Depending on cultural expectations, men may deal with grief more quietly and tend to keep their emotions to themselves. It doesn’t mean they don’t experience intense emotional pain like anyone else.
In some cultures, men tend to have more difficulty processing and expressing emotions. They may want to appear untouched by pain and provide emotional and physical support to others.
Talking with friends, staying active, and memorializing their loved ones can help men deal with grief in a healthy way.
Do men grieve differently?
Yes. Men and women may tend to process loss and grief differently.
“Men are more likely to put up a wall and respond in a stoic manner when faced with grief,” says Lori Ryland, licensed psychologist and chief clinical officer at Pinnacle Treatment Center.
The difference in how some men may deal with grief may come from lingering societal expectations. Across many cultures, men may still feel pressure to be strong and hold in emotion.
Not expressing their emotional pain may prolong men’s grieving process and make it a more isolating experience.
Grief as a personal journey
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. What you feel is valid and real and may not resemble how someone else grieves their losses.
Grief can look quiet and private, or it may be expressive and outward. How men choose to grieve is their personal choice. However, if influenced by social expectations, attempting to deal with grief in a way that doesn’t feel natural to you may prolong your pain and lead you to express it in ways that may not be healthy.
5 coping skills for grieving men
If you feel grief is overwhelming you, consider these tips to deal with it while healing.
1. Talking about it
Some men are taught that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness. This may translate into quiet grieving even when feeling the need to express the pain.
“[It] takes immense bravery to discuss vulnerable feelings of grief and loss,” says Alberto Pertusa, a London-based adult psychiatrist. “Although talking about it doesn’t bring the person back, it does help to process your emotions.”
And according to Ryland, “Connecting with your family and loved ones can strengthen your relationship[s].” These interactions also release endorphins, which may help you reduce stress and improve your mood.
2. Accepting help
Asking for what you need during grieving times isn’t rude or selfish. It doesn’t mean you are weak or that you can’t handle the situation.
“If you need help learning how to do a household chore, need help caring for an elderly parent, need help managing the kids, whatever it may be, say so and let people show up for you,” says Stephanie Crouch, a California-based licensed clinical social worker.
Implementing the circle of grief with your loved ones may help you feel safe venting out while receiving support and care while you mourn.
3. Memorializing your loved one
Some cultures use rituals to honor departed loved ones. These rituals can provide a sense of catharsis and closure that may help you heal your loss.
A study from 2021 that examined cultural mourning traditions showed that rituals help by giving the grief process structure.
“Sometimes it’s putting up a special photo, having a drink in their honor, or cook[ing] their favorite meal – whatever it may be that helps you remember them and feel close to them,” says Crouch.
Using art to deal with grief can also become a healing experience if you’re having a hard time. “Writing, painting, or playing music, expressing yourself through art can … help you healthily process your emotions,” says Harold Hong, a board certified psychiatrist in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Other examples of how men may use rituals to deal with grief include:
- writing a poem or metaphor to define the grieving experience
- speaking aloud or writing a letter to your loved one
- physical acts, such as lighting a candle, bringing flowers to their grave, or scattering their ashes
- planting a tree in their honor or with their ashes
- building a butterfly garden
- commissioning a piece of art
- making a quilt or another piece of clothing out of your loved one’s belongings
4. Scheduling activities
You may not feel like socializing or going outside when you’re grieving. But human contact may be soothing and help you deal with grief.
“While you may not feel like doing these things at first, your brain needs time off from thinking about [the loss] to reset,” Pertusa says.
- going to the gym or an exercise class
- meeting with friends
- watching a good movie
You may also want to meet with people who knew your loved one and exchange stories and anecdotes that help you remember good times.
5. Seeking professional support
Because some men prefer to deal with grief privately, seeking the support of a mental health professional may be the ideal way to express how they feel in a safe, non-judgmental space.
“[A therapist] can help you work through your emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms,” Hong says.
Possible hurtful ways to deal with grief
Some men may feel isolated and overwhelmed with grief, particularly if they don’t have an outlet and support for their pain. This may lead some people to engage in behaviors that could prolong or intensify the grieving process.
Consider skipping these:
1. Pushing down feelings
What you feel is valid and it’s OK saying you’re sad, angry, or however else you’re feeling.
“Burying our feelings doesn’t make them go away; it makes them [come] out in other areas of our lives in ways we may not want them to,” says Crouch.
Consider talking with relatives, friends, or a therapist about how you feel.
2. Substance use
Substances like alcohol may have a short-term numbing effect on the pain you feel. However, becoming dependent on alcohol to feel better may lead you to avoid processing your feelings and develop alcohol use disorder.
“Alcohol may cause more tension with the relationships you have,” says Crouch.
3. Getting into new relationships
A 2014 study in Canada found that men are three times more likely than women to remarry within 10 years after losing a spouse. Authors hypothesized this is connected to men’s tendency to avoid coping with grief.
Seeking romantic intimacy after a significant loss may help men feel less lonely in the short term, but it may also become an avoidant behavior when it comes to dealing with grief.
Crouch says there is no rule for when it’s healthy to start dating again after losing your partner. She recommends being mindful before committing to a new relationship, though.
“Take some time to assess the situation, how you’re feeling and what you’re actually looking to accomplish,” she says.
3 ways to help a man who is grieving
Because men deal with grief in different ways, supporting them may depend on their needs and situation. These tips may be a starting point:
“Support them by compassionately listening to what they are saying and actively imagining how they feel without interrupting them,” says Pertusa. “[This will] help them open up and be vulnerable without fear of judgment.”
While giving advice may come from a good place, it may not always be received well.
Instead, try active listening and asking open-ended questions that show you want to understand, such as “What do you find most difficult about your loss?” says Pertusa.
2. Offering help
Grieving people may find it more difficult to do everyday tasks like cooking, running errands, or making phone calls. Offering a helping hand with these can make a big difference.
“He may not actually know exactly what he needs right now, but checking in, and most importantly, following through with your offers is the most important thing you can do,” says Crouch.
3. Being patient
Some men may be less responsive or more agitated than usual when grieving.
“Despite intense pain and inner turmoil associated with the loss, men […] may present with either intense anger or restricted affect [during grief],” Ryland says.
Some people may misinterpret these behaviors as rejection or well-being. But try to remember that out-of-character behaviors during mourning aren’t personal and may be part of the difficulty some men have dealing with grief.
In some cultures, how men deal with grief may be directly linked to the role they play. Emotional expressions and requests for help may not be typical in men, which may make grieving an isolating and overwhelming experience for them.
Offering support, actively listening, and being patient may help a grieving man heal after a loss. They may also want to avoid engaging in substance use, suppressing feelings, and getting into a new relationship too soon.