Loss, Grief, and Manliness: What Every Man Should Know about Losing a Loved One

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 4, 2009 · 48 comments

in Relationships & Family

griefSource: Life

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Brian Burnham. Mr. Burhham holds a Masters of Education in Counseling from the College of William and Mary and is an In-Home Therapist for the Hampton-Newport News CSB.

In the beginning of February 2009, I was just entering my last semester in my Masters program for counseling when after a brief illness, my father died.  I had thought of myself as a well put together guy: at the top of my class, with a fiancée and strong prospects for the future, but this put me into a complete tailspin.  I swung from fits of intense rage, to depths of deep depression, to cold and distant numbness.  What made matters even worse was that I had no clue what was happening to me, and my classmates and mentors, despite being in the counseling field, seemed just as bewildered.  What was happening to me was grief, and like many men in our society, I was woefully unprepared for it.

Unfortunately, the death of a loved one is something that everyone will experience at some point in their life.  Modern American society, however, does little to prepare us for the inevitable loss of a loved one.  We need only look at our TV commercials with their emphasis on staying young and healthy in the hope of living forever to see that we live in a culture that prefers not to think about or even acknowledge the existence of death. ((Santrock, J. (2008). A Topical Approach to Lifespan Development, New York, NY.: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.)) This is why when the death of a loved one does occur, many men do not understand the experiences they are having and how grief is affecting them.  So in an effort to better understand my own experience and to help my fellow men, I’ve put together some research on the way men experience and cope with grief.

Symptoms of Grief in Men

Research shows that after a loss men experience greater changes in mood than do women and experience more consequences for their physical health. ((Stroebe, M., Stroebe, W., & Schut, H. (2001). Gender differences in adjustment to bereavement: An empirical and theoretical review. Review of General Psychology, 5(1), 62-83.)) However, we tend not to associate typical grief symptoms such as sadness and crying, depressed mood, and a sense of hopelessness with men or manliness. While men do experience these “typical” symptoms of grief, they may display less of them. This is due at least in part to the fact that there are a number of symptoms that are common in men but relatively rare in women, giving the male experience of grief a unique character. ((Cochran, S., & Rabinowitz, F. (2003). Gender-sensitive recommendations for assessment and treatment of depression in men. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34(2),132-140.)) These symptoms include:

  • Anger: often directed at someone or something seen as responsible for the loss, but sometimes directed at the self or at nothing in particular.
  • Irritability: grieving men may be easily irritated and annoyed and may overreact to small annoyances.
  • Withdrawal: grieving men may withdraw from social contact as well as withdraw emotionally, experiencing an emotional numbness.
  • Rumination: persistent thinking about the deceased or death in general.
  • Substance Abuse: grieving men may attempt to cope by abusing alcohol or other drugs.

It’s possible for a grieving man to display any and all of the gender specific symptoms described above and relatively few of the typical symptoms.  This can cause anxiety in some men because they feel like they’re “not grieving enough” or “not grieving the right way” and confusion in those around them who don’t understand why the grieving man is reacting the way that he is. However, the way men grieve will vary widely from man to man and what they are experiencing is normal.

The length of the grieving process will also vary widely from man to man.  While most HR departments only grant 3 days bereavement leave, if they give it at all, grieving typically takes much longer.  Two months is considered the “standard” length of symptoms after which a person should be evaluated for more serious problems. ((American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed. Text Revesion). Arlington, VA.)) However, recent research suggests that the process may be much longer and that even well adjusted men may still have some mild symptoms, such as sadness on the anniversary of the deceased’s passing, as much as twenty years later. ((Carnelley, K., Wortman, C., Bolger, N., & Burke, C. (2006). The time course of grief reactions to spousal loss: Evidence from a national probability sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 476-492.)) The important fact to remember is that every man will grieve at his own pace and should not worry about “being over it by now.”

The degree of symptoms men experience will also vary widely.  Research has shown that some men experience resiliency and experience only mild symptoms of grief for a short period, while others experience much stronger symptoms for a longer period. ((Bonnan, G., Wortman, C., Lehman, D., Tweed, R., Haring, M., Sonnega, J., Carr, D., & Nesse, R. (2002). Reselience to loss and chronic grief: A prospective study from preloss to 18-months postloss. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1150-1164.)) Surprisingly, research shows that the intensity of symptoms is not related to the quality of relationship the grieving person had with the deceased.  Men who had a difficult relationship with their wives ((Bonnan, G., Wortman, C., Lehman, D., Tweed, R., Haring, M., Sonnega, J., Carr, D., & Nesse, R. (2002). Reselience to loss and chronic grief: A prospective study from preloss to 18-months postloss. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1150-1164.))and fathers ((Veerman, D., & Barton, B. (2003). When Your Father Dies: How a Man Deals with the Loss of His Father. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing)) were just as likely to experience prolonged and intense grief at their deaths as those that had good relationships with them.

