Men traditionally find grief as a vulnerability. From an evolutionary standpoint, men must be strong and a source of protection for the family. This physical stereotype has led to an emotional abandonment of displaying grief among many men. The right way to grieve for men has been handed down through generations with ideas that “real men do not cry”, or that crying is a sign of weakness. This “John Wayne” type persona has dominated Western thought regarding social images of men.
Men have been taught to hold in their grief and grieve alone in solace. They have been shamed when tears are shown and called weak if they displayed sadness. Many men have not been able to grieve in healthy ways hence emotionally stunted their recovery from loss.
Individuals grieve differently. Some may not wish to express emotion but to simply repress emotion based upon a stereotype can be emotionally damaging.
Instead of slogans that “real men do not cry”, many have pushed that true strength is a man who can show tears and emotion. Weeping over loss is not a female only right, but also a human right. While cultures and society may create images of how men should grieve through cultural rites or movies, men need to become that grieving and weakness and are not correlated. Grieving is a natural process that everyone endures and expressing grief makes no man any less a man than the next.
The article, “How Men Grieve” by Jackson Rainer takes a deeper look into how men grieve and social perspectives surrounding it. He states,
“Men tend to lean toward the instrumental expression of grief, orienting to emotional control, a disinclination to talk about matters of the heart, to default into solitude rather than connection and to focus on action more than talk. I fall squarely in this masculine camp.”
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The article does an excellent job in explaining how men grieve instrumentally, or through physical and cognitive ways, while women are taught to grieve intuitively through emotion. While both ways are equal processes of grief, the danger arises when individual grievers are socially assigned a proper way to grieve simply based on their gender. Boys and girls are taught the right way to grieve and see sometimes bad examples of grief behavior in both women and men. These bad grief behaviors later translate to future problems for the children when they reach adulthood.
To learn more about grieving or if you would like to become a certified grief counselor, then please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.