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How Men and Women Grieve Differently

Experiencing loss and bereavement is an inevitable part of life, and losing a loved one can set off an intense period of sadness known as grief. While everyone has their own way of coping with grief and loss, a range of factors can contribute to how we grieve. One way to understand grief is to think of the grieving process within a masculine and feminine framework.

Understanding grief in terms of male and female ways of expression does not necessarily mean that all men will automatically subscribe to the male model and all women to the female model. What is important is that people are more likely to grieve in a manner that resembles their way of dealing with life in general.

As such, many women may grieve in somewhat masculine ways, while some men may be more feminine in their approach to grief. Determining whether you’re grieving in a masculine or feminine way can help you deal more effectively with the grieving process and come to terms of with your loss. 

Grief and loss

Humans are social beings and it’s natural for us to develop deep social and emotional connections with family members, loved ones, and friends. When we lose someone close to us, we enter a period of grieving. This can be deeply isolating, painful, and challenging.

Grief is deeply personal and cannot be easily generalised from person to person, but the masculine or male way of grieving tends to differ from the feminine or female way of grieving. Men can grieve in a feminine way and women can grieve in a masculine way.

Note that there’s no right way to grieve and neither the male nor female way is better than the other. However, which way you grieve can impact your needs, wants and expectations, so a deeper understanding can support you with healing and acceptance.

Masculine grieving

Masculine grieving can be characterised by feeling invisible, misunderstood, and unwanted. In turn, this leaves the person grieving dealing with their grief by themselves, possibly because they’re fearful of being shamed while in a vulnerable condition. This type of grieving means the person experiencing it refuses to feel their grief and express it. Without dealing with the grief and moving past it, men (or women) can end up rejecting a critical part of their personal history.

Common behaviours or signs of masculine grieving can include the following:

  • Keeping to themselves: Masculine grievers tends to keep to themselves and deal with their pain silently rather than talking about it. They often don’t want to appear weak before others so will deal with it on their own.
  • Controlled: A male or masculine griever might feel the need to keep controlled rather than revealing their feelings and emotions.
  • Get on with it: Someone who grieves in a masculine way might prefer to get on with it quickly.
  • Fix it: The masculine griever might prefer focusing on “fixing it” by using their own resources. This approach has the grieving individual focused on problem solving, staying in control, and overcoming grief and emotions quickly.

Feminine grieving

People who grieve in a feminine way are more likely to share their feelings and express what they’re feeling openly. Unlike men, they’re more likely to seek out support and talk it through. Because they tend to be more emotional and actively work on dealing with their grief, they might deal with their grief more effectively, by processing it successfully.

Common behaviours or signs of feminine grieving could include the following:

  • Tell their story: Women who are grieving might tell their story over and over again to help process their feelings. This can help them come to terms with what they’re feeling, understand their emotions, and feel heard and supported.
  • Feel their way through: Feminine grievers may talk to friends and loved ones about their emotions to feel their way through the grief. This can assist with understanding their emotions and deepening perspective.
  • Seek support and connection: Rather than focusing on fixing it or problem solving, some women look for support as they gain perspective and understanding in working through their grief. The feminine approach might see you reaching out to people to share your thoughts and feelings.
  • Remembrance: The female model of grieving could be focused on remembrance of the loved one and possibly a deeper feeling of guilt when moving on.

Interestingly, research shows females tend to be more sympathetic to people who are grieving, but people (men and women) on the whole do not tend to give more sympathy to grieving female figures compared with grieving male figures.

Getting support

If you’re less willing to express grief and get support during your grieving period, there could be an increased risk of you experiencing feelings like anger and bitterness, or even illness, substance abuse, and other physical symptoms. Regardless of your grieving style, recognise you can obtain support if you have lost a loved one.

Getting the right type of support can help you deal with your pain more effectively and eventually come to terms with your loss. It can give you the tools to help with expressing your grief and pain in a healthy way. Whether you grieve in a masculine way or in a feminine way, you can benefit from having the advice of an expert such as a psychologist, as opposed to trying to work through it alone.

The Centre for Human Potential offers loss, grief, and bereavement counselling by compassionate, qualified psychologists. If you have experienced a loss, we can help support you through the grieving period and beyond. Contact us today for more information or to book an appointment with one of our psychologists in Brisbane.

Lisa Kunde | CFHP
Lisa Kunde

Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).

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