Generally, men and women don’t respond to grief in the same ways. Here’s why men grieve about death, divorce, and other losses the way they do.
Masculine vis–Ãƒ –vis feminine response
What a woman might perceive as an unhealthy response is, in fact, a healthy one. A man’s behavior is typical of the masculine side: he is expressing his grief privately. The woman, however, grieves from the feminine side, by crying and talking with family and friends.
While women typically express and share their grief and look to the past, most men won’t verbalize their pain and often deny they are sad. During therapy, at first men get very angry, then the tears come. With women, the situation is reversed. first come the tears, then the anger.
Sometimes the anger is unhealthy. Men who experience deep grief are more likely to successfully commit suicide, while women tend to attempt it but fail
The biggest problem with therapy, is that it is “Shaped to be effective with women”. Talking and expressing emotions are difficult for most men because it is not in their nature to seek help. Boys won’t open up one on one, but they will talk while playing basketball.
Once men do start to talk, they are more willing to express anger than are women. Many times they’re also expressing a greater degree of guilt – they should have been able to do something about the situation. The idea that they should have been able to control the circumstances is typical of men, while women usually believe they can’t, so they are more open to help.
A ritual is a routine activity that helps people move from one state of mind to another. It is often a critical part of a man’s healing process. Sometimes men express their grief symbolically. Symbolic actions can include dedicating a game during a sporting event or building a memorial.
Men often get mixed signals when it comes to expressing grief. The message they receive growing up, is to take loss “Like a man”. When they reach adulthood, though, the messages become contradictory. Thus, men are criticized when they don’t grieve, and their masculinity is questioned when they do.
Biological differences also offer some insight into why men grieve the way they do. Compared with women, men have less prolactin, a hormone excreted by the pituitary gland, which is associated with emotional tears. Boys and girls have equal amounts until about age 12, then the level in boys plummets as testosterone levels rise.
In the brain, the corpus callosum (the band between the two hemispheres) is a link between emotions and words. In men, the connection appears to be slower, which means men take longer to process emotions.
Once both men and women understand that a mixture of their masculine and feminine sides are at work in the grieving process, perhaps they will be more willing to allow the people in their lives to grieve in their own ways.