Death from a Male Perspective
The day my loved one died, I felt myself go into a state of numbness, shock and disbelief. The time did not seem real. I went through the wake and funeral carefully controlling myself and fearful of what would happen if I truly “let go”. Other times I felt numb. I do not know how I got through those first few days. My life felt so hollow as I went through the motions of living, but my grief felt like an emptiness that would never go away.
I have been raised to believe that a man needs to be strong, to take care of others and to bury the emotional pain that we experience. Inside, I experienced unbelievable pain and emotional rawness; yet I felt that I had to be “the rock” for everyone else. My tolerance became significantly lessened and I became increasingly angry at things that would not have bothered me before. Another part of me that used to find joy and happiness shut down. At times I feel guilty for all the things I could have said, yet I could not find the words.
It is my hope that my story and my experience of walking through grief will provide you with some level of comfort, understanding and an awareness of the multitude of emotions that you may already be beginning to face in the early days, weeks and months after the death of your loved one.
Your courage in taking the opportunity to read this information is a testament to your ability and internal strength to move forward in your journey through grief.
The Early Stages
Those first few days are difficult to describe. So much happened, yet I remember very little of that time period. I managed to make all the arrangements and comfort my family while my emotions went through a state of numbness. At times I felt nothing and at other times I felt so overwhelmed that I would “lose it”.
Immediately after the death of a loved one you may experience feelings of shock, denial, disbelief, numbness and confusion. You may also feel disoriented and disorganized. These emotions are a natural part of the grief process.
For many men, they do not openly display their emotions when coping with a loss. Many men feel a pressure to stay in control, to be strong for others. This pressure oftentimes prevents men from openly experiencing and expressing their pain and sorrow. Some men even appear distant and detached as a way of coping. It is important to understand that, as men, it is natural and important for us to grieve. Because we are men does not make us immune from emotional pain. Recognize that it is okay to show emotion and gain comfort from others.
Your Grief is Unique
Many times when I would get home I would go off on my own and work on a project or engage in another activity to distract myself. During these times I would sometimes think about everything that happened and allow myself to become emotional.
Each individual experiences grief in a truly unique and personal way. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that oftentimes does not support the bereaved, or at least, acknowledge their pain. Take things one day at a time and do things that feel right for you. Take time out for yourself and do the activities you used to do that allowed you some space to think things through. Allow yourself to grieve in a way that you are comfortable with. How you grieve your loss is truly individual, since you and the person who died shared your own unique experiences, thoughts and memories. There is no time frame or “right“ way to grieve. You have the right to think, feel and express your grief and no one, regardless of his or her good intentions, has the right to take that away. You also do not have to talk or share if you don’t want to.
It pains me to see my loved ones grieving. I want to take their pain away, but I cannot, and this makes me feel helpless. Many times I would stay at work late so I did not have to deal with the tension and sadness at home. Sometimes I wish I could show my emotions as openly as others do.
Our society and culture has taught men how to be strong, in control, and always able to solve things. These expectations are unrealistic when a death of a loved one occurs. Grief is not an illness that one may quickly get over, instead it affects a person forever. What changes is that you learn new ways of coping and dealing with the death so that it is not so emotionally raw anymore.
By allowing yourself to emotionally experience the pain and deal with the death of your loved one, you will begin to heal. Men who repress their grief instead of acknowledging it tend to have more medical and mental health complications. Mourning involves not only the head but also the heart. Crying may involve real tears or even sobs from within. Each person mourns differently and showing emotions is not a sign of weakness but of humanity and respect for the deceased.
Men tend to remain silent in their grief, mourn alone or they do not engage in previously enjoyed activities. Sometimes individuals develop addictive behaviours and use drugs and alcohol to avoid the pain. These solitary reactions are often misconstrued as withdrawal, not coping or lack of caring. Many men mourn alone or have private rituals because they do not want others to be burdened with their pain.
Some men choose to keep themselves extremely busy doing things or working late in order to avoid the pain and sadness. Try to take some private time in order to let some of the deep emotions come to the surface in your own time and space. By allowing yourself to experience some of the pain you are starting to heal.
Anger is also a common reaction to grief amongst men. It is easier to block out pain and sadness with anger than dealing with the grief. You may find that you have a shorter tolerance for problems that before never bothered you. Your angry outbursts may affect other people. Angry emotions usually lead to regret for things that were said which can never be unsaid. It is difficult to work through your grief if you remain angry. Eventually the pain will seep through and the anger will subside.
By recognizing the different reactions to grief you may better understand how to deal with grief head on and not avoid it.
I am not the type of guy who talks much about what I have gone through. I am not comfortable talking about emotions, but rather prefer to deal with things on my own. Oftentimes, I just don’t want to think about or talk about my loss; I don’t want the attention. When I really need to, I can talk to my partner or a close friend about what happened and what I am experiencing.
The support you receive from your family and friends may give you some comfort. They may try to offer you support in many different ways. Let them know what they can do for you. Try to avoid people who try to “fix you” or tell you how you “should be” reacting or what you “should” be doing. It is also natural to grieve on your own, to not want to talk. Grief is very much an individual journey and it is our decision who we wish to allow into our lives.
Taking Care of Yourself
I needed to think about something else so I went back to work as soon as I could. I had a hard time focusing and would jump from task to task. I would get angry with myself and kept having high expectations of being able to do everything as before the death of my loved one.
I needed to think about something else so I went back to work as soon as I could. I had a hard time focusing and would jump from task to task. I would get angry with myself and kept having high expectations of being able to do everything as before the death of my loved one. Initially after the death you might experience memory gaps, forgetfulness, heart palpitations, sleeplessness, nightmares and changes in sex drive and appetite. Some individuals have more energy and others less energy than before. All these reactions are a natural part of grieving.
Although there is no set answer for how long you will feel this way, what you can do is take care of yourself – rest when you need to, try to follow a balanced nutritional program, lower your expectations temporarily, rely on the help and support of others, try to accept your limitations at this moment in time, and take things “one day at a time.”
As you are the expert of your own life and your own grief, do whatever you need to do to cope with your pain. Try to have confidence that in time you will return to the activities of daily living that were part of your life before the death of your loved one.
The journey is truly your own…