Grief is a human experience that presents itself differently in every single person. There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to feel grief, and while there are common stages of grief, they are not even necessarily linear.
But despite the unique complexities of individual grief, there are some common patterns that can be helpful to understand on your grief journey. One of these is the key differences that tend to emerge in the way men grieve and the way women grieve.
Learning more about how grief can look different for men and women can help you understand behavior in family members, friends, or coworkers who are grieving alongside you. If you and your spouse are both grieving the loss of a child, for example, your actions may differ even if you are feeling the same pain. A female friend may have different needs on her grief journey than a male friend.
There are no hard and fast rules around grieving, and none of these experiences are exclusive to one gender. But knowing more about how someone is processing their emotions can be deeply beneficial to your relationships. Here are some of the ways that grief can look different for men and women.
Many men have experienced cultural pressure to hold in their emotions. As a result, they sometimes struggle with being vulnerable.
Men may be more likely to:
- Turn inward rather than expressing themselves.
Rather than crying or talking, they may try to deal with their pain internally. IT may be difficult for them to take their walls down and discuss their grief openly.
- Feel a sense of personal failure.
Whether it’s a parent who feels they couldn’t protect their child, or a coworker who lost a partner in the line of duty, men sometimes place the burden of a circumstance outside of their control onto their shoulders.
- Want to move forward quickly rather than processing their emotions slowly.
- Try to manage their grief on their own instead of seeking out resources to help.
Women often seek opportunities to express themselves as a way to work through their grief. They often find comfort in discussing their feelings.
Women may be more likely to:
- Seek support and connection.
Instead of an eagerness to move forward and hold grief in, many women are looking for an opportunity to tell their stories in order to process their feelings.
- Feel isolated in their grief.
If their family members or friends have trouble communicating their feelings of grief and women do not have an opportunity to express themselves in conversation, they can feel deep loneliness.
- Focus on remembrance.
Many women seek opportunities to keep the memory of their lost loved one alive. They may feel a deeper sense of guilt about moving forward through time without their loved one.
While the grieving process definitely won’t look the same in every person, regardless of their gender, approaching conversations about grief with these commonalities in mind can help foster more empathy and understanding.
C.O.P.S. Arizona is dedicated to rebuilding shattered lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line of duty deaths. We offer programs and scholarships for survivors in our local Arizona chapter. For more information, visit https://www.copsarizona.org/.