Men & Grief
How men process grief, is as varied and complex, as how women process grief. It is more common for men to handle things in a less emotional way than a woman, and often this can be interpreted as men not suffering with the bereavement, which means that they can be overlooked. It is important to recognise that just because a man does not talk about the loss, or has no outward display of emotion, that they can be suffering just as deeply as their partner.
There are seven stages of grief which are:
- Shock and Disbelief
- Acceptance or Hope
When you see a list of the stages of grief, it looks quite organised and systematic, however the reality is far from this. People often do not go from stage one to stage two to stage three, people can jump from one to seven to three to six, and visit each stage multiple times. Every persons grief is unique to them, and each person should be supported to work through the grieving process at their own pace.
Whether you are a man that is reading this, or someone who sees a man in need of support, and would like to get alongside them, know that overcoming or working through grief is a process with no quick fix solution. Understanding this will help as you start to come to terms with the loss.
Society over the decades has instilled an almost unspoken rule, that men should hold it all together, should be stoic in their role. The truth however, is that the inability to process and release emotion can have significant physical, emotion and mental implications. The need exists within each person to express their emotions, to lay them bare; then and only then can true healing take place. This means that for men as much as women, they need support.
When a woman goes through the loss of a baby, the immediate concern for most men, is the care of their spouse or partner. Taking care of their spouse or partner, ensuring they have everything they need, relieving as much external stress as possible…these are normal duties men will carry out in the aftermath of a loss, focusing on others not themselves.
It is normally over the coming weeks and months, that men find themselves starting to look inwards at their own emotions, and finding that they too are grieving. For some, the realisation that they are mortal, that they can cry, is a revelation, freeing them to start the healing process, where as some others find it too alien, and try to bury the emotions deep.
Key things to remember:
- It’s ok to express how you feel, verbalising is good
- It’s normal to feel traumatised and numbed by the experience
- People grieve at different rates, there is no right or wrong length of time
- If you have questions, ask, the Saying Goodbye team are here to support and advise
Here is a personal account of one mans story of baby loss:
No-one can prepare you for the loss of an unborn baby. When Susi fell pregnant with our first child she wasn’t yet my wife and had three children from her previous marriage while I had none. One day we had spontaneously decided to have a child together. It was at a time we were experiencing a whole lot of other stuff, the kind of stuff that makes life more difficult than need be.
When Susi became pregnant it was a wonderful and exciting time. For most people this is the most joyful news to share with the grandparents-to-be, but the news wasn’t exactly met with an outpouring of joy. I remember my mother-in-law telling Susi that she would have to break it to her father. I got the impression that it wouldn’t be met as good news by him either.
In the event we were spared this by a more tragic event. Our unborn baby was miscarried. It was really hard to come to terms with this loss, after all, there was no outwardly visible evidence of a pregnancy, it was early on. I felt really useless. There was nothing I could do to make the situation better, no words that could adequately comfort Susi and nothing that I could do to make it better. My mother-in-law stated that it was probably for the best.
We waited for a while and tried again. We must have been due major sponsorship by this time from the leading maker of pregnancy kits – we were buying them on an industrial scale, examining each test with a near forensic scrutiny. This time Susi had got further into her pregnancy, but with that natural intuition unique to mothers felt that something was wrong and we visited the local hospital. After several nurses telling us that their pregnancy kits were better than ours and that Susi wasn’t pregnant a very thorough doctor took a blood test and confirmed that she was.
I can still remember the exact moment we lost our second child.
We had guessed that she would be a girl and had even given her a name. It was a Saturday the 18th of August to be precise and we’d popped out to watch a cricket match. Mid-way through the afternoon Susi went to use the toilets and came back to our seats. She had turned very white and her face etched with worry and pain. I knew that something was seriously wrong. She told me that she had been spotting with blood and we drove straight home to her parents’ house where we were staying. They were out and Susi went straight to the toilet. She came back crying. Our baby had gone.
When we returned to the doctor, our loss was confirmed with cold, clinical bluntness and we were sent on our way. This was perhaps the kicker; we had suffered a loss beyond any comprehension, unless you too have felt that loss, but there was nothing else, no words of consolation, no comfort, no help, and no support.
Again, we had to tell our parents that we had lost a child. This time it was my turn to suffer the cold side of a parent when my mother asked, “Another one? What is the matter with that girl?” If I hadn’t been so devastated I’d have felt a lot angrier than I do writing it now. No comfort there then.
This time the pain, loss and overall feeling of utter uselessness was magnified a thousand fold. For me, rather selfishly it was far worse than the first time. I couldn’t comprehend how much worse it must been for Susi. All I could do was cuddle her and try to comfort her; my words and actions terribly inadequate. To make it worse there was no-one to comfort me; Susi would normally fill that role and being a bloke, well we just plod manfully on don’t we?
The story doesn’t end there; we tried again and in July 2002 our daughter Paige came into the world, to me this bright red, screaming bundle of joy was the most perfect gift.
Looking back now, I wish that I hadn’t been such a ‘man’ about it and had gone to seek some counselling, a manful chat down the pub with a mate or a talk with my parents. Being quite a loner I kept it to myself, I didn’t trust my parents to give me any constructive help and counselling, well that’s for people who really need it. The trouble is, I now realise that I needed someone to talk to.