I recently read an excellent article that discussed how men and women respond differently to grief caused by loss. According to the article, most of those who attend grief support groups are women. And, most who seek to discuss their feelings and connect about their experience are women as well. On the other hand, men, in general, respond to grief by wanting to “do something” rather than talk about their loss.
These are common themes we have experienced in our work at the Men’s Resource Center. Men have been socialized to be human doings rather than human beings. As men, “we do, therefore we are.” Men work, fix, problem solve, etc…, and tend not to focus on how they feel.
But men do feel. They feel the deep pain, hurt, and sadness of being told their spouse wants a divorce. Their hearts break when they are unable to see their children. Guilt and hurt pierces their souls when a trust or confidence has been broken. Just because a man’s response to grief isn’t easily apparent, doesn’t mean he is not experiencing grief. In fact, we have found that many men are actually hungry to deal with how they feel, to talk about their losses and their grief, if they are given the space in which to do so.
In helping men respond to grief, the Men’s Resource Center recognizes that men need movement, but they also need connection. Although male socialization helps men be independent, it is often at the cost of developing patterns of emotional isolation – the result of not being able to identify and express what they feel. But unresolved trauma from loss can impact emotional well-being and relationships.
Through our men’s support groups and trauma recovery programs, we have seen men open up to their emotions when given the chance in a nurturing and safe environment. In doing so, they have been able to grow in their capacity to not only share how they feel but also to empathize and have compassion toward the feelings of others. How men respond to grief can determine how they respond to the rest of their lives. Through its programs, the Men’s Resource Center helps put them on the path to emotional well-being.