Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.Learn More
Everyone grieves the loss of a child differently. Feelings may be similar— sadness, helplessness, anger — but the way they are processed and expressed can be very different from person to person. There are many factors that affect how a person experiences and expresses grief. Coping strategies, life experiences, communication styles, personality, and support systems can all influence individual responses.
Gender and cultural influences can also play a role in how people grieve. These factors shape how people process and express emotions. Although generalizations are not true for everyone, men and women often differ in their grief responses. However, whether a response is more common to a man or woman is not as important as recognizing and supporting individual differences. Accepting differences can help family members give one another space to grieve in their own ways.
Many men grow up feeling like they should hold in their emotions. For boys, crying might have been viewed as a sign of weakness. People who feel pressure to be strong and independent might try to limit outward displays of emotion or avoid talking about feelings.
During grief, men may be more likely to:
Men might try to cope through behaviors such as:
Women are more likely to express their feelings of grief with other people. They may be more willing to seek out connections and accept the help of others.
During grief, women may be more likely to:
Women may try to cope by:
There is no typical or “normal” grief response. It is common to have a variety of feelings and behaviors. For most people, some responses will be typical of gender. Others will not be. The important thing is that each person feels like their grief is accepted and supported by other family members.
Everyone needs support in grief regardless of how they grieve. After losing a child, family members need validation that their responses are normal. Each person tries to cope in his or her own way. But, families also need to find ways to connect and come together in their grief.
It can help to remember that:
A variety of 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.
Reviewed: June 2018