Helping men deal with grief and loss is particularly challenging. This is, in part, because extensive male socialization and training has taught men that they should bury those emotions, “suck it up,” or otherwise dismiss what they feel. This can cause a man to release his emotions in unhealthy ways such as sudden explosions of anger, abusive drinking, or controlling behavior in a relationship. Or, his grief may be expressed through what Terrence Real, a therapist and author, calls “covert depression.” In his book, “I Don’t Want to Talk about It,” Real says that a man can be depressed without appearing to be. He goes to work and he functions. But he’s irritable, discontented, and experiencing emotional pain that he may not even be aware of, much less talk about. His depression is under the radar.
In one of our men’s support groups, the subject of grief, sadness, and loss came up in discussion. One man spoke about his grief and loss and then said something that very much connected with others in the group. He said that even though he felt and expressed his loss; that he believed he was done with it and had finished the grieving he needed to do, the reality was just the opposite. The feelings were still there.
At the Men’s Resource Center we have found that men continue to feel vulnerable when expressing grief, sadness, or loss. Once they are able to access their grief, identify it, and express it, they want to get it done and over with. They resist the idea that grieving is a process that they need to be aware of and address until they are able to let it go. It is not a one-time event where they get in touch with the pain and cry and talk about it and it’s gone.
Healthy men acknowledge their emotions of grief, sadness, and loss. To not do so can impact their emotional well-being and relationships, ultimately leading to an unsatisfying life.
Through our men’s support groups, our EMDR Therapy and Hakomi Therapy programs, we help men express and work through their grief. They learn that grieving is often an ongoing reality – a process that may include denial, anger, hurt, sadness, and finally acceptance. More importantly, they come to trust that it is a process best addressed with the support of others, not in isolation.