How Men Cope

Now that we have a sense of what grief is like for men, the inevitable question is “What do we do about it?”  Most men deal with grief using the same strategies that they use to deal with everything else, by controlling their emotions and relying on their own internal strengths. Men therefore do not respond well when asked to do “grief work” which typically involves talking about the emotions associated with the loss. ((Mahalik, J. (1999). Incorporating a gender role strain perspective in assessing and treating men’s cognitive distortions. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30, 333-340.)) Research supports this, showing that emotional expression does not lead to reduced grief symptoms in either men or women. ((Stroebe, M., Stroebe, W., Schut, H. Zech, E., & van den Bout, J. (2002). Does disclosure of emotions facilitate recovery from bereavement? Evidence from two prospective studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(1), 169-178.))  However, simply avoiding thinking about the loss is not helpful either. ((Bonanno, G., Papa, A., Lalande, K., Zhang, N., & Noll, J. (2005) Grief processing and deliberate grief avoidance: A prospective comparison of bereaved spouses and parents in the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(1), 86-98.)) According to research, those who coped with a loss most effectively were those that alternated between “loss oriented coping” which involves thinking about the loss and what it means for the person and “restoration oriented coping” which includes planning for the future and problem solving. ((Stroebe, M., Stroebe, W., & Schut, H. (2001). Gender differences in adjustment to bereavement: An empirical and theoretical review. Review of General Psychology, 5(1), 62-83.))

Since men tend to be planers and problem solvers, restoration oriented coping often comes naturally to the grieving man. But a grieving man also needs to address issues and emotions associated with the loss itself.  Often these issues will challenge the grieving man’s identity and sense of masculinity. Coming to terms with these challenges, ((Mahalik, J. (1999). Incorporating a gender role strain perspective in assessing and treating men’s cognitive distortions. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 30, 333-340.)) as well as resolving regrets related to the deceased ((Torges, C., Stewart, A., & Nolen-Hoecksema, S. (2008). Regret resolution, aging, and adapting to loss. Psychology and Aging, 23(1), 169-180.)) are all part of a man’s long term coping with loss.

While every man’s experience of grief and coping style will vary, there are some things that all men who are grieving have in common and so the following tips are presented for those men who are grieving and those that are trying to help them.

Tips for the Grieving Man

Experience your grief in your own way. As long as you are not harming yourself or others, there is no wrong way to grieve.  Grief is a unique experience for every man and the way you grieve may not be what others expect or what you expected for yourself.  Permitting yourself to honestly experience grief is an important step towards healing.

Give yourself time to grieve. After the passing of a loved one, there are often many arrangements to be made and others mourners to be supported and cared for.  While no man wants to shirk his duty, it is important to allow time for yourself to grieve as well.

Watch out for harmful behaviors. While experiencing anger is normal, it is important to manage that anger so that it doesn’t harm others.  Also, grieving men are much more likely to develop problems with alcohol or other substances.  Their use should be carefully monitored.

Call on your man friends. Other men, especially other men who have had a similar loss, can be some of your strongest sources of support.

Know when to seek help. For most grieving men, psychological counseling may be helpful but is not necessary. However, if you experience serious thoughts of suicide or self-harm or develop an alcohol or other drug problem, seek psychological care immediately.

Tips for Helping a Grieving Man

Be there. Simply knowing that you are available to support him has a positive impact on a grieving man.  Even if you think it goes without saying, make it a point to tell him that you are available and willing to help.

Listen. A grieving man may or may not want to talk about his experiences.  If he does, listen openly.  Generally, the less you talk the better.  Avoid giving advice or problem solving unless asked.

Allow him to experience his grief his way. Don’t set timetables for his grief or expect him to grieve in a certain way.  Follow his lead in how you can help.

Take care of yourself. Seeing a friend in the depths of grief is difficult and takes its toll mentally.  Make sure to provide for your own care so that you have the energy required to help your friend.

Know when to seek help. Most men will proceed through the grieving process without need for psychological counseling, however, if your friend threatens or attempts suicide, harms or threatens to harm themselves or others, or develops an alcohol or drug problem, advise them to seek psychological care immediately.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 A. J. August 4, 2009 at 1:05 am

You may want to add this to your list above. It helped me verbalize what I was feeling when my dad died . . . Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.

2 Torrey August 4, 2009 at 1:34 am

This is a great post. We can put on a front that we can not be vulnerable and allow ourselves to grieve. But we have to put aside our ego and let ourselves go through the process.

