Death cannot take away what you own deep within your heart.
Women and men can grieve differently
Grief is our natural in-built response to loss.
When our world suddenly changes overnight, we need to learn to navigate and adapt to this new situation, a new kind of reality.
Grief is a process that affects everyone differently. We all find ourselves on a different path through it, going through varying stages of intensity and over different periods and lengths of time. Everyone’s journey is personal and unique. We might experience physical symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing or trouble sleeping. We also experience emotional pain – anger, rage, powerlessness – as well as a range of other emotions, for example relief and gratefulness.
Many people can feel isolated and alone in their grief – ignored, misunderstood or not taken serious by their friends and family.
It is often difficult for someone else to really understand the gut-wrenching pain and emotional maelstrom we suffer. Every person grieves differently. Every person’s grief is valid and should be accepted and respected. All our paths might be different, but we can walk alongside each other and be there for each other as we traverse the many valleys and hills on our journey.
Women and men might grieve differently based on gender-specific expectations and experiences growing up, and differences in hormone levels.
Differences in grief
Men can often feel that they are not allowed to cry, especially not in public. Many might have not been taught or encouraged to speak about their thoughts and feelings as children and adolescents. Rather, they feel it is expected of them (often unnecessarily) to be strong and take on the role of the protector in a relationship. They might find it difficult to talk about the loss of their child with family members or close friends because they don’t have a blueprint for how to or what to do. Men need to and are allowed to grieve, cry and show vulnerability – just like everyone else. Grief can also have an impact on a couple’s sexual relationship, and it is not always easy to understand why the partner has different needs for intimacy or distance.
Women often feel more able to cry, sometimes also in public. For many women, tears can also be accompanied by feelings of shame for showing vulnerability and not being strong enough. Some women find it helpful to talk, some prefer to be alone.
Either is valid, either is important.
Some find solace in lighting candles, visiting the grave or seeking support from bereavement groups.
Both partners need
- A social support system they can reach out to
- Understand their partner’s grief and their needs
- Feel secure in who they are
- Look after their health, e.g. eat healthy food
- Space for themselves
- People they can talk to
- Be active and get fresh air
- Daily routines
- Their own philosophy on life, something they can hold on to, something that gives them hope
Bereavement counselling is an option that is available for couples to do together. Even if one partner might feel more reluctant, only going along to “support their partner”, it can be helpful for both. It is important to make space and time, to find a place where you can openly talk about everything in order to support each other through this difficult experience – and mourn together.