A male perspective on grief

My name is Max Rothbaum and I am an intern at the Christi Center.  I will be at the center through December of this year.  I am getting my masters in social work through the University of Southern California’s online program.  I feel fortunate to have this tremendous learning opportunity.  Although painful, exploring our own grief can be a rich spiritual experience.  Our perception of ourselves and the world is invariably changing during the grieving process.   Reflection is overwhelming, but can ultimately lead to spiritual enlightenment.  I spent a year volunteering for Hospice where I provided companionship for terminally ill adults.  This experience changed my life and inspired me to get more involved with grief work.

While I have some knowledge of grief on a professional level, I am familiar with grief on a personal one.  I lost my father on August 24th, 2011. The loss was devastating as my father was the most important person in my life.  It brings me tremendous joy to know that he touched the lives of so many people.  He was a psychologist at Tufts University for 30 years and a scholarship has since been created in his honor.  My father valued education and personal development and my family feels that a scholarship is an excellent way to honor his awesome legacy.

I have created a blog post that focuses on the uniqueness of male grief.  As the post highlights, men and women are fundamentally different.  They have different brains.  This is typically reflected in their different grieving styles.  In reading about male grief I have stumbled upon several articles I found very useful.  This blog post consists of my thoughts on these articles and male grief in general.  Men in our society are constantly fed messages about what it means to “be a man,” and these messages can be destructive.  They often discourage men from openly sharing feelings.  It is more socially acceptable for women to openly express feelings and show support.  As a result, men have a tendency to bottle up negative emotions.   These articles identify some existing negative stereotypes and the consequences of suppressing negative emotions.

If you know of an article or book pertaining to male grief that you found helpful, please feel free to share it in the comments.   I would like to know what you think of this blog! -Max

picture of author with his father and brother
Max Rothbaum (left) with his father and brother at Fenway Park

A Man’s Grief by Tom Golden

This article reminds us that men and women are fundamentally different.  Grief is incredibly complex and one must take this into consideration when going through the healing process or supporting someone going through the process

The article highlights the importance of being in touch with your thoughts and feelings and knowing what you need from others.  One must know themselves before they are able to recognize how others can be supportive.  While inner strength is valuable, it only takes someone so far.   Many believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  Asking for help shows you know what you need and value support from others.   There is nothing wrong with getting help.  We need others for emotional support, especially during difficult times.

Denial appears to be a very common response to loss of a loved one.  Losing a spouse or loved one can be overwhelming, particularly in the beginning stages when our entire world is turned upside down.

For anyone who has experienced a loss, they understand that emotions are all over the place.  They are often compared to a roller coaster.

Grief is not a phase but rather a lifelong struggle. However, traumatic events such as these can be an opportunity for personal growth.  This concept is usually impossible to grasp immediately after the loss.  This is certainly not to belittle the struggle of losing such an important person.  The author of this article illustrates this nicely:

                “Many times we have a sense that there is no way out of the situation, that the grief we are experiencing is never going to end.  Part of the significant grief is the feeling that the grief has become the only reality and will continue forever” (Golden)

Good things can come from bad experiences.  It does take a lot of work.

How Men Grieve by Deborah Mitchell

The article explains how men have a tendency to deny negative feelings.  I have experienced this to be true for the most part.  Lots of men seem to avoid expressing sadness.  Verbalizing feelings can be healing but it’s very important to grieve in a way that makes a person feel comfortable.  It’s critical a person communicates their needs to those around them.  Nobody knows you better than you, so it’s important to be assertive let others know what you do and do not want from others.  We all know people who want to help but simply “don’t get it.”

If you are grieving in such a way that brings you comfort and does not hurt anyone, it is probably best to continue using that strategy.  Spending time apart from family or friends can be helpful for some people during the grieving process.  If others do not receive this well, this is something that they need to personally work through.

Many people think that negative thoughts or emotions are bad and therefore not okay to share.  Negative emotions are human and sharing them with others can be very therapeutic.

People worry if men don’t cry, than they worry if men do.  Society gives men conflicting messages that influence a man’s notion of manhood. Men are criticized when they grieve and their masculinity is questioned when they do.

 

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