As this is something that we all will experience at some point, the information you’ve listed in the article are things we can use when that time comes

3 Bob Iger August 4, 2009 at 2:51 am

Very good points were made in this article. Indeed, men do not know anymore how to cope with the loss of a loved one. Great article!

4 Cowboy Bob August 4, 2009 at 6:43 am

I had a double whammy. My oldest brother died before Christmas (because of timing and weather conditions, I could not attend the service, adding insult to injury).

Then, my father died in February. We had an awkward relationship, so I was full of conflicting emotions. Some of it was anger at myself for not being a good enough son, others were anger at him for his own human failings.

Just like when my mother died a few years previously, I dived in. Embraced the feelings. Looked at the pictures. Told the memories. Made Weblog entries like this one http://tinyurl.com/cd6vrr to help sort out my thoughts and feelings.

I found out that yes, cowboys do cry, even when they’re pushing 50.

5 Dan the Man August 4, 2009 at 8:28 am

I can’t believe I got this in my email today, as I just found out yesterday that one of my best friends committed suicide last week. My only feelings are numbness, an indifference to most activity around me, a swirling inside of me that treats everything as if it were surreal.

6 Josh K August 4, 2009 at 8:37 am

This is why I regularly visit this site…
Though this post dealt with loss of a loved one in death, it should be noted that the experiance of divorce, especially when unexpected, has the same effect on a man. Many experts have acknowleged this fact, but sadly very few people recognize this. When someone dies, friends and family generally rally around in support, while the situation tends to be differant when a man divorces his adulterous wife. His friends and family generally try to hook him up with someone else, sometimes even before the divorce papers are finalized. Yet this man, internally, is going through the grieving process as surely as if his wife had died.
Thanks for the post…

7 Duncan August 4, 2009 at 8:59 am

Thank you for an important topic. I learned, through grieving the loss of Dad, Mom… and the one time infidelity of my Wife, that the source of my grief is the best healer. I spent many hours and nights after Mom passed, listening to her in my heart; I was single and with an older child, and able to meditatively listen to her and speak my thoughts and feelings with her about my son and life. I found that I grew closer to Mom over the months I shared her spiritual presence.

After my Wife disclosed her infidelity, I committed to being a Husband that Loves and Forgives. I told her that deep intimacy with her, and sharing my hurt openly and in a vulnerable sense with her, would heal the wound between us. The intimacy that grew slowly prompted a healing and not a vengeful heart. It opened us up to a deeper learning of each other. We are now daily committed to sharing what is inside our hearts, and to sharing what hurts. The grieving continues; but, so does the growth and healing.

I believe men’s strength is found in gentleness of heart and mind. Only the truly strong man can be truly gentle, forgiving, and nurturing. It is easy and immature to stay at the level of anger; it is harder to direct and control the anger to grow into self-understanding. Healthy grieving allows us to later be a source of comfort to others who are hurt, and to be a source of strength for our wives and children.

8 MadMolecule August 4, 2009 at 10:05 am

Thanks for this post. A few years ago I lost my mother during my final semester of law school, then got a divorce due to my wife’s infidelity slightly under a year later. It was, as you can imagine, a rough time. I’m mostly on an even keel now, but this article would have helped considerably at the time.

If you’re looking for topics for future articles, I’d suggest that “forgiveness” might be a good one. What it means, how to do it, etc.

9 Duncan August 4, 2009 at 10:26 am

Thank you, Mad Molecule… “Foregiveness:” would be an excellent topic.

10 Janie Woods August 4, 2009 at 10:30 am

This is a perfectly timed post. My husband found out just recently that his father has a limited time left due to a brain tumor. We’re 3000 miles away and I’ve already seeing the signs of grief with him. Thank you so much for this.

11 Jayson August 4, 2009 at 10:30 am

Great post Brian. As a fellow counselor and coach, I work with men who are pretty locked up when it comes to grief, so this is very helpful.

I will say, that the reason research shows that men experience grief differently than women is because men typically stuff their feelings more and are less willing to feel strong emotion. This leads to a variety of symptoms both mental and physical.

In my dad’s generation, crying and grieving meant you were weak and less of a man. Those days are done. To me, your strength is in your vulnerability and your open heart.

12 Dan August 4, 2009 at 10:36 am

Top-notch article. One of the best AoM has ever published.

13 MFitz August 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

It should be made known that death is not the only thing that causes men (and women) to experience grief. Loss can come in the form of a divorce, break-up, death, loss of job, rift with a friend/family member and many others… recognizing and dealing with grief can be healthy and bring about personal and spiritual growth.

