GRIEVING AS A MAN
Men are in an interesting place. Between the way they were raised and the way society now wants them to act or, the world has suddenly become confusing to say the least. First, men were told to hide their feelings, now are being told to be open with their emotions. In reality, as we navigate new normals, men are getting a little tired of being told what they should do.
So how are men supposed to get through then, if not being told what to do? Susanne J Smith Ph.D. writes that “ it’s more about the permission from themselves than from anyone else”. Grief isn’t an easy topic for anyone. It’s a painful prospect of admittance. Admitting the loss is opening up a pandora’s box of emotions.. So what are some signs that you, can look for to help determine if you need to grieve?
Look For Avoidance
If you have suffered a loss, and are voiding the subject, then you may be dealing with avoidance behaviour. Avoidance is a common behaviour when anxiety strikes. Learning how to cope through approach rather than avoidance is an important tool. When we first avoid we might feel less anxious, after a while the thing we are avoiding can seem harder to approach. However, when we do have to deal with it, it can overwhelm you, making the anxiety and loss much worse than it would have been had we approached the situation in the first place. In addition, although avoidance can lead to immediate relief from anxiety, it can generate a host of other unwanted emotions such as sadness, guilt and shame, frustration, and more.
If you notice that your pain is making you avoid certain situations, activities, or people, it’s time to meet it head on. To do this you will learn about a systematic process called exposure, which has you gradually face your fears step by step. Exposure involves having you look at a feared situation, remaining there until your fear lessens, and then doing this repeatedly until your fear disappears permanently.
The Art of Staying Busy
This is probably one of the more acceptable behaviours when it comes to grief. The busier you are, the less time you spend on thinking about your loss. Men like to do stuff so this has a rewarding factor attached to it that men can justify. Men also like to fix things. So staying busy allows a certain amount of a sense of control, which can provide satisfaction with a job completed. This is only a temporary fix, and can it create more anxiety and stress when the job is finished. This contributes to a harder time overcoming feelings of grief that weren’t dealt with in the first place and have now grown to larger problems.
Men are nine times more likely to suffer from addiction. Maybe it’s from hundreds of years of pressure and stress. Using drugs and alcohol have long been a go to for many men wanting to forget. But numbing the pain only makes it worse when the numbing agent is gone. Plus, there is the shrapnel of health impact, social impact and financial impact. These can just lead to more destruction.
Anger that gets the best of you
The most common emotion men react with when it comes to grieving is anger. It’s easy to get mad, punch something, destroy something or worse. Not all anger is wrong. In a controlled environnment, safe, and away from others, anger can allow the body and mind to let go of pent up pressure. However, anger directed at anyone or anything can be dangerous and more destructive. Also important to consider are those around you. By pushing people and loved ones away, that can inhibit healing that you both need. So before you shut down and get mad, a helpful tool is deep breathing exercises to regulate blood pressure, dopamine and hormones that will assist you in that process.
Remembering that loss is relevant to you. Often when men think of grief they associate it death of someone you love. But loss can come in the form of relationships, even with friends, job loss, miscarriage, divorce, financial security, a prized possession and more. If it’s a loss to you, the question of whether you need to grieve it is real and only something you can answer. If you need help, reach out to a friend, counsellor, therapist, coach or mentor. Many times those around you can see it faster than you do. Grieving is a human emotion. You aren’t weak if you grieve. You also aren’t robotic if you don’t. The most important thing to remember is honor yourself and decide for yourself how you are reacting and what you deem necessary to move forward.