Adult Grief After a Traumatic Death

Unique Components of Male Grief Men tend to express grief by: • keeping busy, holding things together, and working more hours • being concerned for grieving family members • believing someone must be punished for the death • showing less intensity in their grief

• hiding anxiety and depression • expressing few feelings out loud

A change in self-identity can be especially problematic for men, such as going from a husband to a single man; from a father to a childless man; or from a brother to an only child. Men tend to assume full responsibility for their bereavement, almost as if mourning were an illness they need to “get over” as soon as they can. As children, boys are taught to consciously suppress pain and grief. Then, as men, their painful feelings continue to be unconsciously repressed. Repressed grief lasts much longer than acknowledged grief and can lead to complications. For many men, the longer their grief remains repressed, the more reluctant they are to allow it to surface. They know how deep the pain will go if they allow themselves to feel it. Men often find themselves in the role of the protector and provider for their loved ones. Sharing feelings, weeping and talking about what happened over and over may not feel empowering to men. Men may keep their thoughts and feelings about the death to themselves. Not saying anything, or saying very little, protects them from the “appearance of being weak” by expressing their feelings. Their silence is often interpreted by others as withdrawal, mysteriousness, defensiveness, or even lack of caring about the death of their loved one. “Doing something” seems to help men more than simply talking about it. Physical challenges, such as tracking down the prior convictions of the substance impaired driver, filing a lawsuit or helping collect evidence for the criminal case, can be very useful for men because it puts them in control, at least for the moment.

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