14 Jazzmaster August 4, 2009 at 11:22 am

A great reminder of why this is such a fantastic website.

Thank you.

15 Jack August 4, 2009 at 3:01 pm

What a good topic. I totally agree with the sentiment that America is in kind of in denial about death. Even if its sub-counsious.

To me, men are just as big of babies as women when it comes to feeling. We just hide it with emotions that are considered “manly” like the list above and claim we don’t feel the feelings at all.

This also touches a personal never for me as my Grandpa has been grieving for his beloved wife since the day she died last September. He has worn COMPLETELY BLACK everyday since. Its obvious he needs help from a professional yet he refuses to do so. Hes an old school Mexican and its hard to get him to change his view on anything. Hes too “manly” for all that non-sense. Seeing him in torment over his inability to let her go kills me too inside.

16 cory August 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Great article, and very timely. I remember as a child feeling that numbness often. Grief can be caused by abuse as well, and I remember feeling that hurt and pushing it down. It took several years after being married before I was finally over it.

17 Josh K August 4, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Just wanted to applaude Duncans comments (and his experiance) and say that the topic of ‘forgiveness’ would be good.

18 Phil August 4, 2009 at 7:01 pm

My father died when I was 15. It was very difficult because I was basically the man of the house as my older brother was off in college and my little brother was only 13. I had to help my dad do nearly everything. When he died it was such a blow but I decided that I would strive to do everything that I could to “make him proud”. A few years later I enlisted in the Army (which is where I am now). I know his death influenced my decision and just as before I try to become the man that he was and he would want me to be. I train hard and fight even harder know that he would have wanted me to be the best I can. I consider his death to be the driving force in near everything. Once I got over the initial sadness, it has turned into my greatest strength.

19 Carl Muthman August 4, 2009 at 9:14 pm

When my best friend’s mother died, his uncle made the comment to him that “You are not a man until you father dies”. We talked about this and after both our fathers died we had a great discussion. I came up with the following thoughts. That sad day when dad died was the day he worked for all his life. Call it a legacy or reward, but his efforts would truly be measured after he was gone. He worked so my mother would be taken care of and he succeeded. Another was that his efforts with his children would succeed and we were. When a guy’s father dies there are no more “footsteps” to follow in. In hindsight, I thought there was a sense of security in following his footstep even if he wasn’t right in front of me. Now there is nothing to follow so I need to find my own way, plus, I am making footsteps for others to follow. Kind of scary!
I think there is one thing the article forgot. For me it was God and my faith. I had a big empty feeling when my father died. Fortunately I had my faith and I filled that emptiness with the the Heavenly Father. I think it is more important than any other time to turn to that faith, and others with it, to get through the grief. By no means am I a pious or real devout person but It sure helped me. I found a good deal of comfort in talking with those with a great deal of faith. In the case of my father’s death, Hospice was also a great source of information and consolation. On that note, enjoy your week.

20 Jonny August 5, 2009 at 3:29 am

An amazing post. Excellently researched and well written, nearly brought tears (manly tears) to my eyes. I lost my Mum recently after an 8 year struggle with cancer and this has been the first thing I have read that I have been able to relate to and has actually helped.
My thanks to the author, you are a good man and I wish you unparrelled success in the future.

21 Mike Wright August 5, 2009 at 9:15 am

What a great article on a great site! Thanks for addressing this and other topics that many of us are too “manly” to talk about.

Can I put a Christian spin on grief and the death of a loved one?

Dependant not only on your faith, but the beliefs of the deceased, a Christian will grieve differently than a non-believer would.

Here’s the deal: Christians believe that life is just a “try out” to determine where you’ll spend eternity. And eternity is not just a “quantity” difference but also a huge “quality” difference as well.

We believe that Heaven and hell are real places. There’s a good “eternity” in Heaven and a really, really bad “eternity” in hell. One is far better than you can imagine, the other far worse.

When a Christian grieves over the passing of another Christian, there’s an assurance that the deceased is now much happier than they ever were when they were living. They’re full of joy and peace, pain free, healthy and they get to spend every day in the physical presence of God and His Son Jesus Christ. It doesn’t get any better than that.

We still grieve. We still miss them. It still hurts but in a way that’s hard to understand, we’re “happy” for them. We know too that when we pass away we’ll join them in Heaven, being with them and our Lord forever.

The death of a loved one that was not a Christian is a different story. Knowing their fate can make the grief even harder for us. It also hurts us knowing that we “held the cure” for their troubles while they lived and their agony in eternity, but that we didn’t share it with them. Or if we did, they didn’t take us up on it.

