Do Men and Women Grieve Differently?
CATEGORY: Grief and Loss
BY: Laurie L. Mason, MSSA, LISW-S
PUBLICATION: About Grief
We all experience losses throughout our lives. When enduring a big loss, people fall into patterns that may be considered masculine or feminine ways of reacting.
Although the way we grieve is affected by many other factors besides gender, men and women do tend to process their losses differently. One generalization about gender differences in grieving is that men tend to focus on feelings of anger. They are likely to spend time in their heads, thinking. They also tend to spend more time alone rather than relying on others.
Women typically need more support and are expressive with their emotions, which is behavior that is often more easily identified as a reaction to grief and loss.
Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, noted grief expert and author, categorized these different reactions as intuitive and instrumental grief.
Intuitive grief can be associated with our generalizations of the way that women grieve, which includes:
- Expressions of strong emotional reactions
- Expressions match their inside feelings
Instrumental grief can be associated with the masculine way of grieving, which includes:
- More thinking than feeling Task-oriented behaviors
In his interview with Victor Yalom PhD, founder and CEO of Psychotherapy.net, Doka discusses research he conducted with Terry Martin at Hood College. He suggests that the “research has found that these ‘male patterns’ and ‘female patterns’ were really more widely distributed than we had perceived.” Grief is “inﬂuenced by gender but not determined by it.” Many people fall somewhere in the middle, with characteristics of both. They are called “blended grievers.”
During the difficult times in our lives, we develop skills that help us cope, which we then return to at times of great sorrow. They are influenced by many things. Although gender influences our grief, so does culture, personality, and temperament. Just know that grief and loss are experienced in unique ways by every individual.