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Gender Differences in the Grieving Process

Young couple turning away from each other

Men and women often differ in their grief responses.

Everyone grieves differently.

We may have some feelings in common. They include sadness, helplessness, and anger. But we process them in our own ways.

Many factors affect how you grieve. These include:

  • Life experiences
  • Communication styles
  • Personality
  • Support systems
  • Past family experiences with grief

Gender and culture can also play a role in how we grieve. They shape how we process and express emotions. Men and women often differ in how they grieve. But everyone’s experience is different.

How men often grieve

Many men grow up feeling like they should hold in their emotions. For boys, crying may have been viewed as a sign of weakness.

People who feel pressure to be strong and independent might limit displays of emotion or avoid talking about their feelings.

During grief, men may be more likely to:

  • Turn inward: They may be less likely to cry, express themselves, or discuss grief with others.
  • Avoid talking: Many men do not use conversation to process their loss.
  • Feel a sense of failure: Men may think they should have been able to protect their child from death.
  • Want to move past the loss: Men may want to avoid expressing pain.
  • Try to manage grief alone: Men may not turn to other people and resources.

Men may try to cope by:

  • Doing tasks or projects: Some men look for distraction or find release by exercising, doing manual labor, working in the yard, or doing other activities.
  • Taking control of family needs: Men may feel a responsibility to take care of family members after a child’s death. They may take charge of finances, plan the funeral, or do more household jobs.
  • Working more: Men may work more to increase the family’s economic security. Working may also distract from feelings of pain and loss.
  • Engaging in activities with others: Men may try to connect with loved ones by doing things together.
  • Isolating themselves: Some men may wish to be left alone as they grieve. They may express anger when they cannot be alone. They may avoid others because they fear losing control of their emotions.

How women often grieve

Women are more likely to express grief with others. They may seek out connections and accept help.

Women may be more likely to:

  • Feel isolated: Women may feel alone when other family members have trouble sharing how they feel.
  • Try to connect with others: Women may feel that talking helps the healing process.
  • Feel frustration with others’ inability to share grief: Women may feel angry or resentful when others cannot join them in working through their grief.

Women may try to cope by:

  • Talking about their grief: Women tend to process their feelings by speaking to friends and family about their loss. 
  • Seeking support: Women are more likely than men to seek help both outside and within the family during the grieving process.
  • Creating new social supports: As women process and express their grief, they may reach out to their social networks or create new ones. They may seek others who can understand their loss.
  • Questioning or blaming others: Some women may question their relationship with their partner or spouse if they are unable to share their grief and work through it together.
  • Expressing grief through writing: Women may find that reading and writing journals, stories, or books helps reduce the feelings of isolation.

There is no “normal” grief response. It is common to have many feelings and behaviors. The important thing is that each person feels like their grief is accepted and supported by other family members.

Grief support

Everyone needs support in grief. After losing a child, family members need to know their responses are normal. Families need to find ways to connect and come together in their grief.

It can help to remember that:

  • Expressing grief is important.
  • Listening to others may help you feel less alone and more normal in your own experience of grief. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
  • Each person needs to feel acknowledged and accepted.
  • One person cannot provide all the support another person needs.
  • Grief after losing a child is a lifelong journey. Your needs change as your grief changes.

Resources are available to help family members in their grief. Some people find it helpful to read books from authors with a similar grief perspective. Support groups can help people find connection and sense of belonging in grief. Professional help is also available.

Marriage and family counseling can be an important resource to help. Family members learn to accept differences in grieving and find ways to grieve together.

Key points about gender difference in grieving

  • Men and women often grieve differently.
  • Men are less likely to talk about grief and reach out to others for support. They are more likely to engage in work as a distraction or release.
  • Women are more likely to process grief through talking and reaching out to others.
  • There are many resources to help people who are grieving.
  • It is important that families find a way to connect and express their grief.
  • There is no “normal” response to the loss of a child.

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Reviewed: August 2023