If your spouse was dying of cancer and you possessed a “guaranteed miracle cure,” nothing would prevent you from sharing it with her. Many Christians stink at sharing our “cure.” Often we either don’t do it at all or we put it in a way that’s repulsive and offensive. Christians need to get better at this…it’s a “biggie” that we blow.

Look, I realize that my secular friends are likely to think that what I’ve expressed is simple, misguided and naïve. That’s okay; I’ve heard it before. Remember though that we Christians think that you are the ones that have “it” wrong, not us. And we hope and pray that you’ll get it figured out while you’re still alive, not only deciding where you’ll spend eternity, but also for the sake of those that you’ll leave behind grieving your passing. Of course the decision is “life changing” as well; outside of heaven, life doesn’t get much better.

When you close your eyes for the final time and you’re confronted with the reality of the choices you did or didn’t make, that’s the wrong time to think “Oh crap! I screwed up!”

22 PBates August 5, 2009 at 11:36 am

I lost my father last month. I defended my masters in April and I am currently working on my Ph.D. in physics, so I think I am going through something very similar to what Mr. Brian Burnham went through. My life was going great before my father died, I had just earned a masters from one of the top ranked universities in the world, I finished a summer traveling all over the world and came back to the U.S. in time to celebrate the 4th of July. Three days later, my dad was gone. I have experienced all the symptoms mentioned here, but lucky for me I seem to cope exactly how researchers have found is the most effective. The hardest thing is looking in the mirror. I look so much like my father that I am reminded of him every time I see myself.

As for Mike Wright and other theists who wish to know how to deal with grieving non-theists. The most important thing is to not inject your religious beliefs into the issue. You have to understand that telling me “God does everything for a purpose” or “God will guide you” is insulting. Imagine if I replaced God with Daffy Duck and told you those things while you were grieving. After being inundated with these platitudes from many Christian family members, I was driven to respond harshly. “I am a grown man, stop telling me fairy tales.”

23 Josh August 5, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Great post. A good related resource http://www.loveandforgive.org/

24 Matt August 5, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I’m 22, I experienced loss and grief when i was 8 yrs old, my oldest brother was killed in an RTA (road traffic accident), i dont know when I eventually came out of my grief but I do know that it has helped me help others to cope with there grief and or loss

25 Mike Wright August 6, 2009 at 8:06 pm

PBates – I am very sorry at the passing of your father. Having gone through it with my mother, there’s not much anyone can say or do to make you feel much better at this point. Know though that you will feel better eventually.

I can’t defend the actions of your Christian family members because I don’t agree with them. In a not-so-Christian way, let me just say that “death sucks.” Quoting churchy phrases at a time like this in your life is insulting and I don’t blame you for the way you feel.

I will stand up for their good intentions however. They obviously love and care for you and were reaching out to you in the best way they know. You might cut them some slack.

Here’s one thing about people of faith though; we don’t check our faith at the door for some issues then pull it out of our pockets for others. It isn’t a Sunday morning only thing, at least it shouldn’t be. Christianity, or any faith for that matter, isn’t meant to be situational. It’s a life…a 24/7 thing permeates every part of our lives. (I’ll grant you that on Sunday mornings churches are full of people that turn into a-holes on Mondays. It’s been said that the biggest thing going against Christianity is Christians!)

Finally, the shortest verse in the Bible is when Jesus heard about the death of his friend. The verse is “Jesus wept.” Like I said, death sucks. Jesus knew that and he grieved, he cried.

Blessings buddy.

26 Danny August 7, 2009 at 8:04 am

This is… timely.

The day before this was written, my father passed away.

Thank you.

27 Rick August 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Wow, thanks for the great article with the advice. Like Danny above, I too have just lost my Dad. I haven’t checked the site in a couple of weeks and I’m glad I did. I think the hardest part for me has been the realization that I’ll never great chance to go another ballgame or spend another day fishing with him. I’m lucky to have the support of my wife and extended family as well as my best friend who has been through the same thing.

28 Mike Slinskey August 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Firstly, I want to send my condolences for the loss of your father. The grieving process can be pretty tough enough without the added emphasis of how an individuals self-medicating nature is interrupting their day to day lives. Males who feel vulnerable often go through periods or phases to where they either surround themselves with people who do not know there particular situation (so as not to be interrogated about there emotional state).

Or in most cases of denial, resign themselves to a life of solitude. The later can more so render them susceptible to substance abuse like alcoholism or other types of depressants. I too believe that guys who can’t coup with reality subjectively find solace in taking out there emotional angst through fits of anger. Its a type of physiological repression that so happens to be more prominent in men, well more so than women.

