“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, endure, transform, love, and be greater than our suffering.”
While grief is a universal response to death or changes occurring, how we express our grief can vary depending on someone’s experiences, support system, and other demographic characteristics. Take, for example, gender differences in grieving and how mainstream society portrays what is appropriate for different genders. Society often encourages men to endure pain or hardships without showing their feelings or complaining.
Many men don’t share their grief to avoid adding to the emotional burden of others. Some men, especially fathers, may feel pressured to stay strong for their partner, children, or family members. Women often outwardly express their emotions to others and tend to be more open about their thoughts and feelings. Both forms of expression are okay, but there are hidden downsides to not addressing grief properly and being mindful of our interactions when discussing our grief journey.
Express Your Grief
It’s important to express painful emotions rather than concealing them. Holding in painful feelings can lead to physical ailments and poor overall health. At this moment, do you feel comfortable expressing your grief to family members or friends? Men commonly isolate themselves from at least one social situation they previously used to enjoy, or they might keep certain friendships going but limit what they will talk about. Since men grieve inwardly, the only observable signs might be seen by them withdrawing or isolating.
Writing down your thoughts in a journal is a great place to start processing your feelings. Don’t be afraid to explore uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, and try not to dismiss your grief’s complexity. Or you can lean on for support; however, when doing this, it might be beneficial to respond shortly and sweetly. You can state that you’re not doing well and working through some stuff. Remember: There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
“Yeah, I haven’t been myself lately. I don’t know what would help and don’t feel like talking right now.”
Another aspect that often gets overlooked is self-care and ensuring that you stay on top of your health. This can be as simple as getting enough rest, setting a regular sleep schedule, or even taking a quick walk around the neighborhood. Also, if you notice yourself forgetting to stay on top of tasks, you might start writing a daily to-do list. Even if its contents are as simple as “grocery shopping,” “yard work,” and “post office,” a list can provide some direction and guidance for your day, something that grief often overshadows.
Self-care, like grief, varies from person to person, and others might suggest things you know won’t help. Sometimes their efforts might be frustrating or not effective but remember, it shows how much they care for you. If nothing else, try first to be honest about what is going on, and don’t feel obligated to know all the answers to their questions or concerns. Another way to help in these conversations is to give them a tentative time frame about doing certain things or suggest a time when they can check with you. Doing so helps both people to feel heard about where they’re at, decreases the chance of tension and high emotions, and prevents bridges from being burned.
“I know you care, but I need some space. Can we talk about this next week?”
It might surprise you that when you slow down, remove distractions, and process things how much it can help you feel better and regain hope. A great place to start is identifying what has changed: who has died, what was that person’s role to you, what did you do together, what makes you think of them, and what differences you were expecting to impact you that have been hard? You can write about these questions, think about these things while you work through a project, or, depending on your religious background. You might spend more time praying or begin a bible study focused on grief.
Overall, it’s encouraged that before you go to others, you spend some time narrowing down and pen-point what you’re struggling to come to terms with. Most likely, others won’t be able to answer your questions or console your frustrations, and you might feel like pulling away even more from those needed support systems. Instead, please find a new hobby, activity, or exercise to keep you busy and active, do something you used to enjoy, or do one thing to honor them each week. However, be aware of being hyperactive, as it’s common to overdo things when trying to avoid feeling the deeper emotions of grief.
“I’ve started a project, and it seems to be helping. But I’m not ready to talk about things yet.”
Communicate Your Needs
After some time, you can start reaching out to others as you see fit. That one friend you said that you would connect with in two weeks, this would be a great time to connect with them. While the pain, emotions, and confusion will still be present, the state of shock and preservation will have lessened. Begin by slowly reengaging with family and friends while remaining honest and true to yourself.
Others are likely grieving too, and it’s okay to be vulnerable with them, talk about memories, and chat about how you’ve been feeling. This is also a good time to communicate a need with them, such as scheduling time to hang out, help with getting out of the house, or other things you’re struggling with. Things have changed, and it’s okay to ask for help when adjusting.
Ask to go for a walk every Friday, to share a coffee in the mornings, or ask someone if they could listen as you work through some things. Make plans to do whatever makes you feel connected and energized. On the flip side, try not to make major decisions or life changes such as moving or quitting your job. Grief and intense sadness can cloud our judgment and practical thinking skills.
“I’m taking it a day at a time. I would, though, like to hang out next Saturday.”
Seek Mental Health Support
Society’s pressure on men to be perceived as strong, masculine, and self-reliant makes it difficult for them to ask for help when needed, but grief often requires reaching out to others for support. Grief support can look different for everyone, depending on their needs and preferences. Overall, we feel that surrounding yourself with people who understand what you’re experiencing can be healing and helpful. For some, this might be a trusted family member or friend; other times, it might be good to process those harder emotions in a safe environment with a trained professional. Others might also suggest you seek out more help, but the decision is up to you if you’re ready to do so.
If you’re easily frustrated, have suicidal thoughts, or notice that you feel more anxious or depressed, that might be a sign of needing to seek out mental health support. Often, counselors have worked with similar situations and better understand how to process things and help you through your grief. Try it out at least once or twice, and if it doesn’t seem like it’s helping, you can decide whether it’s for you or not. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no right way to manage grief.
“I’ve started to see a counselor, and it seems to be helping.”
At Greenlawn Funeral Home, we know that grief will never go away, but how you view grief can improve, and having a support system can give much-needed hope. Our compassionate staff is dedicated to helping grieving families throughout Springfield, Branson, and Bolivar. Reach out to our compassionate team to learn more about aftercare and grief support services.