Southeast WI Archive
  • Southeast Wisconsin
  • August 2014
Written by  Robert Matuszak

Men, grief and feelings — Part 1

How men grieve

The following are common behaviors/actions related to how men process grief. According to, men:

  • Will suppress emotions and the outward expression of them
  • Do need to be strong and protective, but tend not to communicate as well nor be as socially active
  • Bear the burden of the loss
  • Become withdrawn, quiet and want a lot of alone time
  • May deal with loss through distraction or even forget things too painful to remember
  • Feel as deeply as women, but may feel wrong or be afraid to show their vulnerability
  • May try to keep busy and avoid talking about loss
  • Grieve their own way, influenced by who they are, how they are made, what they’ve experienced and how they have been raised
  • Are likely to seek a map to understand grief’s terrain

If you have experienced a loss and subsequent grief, you probably can relate to some or all of these. We men do grieve differently than women. Grief can last for some time but it can also be healed. There are techniques available to heal grief. You also have a choice with grief. You can live in grief for the rest of your life, if you wish, or you can move through it and heal. In my experience with grief and in coaching others, the amount of time you spend in healing the grief is minuscule compared with the daily pain you carry.

If you choose to linger in grief, ask yourself:

  • How is this serving me?
  • What do I get from this?
  • Am I addicted to grief’s pain?

There are other questions that may crop up, but I want you to consider those questions if you have been in grief for some time. If your answers are uncomfortable, you might consider seeking professional help.

There are also things from our past that affect how we grieve and express our grief, some that are confusing and contradictory.

Mixed messages

We men have received mixed messages from our youth into adulthood on how to deal with and express grief. I grew up in a world where men did not openly express their feelings of sadness and sorrow as this showed vulnerability or weakness. The norm for grieving was a reserved, subdued and calm exterior even though you felt otherwise. To openly weep at a funeral was rare. After the funeral, most men internalized their grief by suppressing their feelings or used a physical expression like work or a hobby to express grief. Perhaps we used some other ways mentioned in the previous section, too. Personally, I stuffed my grief away when I was younger until my late wife died. Then I cried a river. It wasn’t in public, but I did privately. It helped me get through the funeral.

I was raised with the perception that “big boys don’t cry” and “only sissies cry.” The idea to “suck it up and move on” was common. As a kid, I hurt my knee once so bad that I rolled around in intense pain, but never let out a whimper. I certainly didn’t want to show vulnerability or weakness by crying. How many of you never cried, no matter how bad the pain?

Now that we are older, let’s put those messages aside and allow ourselves to cry when grieving. If you don’t feel safe crying in public, then do it privately. Suppressing the grief only leads to more problems later where certain things, events or comments can cause us to have outbursts at inappropriate times. I had those untimely outbursts and I wasn’t proud of them. I have since learned to manage those grief feelings and express them when I want in a safe place.

Managing your feelings and emotions is a key grief tool. When you can do that, you will have taken a step toward freeing yourself from the negative feelings/emotions of your loss. Realize that there is a time and place for you to express your grief and feelings, and to do it safely.

More on grief and feelings next month. 

Robert is a certified Heartbreak to Happiness Coach, author and speaker with over 15 years coaching experience. He also brings over 20 years of human resources experience in health care, with 11-plus as a department director. His focus is on men especially, and women who have experienced traumatic grief from sudden loss, PTSD, suicide and sexual abuse. He can be reached via phone at 262-787-1969, emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visited at his website “I bring relief to your grief.”

References: “Men and Grief.”

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