29 David Fajgenbaum August 24, 2009 at 8:35 pm

I read this story with interested and wanted to share an organization you may be interested in with the readers:

I am the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the National Students of AMF (deceased or “Ailing, Mothers, Fathers” or loved ones) Support Network. “AMF” is also my mom’s initials who died almost 5 years ago from a brain tumor while I was a sophomore in college. I promised her two weeks before she passed away that I would do something to help other students at Georgetown grieving the illness or death of a loved one like myself in her memory. I started the group at Georgetown and students from other schools wanted to start groups too, so my best friend and I began a national, nonprofit organization to help students coping with the illness or death of a loved one, mainly by helping them start chapters of Students of AMF.

We are the only organization dedicated to supporting college students coping with the illness or death of a loved one and empowering all college students to fight back against terminal illness.

We accomplish our mission by helping students to start chapters of Students of AMF on college campuses nationwide (currently 26; Students of AMF chapters connect students to other peers who “understand” through a Support Group, provide opportunities for all students to fight back against terminal illness through the Service Group, and opportunities for faculty mentors to provide support to members of the Support Group), providing information and support through http://www.studentsofamf.org, raising awareness about the needs of grieving college students by annually hosting a National Conference on College Student Grief and National College Student Grief Awareness Week, and holding fundraising events, including the annual Boot Camp 2 Beat Cancer & Family Fun Walk and AMF Banquet.

Our website is http://www.studentsofamf.org to learn more or you can check out a Today Show feature story about National Students of AMF at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxgnQUIyMow

If you have any questions, I would love to speak with you at any time.

30 library_goon October 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm

I’m glad I found this post. My father died recently, and I’ve experienced all the above symptoms, except substance abuse. I’m coping in my own way. I’m sure I’ve made some ‘mistakes’ (if that’s the right word – not sure if there’s a right or wrong way to deal with it), but there are two things that I’m proud of: 1) Being at my Father’s bedside when he passed away in the hospital & 2) Taking good care of my Mom. At least I won’t have those regrets.

31 Pete November 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I turned 21 in early October, and lost my dad in August. So far, just trying to do the practical stuff (estate, selling the house, paying bills) has kept me from doing much grieving. Are there any men on here who lost their fathers at a young age? (even though I don’t feel like it, I DO realize that 21 is young) Is it normal to not have focus, even on everyday things like cleaning, moving from room to room leaving clean spots in the middle of a trashed room? I’m doing my best to cope, and I don’t know how else I can keep focus. As the oldest kid, I’m the personal rep for my dad’s estate, and without a will, that makes for a difficult situation. My parents divorced and my mom can’t be around every day to help.

Needless to say, I think that I may be able to call on some of my ‘man friends’ on here, because I have no friends near me younger than 60 who’ve lost their dads.

32 Faith November 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Neither of my brothers really like me, but I’m worried about my eldest, Joe. Our dad died 7 years back, and he still has problems, Which would be ok, except that He has been treating said problems with alcohol. Which has managed to screw with his life on several occasions except he still sees alcohol as his friend. Is there anything I can do to help him? I don’t know about psychological help, none of us could afford to get it for him… But maybe I don’t know enough about that. Any suggestions?

33 Dan November 25, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I know this is late in the mix, but in case anyone’s reading these comments down the road, a great book on how a man can observe grief in a mature and beneficial way is “A Grief Observed,” by C.S. Lewis. Admittedly, this is a Christian perspective, and may not appeal to all, but it’s a helpful book.

Interesting note: He wrote it after his wife passed away, and he released it under a pen-name, and his friends started mailing copies to him to help him cope with the loss of his wife.

34 Kate January 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

My boyfriend recently lost his mom unexpectedly. His response was to lash out at me. He did not want me at the wake or funeral saying that he needed to be strong for his dad. He said many hurtful things and broke up with me. I do not blame him as I know it was the grief, but he has left me confused. Did he really mean all those things he said? Or was it truly the grief? All I want to do is be there for him, but he has completely pushed me away. Is there any hope that he will come around and realize what he has done? Prior to his mom’s death he also lost his dog. I happened to be with him at the time. He had a similare response, and I gave him his time and speace and eventually he came back around, but this grief goes much deeper, and I am just not sure what to do.

35 Alexander January 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm


My Dad died in 04. I was 16 and I’m now 22. I find it hard (well, more like really hard) to focus on anything. I’m lucky enough to have Mum living with me. I don’t know what I’d do if I were alone. For a while, we didn’t do anything that needed doing around the place, and no tidying. The place is a mess, and so I know how hard it is to tidy a room.

I’ve been trying to focus, and I don’t have any answers. I’m barely scraping through at uni. I’m failing a good few papers. I got a warning letter at the end of last year, so I’m going to have to lift my game.

