving or quitting your job. Grief and intense sadness cloud our judgment and practical thinking skills.
It’s common to experience a mix of emotions while grieving the loss of a loved one. If you find yourself feeling angry, irritable, numb, or withdrawn, honor your feelings and remember that there is no set timeline for grief.