Do women grieve differently to men? The answer is ‘yes and no’. Not that I’m sitting on the fence with this one, but I believe it’s not actually a gender thing. It’s a responsiveness thing (and I’ll explain what I mean by this).
No two people grieve the same and there is no ‘right’ way to grieve. If for example, you find it easy to express your emotions, then you’re more likely to show your grief through expressing emotion. The specifics about how we express grief, isn’t all that important.
So, is there gender difference when it comes to grief?
Research suggests that there may be a typical ‘female’ or ‘feminine’ model of grief – and likewise, a typical ‘male’ or ‘masculine’ model. This isn’t to say that all women exhibit the female model and all men exhibit the male model. As I said, it’s not a gender thing.
Phyllis Silverman, author and Harvard researcher (in the area of loss and male grieving), speaks of “learning to break away from the past.” She stated that women or men who display the male model, typically prefer to “get on with life and involve themselves in work or other activities”.
‘Female’ or ‘feminine’ grief (which can be displayed by men or women), places emphasis on connection and an increased likelihood to reach out and share their grief with others more openly. Whilst those more inclined to show ‘male’ or ‘masculine’ grief, tend to want to keep their journey private, be more stoic and are less likely to ask for help.
So, whilst in the ‘female’ model, feeling related or connected is of paramount importance, in the ‘male’ model feeling independent and autonomous is more evident.
Overall, it’s thought that men and women grieve consistently with their way of responding to life in general. I definitely handle things very differently from my husband because we express things differently. That being said, my sister and I also handled the death of our parents very differently. The fact that we are both female is irrelevant.
An interesting study….
A study (conducted by Alexis Versalle and Eugene McDowell) on the attitudes concerning gender and grief, investigated a sample of 106 men and women to understand their sympathy and appropriateness of attitude towards each other. They were asked at the start of the study to categorise themselves according to how they identify with their gender.
Results showed that female participants gave more sympathy to grieving people than males. But contrary to expectation (and get your head around this), participants did not give females more sympathy than males. Women did not give the most sympathy to other females; and men did not give other males the least sympathy.
Those who categorised themselves as ‘feminine’ or ‘gender-less’ gave more sympathy to grieving people than to those who categorised themselves as ‘masculine’.
Interesting stuff, eh?! It just goes to show how complex we are as human beings and therefore how our grief is far from simple. So how can we understand this concept of ‘female’ and ‘male’ grief in terms of everyday life?
Feminine and Masculine Grief.
I think the idea that grief can take on a ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ persona, is a much simpler way to look at this. There are women who grieve in ‘masculine’ ways, while some men may be more ‘feminine’ in their approach to grief.
The point is, determining whether you’re grieving in a ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ way can actually give you a “leg up” when it comes to the grieving process and coming to terms with your loss.
Grief is individual and is not to be generalised, but the ‘masculine’ or ‘male’ way of grieving is typically different from the ‘feminine’ or ‘female’ way of grieving. Therefore, the way in which you grieve can give you a clearer idea on how best to meet your needs and understand what support you need.
“Masculine grieving can be characterised by feeling invisible, misunderstood, and unwanted. In turn, this leaves the person grieving dealing with their grief by themselves, possibly because they’re fearful of being shamed while in a vulnerable condition. This type of grieving means the person experiencing it refuses to feel their grief and express it. Without dealing with the grief and moving past it, men (or women) can end up rejecting a critical part of their personal history”.
“People who grieve in a feminine way are more likely to share their feelings and express what they’re feeling openly. Unlike men, they’re more likely to seek out support and talk it through. Because they tend to be more emotional and actively work on dealing with their grief, they might deal with their grief more effectively, by processing it successfully”.
The article also goes on to describe the typical behaviours exhibited by ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ grievers. As I said before, if this resonates with you, it can help you to better understand your needs…
Common behaviours or signs of ‘masculine’ grieving can include the following:
- Keeping to themselves: Masculine grievers tends to keep to themselves and deal with their pain silently rather than talking about it. They often don’t want to appear weak before others so will deal with it on their own.
- Controlled: A male or masculine griever might feel the need to keep controlled rather than revealing their feelings and emotions.
- Get on with it: Someone who grieves in a masculine way might prefer to get on with it quickly.
- Fix it: The masculine griever might prefer focusing on “fixing it” by using their own resources. This approach has the grieving individual focused on problem solving, staying in control, and overcoming grief and emotions quickly.
Common behaviours or signs of ‘feminine’ grieving could include the following:
- Tell their story: Women who are grieving might tell their story over and over again to help process their feelings. This can help them come to terms with what they’re feeling, understand their emotions, and feel heard and supported.
- Feel their way through: Feminine grievers may talk to friends and loved ones about their emotions to feel their way through the grief. This can assist with understanding their emotions and deepening perspective.
- Seek support and connection: Rather than focusing on fixing it or problem solving, some women look for support as they gain perspective and understanding in working through their grief. The feminine approach might see you reaching out to people to share your thoughts and feelings.
- Remembrance: The female model of grieving could be focused on remembrance of the loved one and possibly a deeper feeling of guilt when moving on.
Grief is grief and I help you to work with it – regardless of your gender.
Wherever you are in your grief journey, I can step besides you and we’ll walk the rest of the way together. Whether your grief is triggered by loss of a loved one, a relationship ending or losing a job or career that was important to you, it makes no difference. Grief is grief and your feelings are totally valid. It doesn’t matter how recent or long ago your loss was – it’s what we do going forward that counts.
Are you ready? If so, ask for further information on grief and loss coaching.