If it were possible, I wouldn’t be selling the house right away.

It must be really difficult without a will. It wasn’t that easy for us, even though my Dad had a will. Dad has some adult “kids” from a previous marriage as well as me. Even though we get along ok, I do recall some minor difficulties.

About Christians: I went to a Christian school. My friends are all Christian. I feel like there’s no-one to talk to about it, as I think they’ll try and get me to go to church and accept God. Really, I want to say to them (but don’t want to end up no friends, so don’t): “why should I believe all this? Give me some reason to think this is real.”

Maybe you should try to talk to those 60+ people you mentioned. Also try to keep in contact with your Dad’s friends. I know that’s really hard. I feel quite shy talking to them, since I don’t know them all that well.

I’m sorry to hear about your brother, Faith. I don’t know what to say.

Kate: It’s hard to contain your pain and avoid lashing out at people. He may have seemed like he meant what he said, but I don’t think he did. I think he’ll regret what he did – maybe not now, but I think he will. I’ve lashed out at Mum (not physically, thank goodness) a bit and pushed her away at times. I regret doing that.

36 mark February 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm

i’ve never been on this site before, but finding it very helpful, and very informative. i too have lost, get this, my mother, father and my sister within a two year period. on top of leaving a 10 yr. relationship under the not so best of circumstances. i’ve had to deal with all of this my own my own, which at times probably is not the best way. their are times i blame myself, their are times i’am mad at myself, everything seems so unfair.. i miss all of them so much. especially the fellow who wrote everytime i look at a mirror, i see my father, i can relate.i mostly regret not telling them i love them, as much as i should of. it’s been two years now, and i still have moments, where i totally break down and cry, which according to my father,is not very manly.it just overcomes me.their has been times when a bottle of booze has been my best friend. i don’t the grieving to ever leave, cus that’s what keeps me remembering them, but i just wish it would get easier.i do think, like the gentleman said, your not a man untill your father passes away is so true, i lost my way thru life. i have no footsteps to follow.

37 Manuel October 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

Very informative article. I lost my wife a year ago. In fact a devastating time. You don’t feel like enjoying anything anymore. It’s a horrible period a loving person has to experience. Nevertheless, we have to accept it as part of our lifes. I can only recommend you to seek professional help if you can’t see any betterment. They can help you process your thoughts and feelings. You can talk anything off your chest. I used to call an online coach (recommend Your24hCoach). I didn’t want to burden my beloved ones to much. But don’t isolate you and seek your way out of it by drinking or alike. Spending some time with your best fellas is a perfect advice to get your mind of it. And it’s more than true, give yourself time to grieve.

38 Sue February 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I hardly know where to begin. My son lost his precious wife in a tragic auto accident, after being separated for 4-1/2 months and a day or so before she was coming back to him. He had taken himself off prescription drugs on his own; he started to drink heavily to numb his pain and grief. In 7 months he lost his job. He has three small children to support and a teenage daughter. He lost his father five years ago and at least 10-12 friends and family in the past ten years. I KNOW that God has a remarkable plan for my son’s life. He just is not there–yet. If anyone can recommend any detox programs, counseling, employment help(he never finished high school)–I would be eternally grateful. His Mom

39 Alec May 11, 2013 at 1:29 am

Thank you for writing this article. I lost my dad to sarcoma cancer three weeks ago. I’m 28. Still in shock. Some days angry, some days irritable. Other days withdrawn and quiet. And yet other days that feel normal and I am ok. Throughout all of it, I have thrown myself into my career even more, thrown myself into my family even more. One day at a time.

40 Alan July 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I’m with everyone else – great article and I can relate to everything in it. I’m 25, lost my dad about 18 months ago and am really struggling. I’ve been having bereavement counseling recently and have had a few breakthroughs but it’s not moving on, as I’d like which has brought me here.

For the first year or so I had panic attacks but just couldn’t cry. I spoke at his funeral and couldn’t cry. I went to the pub with mates and couldn’t feel or show any emotion about it. I sometimes go out and drink myself drunk and cry, or get drunk listening to the songs that were played at his funeral and cry but it’s not a healthy cry. If I ever cry in ‘open-play’ (or sober) I feel a bit better but I can’t allow myself to do it for more than a couple of seconds. The pain and sadness is right there but I just can’t hold onto it for long enough to properly feel it. I want to be able to say ‘I really miss my Dad’ and I want it to upset me but I can’t. I do miss him, but I can’t say it with feeling and feel it and let it out.

After about 15 hour-long sessions with my counselor I finally managed to cry. I’d had a panic attack at work the day before and he was probing to see what I was thinking to find out what caused it. I don’t know what caused it but he asked ‘how did you feel about your dad’s death at the time of the panic attack’ and I replied, that 18 months on, it felt like it had happened yesterday. This really hit a nerve and made me cry but for about 10 seconds then I involuntarily manned up and couldn’t get at the emotion again and the feeling.

I need to feel that feeling. I’ve suffered with depression since he died. Just a constant numbness and low mood. Not being able to enjoy myself. Not being able to fix myself. Loosing my spark and passion for life and not being able to get it back. Not being able to be excited about the future. Resenting my friends who aren’t going through such a struggle and who still have a childish sort of ignorance about life that I want back. Being miserable, irritable, and arrogant.

I came across this post by searching ‘bereavement – connecting with emotions for males’ or something like that because I can’t move on without feeling my feelings. My counselor is trying to help me feel my feelings but I can’t get to them. My girlfriend wants to be there for me to talk but I can’t talk because I’ve got nothing to say because I can’t get rid of that stupid f***ing wall standing between me and my feelings.

How on earth do you get to them? Any suggestions welcome and condolences to everybody on here that’s also lost someone.

41 Manjit November 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm


lost my dad 3 years ago. Didn’t understand what it meant to me much the same as you. Didn’t cry at the funeral and at the period of mourning (defined by my faith) – 7 days post funeral,

To this day I cannot go past the crematorium that he was cremated in without tears; usually quite angry in tone.

The way I cope is by caring for those that mean something to me. Although they may not necessarily understand the depth of my love the fact I do makes me feel I am taking on the role I was born for……i.e. to be the (to an extent) patriarch in the making. Fulfilling both his and my roles. It does hit you when you least expect it, but know that those around you believe in you and you in yourself.

42 Nqobile Gwala December 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm

i recently loss my brother about a month ago he died immediately it felt like a dream to me that soon m gone be awaken from and somehow i feel like a part of me died with the problem is at night i cried myself to sleep of late i am beginning to drink alcohol n smoke i feel like i was the one who was suppose to die not him m an open person but lately i stay quetly even when m around people somehow the person i am is no longer there everything has no meaning i stay sometimes whole night awake and m pushing all people who cares about me away because i have nothing to say to them

43 celia February 2, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Good article, my bf son died four months ago, he suddenly stop talking to me, I been confussed but now I see he needs time to grieve, I send e-mails that he’s not alone, so now this article has helped me understand more

44 Jason Bennett February 12, 2014 at 11:45 pm

3 weeks ago my brother broke into my house and murdered my wife then turned the gun on himself. And if that’s not bad enough my 2 year old son was there with her, he was not harmed physically.

I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be a 30 year old widower and single father. In the beginning it’s a huge nightmare and you refuse to believe it’s true. Now the reality is set and more painful than you can ever imagine.

You never know what’s going to happen, and it’s very possible you can lose it all in an instant. We’re only here for a short time, don’t waste it with hate and anger.

45 Lizzie March 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Kate’s comments rang true. I have a very dear friend who I have known and loved for 19 years. Last year he lost his father. I obviously wanted to help him through it, especially as I had been through it myself. His response was to push me away. He seemed to be angry with me for the slightest thing, almost as if he was blaming me, and said some hurtful things. To protect my own health I backed off for a few weeks-the hardest thing I have ever had to do and completely opposite to what I wanted which was to be there for him.. We are back in touch now but I still feel he is blaming me in some way. Reading this web site and realising that this is not an uncommon way for men to react to grief has been very reassuring. I feel some hope now that we can save our friendship, I just need to be patient. Thank you.

46 Steven March 17, 2014 at 6:57 am

Two decades ago, my father passed away; he took his own life. I let myself grieve for less than a day. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. I told myself that I never wanted to feel that way again and so I suppressed all my emotions except my anger; anger I used as a shield to protect me or so I thought.

A few years later, my best friend died from leukaemia and it brought all the painful emotions I suppressed to the surface. My life started spiralling out of control, my grades suffered, my friends did not understand what I was going through. In order to cope, I brought back my emotional wall laced with anger to protect myself. What I didn’t realise then was that although that wall protected me from pain, it prevented me from empathising with others and connecting with other people.

For the longest time, I didn’t realise that I was different from other people. I suppressed my grief so deep within myself that I consciously forgot it was there. I thought that in order to be strong, I had to do everything by myself so I kept my problems to myself not telling a single soul. To this day, I still struggle with life. I was convinced by someone I truly care about to get professional help and it is helping. Slowly but surely I think I’ll be able to think about my dad without grief crippling me.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter