Behavior among grieving men and women typically differs dramatically. Women usually embrace the gut-wrenching feeling of bereavement, allowing themselves to cry and show vulnerability. It’s more common for men to become detached and/or shut down emotionally and physically while grieving. This is because most men deeply value their role as caregivers and providers, so they don’t want their loved ones to see them cry or show weakness, so they tend to grieve in isolation.
The tendency for men to internalize feelings of grief, shutting down emotionally and avoiding others has been the topic of several studies. From a very young age males and females repeatedly experience different societal messages. Boys are taught to self-reliant, strong, and always in control. Therefore, men may assert control wherever possible when grieving; it can help them regain part of the control they feel they have lost.
Men are also made to feel that they must protect the people around them and not burden them with their feelings unnecessarily. That’s why it’s important to continually express your concern when your partner is experiencing prolonged or complicated grief.
Behavior You Can Expect When Your Husband Experiences Grief
- Lack of Intimacy
- Rushing Around
- Avoiding Conversation
- Avoiding Quality Time
Long-Term Grief Affects Physical & Mental Health
Throughout their lives the social and societal roles of men tell them they should be in control, not show emotion, and provide for their families. It’s no surprise that when they’re feeling vulnerable from long-term grief it can start to present physically as illnesses.
If your husband has been grieving the loss of a loved one for a while you should try to schedule time to talk to them about it and any concerns you have. You may want to encourage him to seek counseling either alone or with you if he wants.
How to Help Your Husband or Wife Work Through Bereavement
Nobody should feel like they must grieve alone, even when they don’t realize they are creating an environment that forces them to do so. Be assertive in your concerns for him and his physical and mental health. Encourage him to take vitamins and offer your support and a hug whenever possible.
The Trauma of Losing a Close Loved One
Losing a parent, sibling, or child are all examples of tragic loss that may trigger complicated long-term grief in some people. Both women and men can experience complicated grief, feeling as though they’re trapped in the middle of the seven stages without the ability to feel acceptance.
Another cause of complex, long-term grief is watching a loved one slowly lose their mental capacity and memory from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The grieving process for people with a family member diagnosed with one of these conditions typically starts long before they take their last breath, because although they’re physically present their moods, personality, and memories of you slip away quietly.
Grieving a close family member or parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can leave people submerged into what feels like a circular grieving process. They may feel angry, guilty, shock, and denial, finding it extremely difficult to reach the final stage of acceptance but eventually they will.
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Tips to Help Him Work Through the Mourning Process
If your husband is mourning the death of a close friend or family member and it’s been more than a couple of months, we have some advice for you. The following list of tips may help you help him find inner peace as he works through the seven signs of grief toward acceptance.
Tips to Help Him Move Forward
- Schedule a weekly check-In to reconnect and talk about how you’re both feeling
- Express your unwavering support and acceptance of his feelings
- Help him take care of himself: order or cook his favorite healthy meals, get a blender to make fruit smoothies in the morning, get him high quality multi-vitamins and supplements
- If he’s having trouble sleeping suggest a low dose melatonin at bedtime
- Let him know that it’s going to be okay
- If he’s sleeping too much try surprising him with a fun early morning activity to reset his internal clock
- Encourage him to hang out with his friends
- Compliment him daily
- Show appreciation for what he does, even the little things like taking out the trash
- Always be available to listen or embrace him with a hug
Feel He has Been Grieving Too Long?
It’s normal for you to feel like he has been grieving too long, especially if he hasn’t been intimate or carried his weight around the house for a while. Remember that grief affects everyone differently. The best thing you can do is offer your full support and lend an ear when he’s ready to talk about it.
Grace, Patience, and Empathy
It may be frustrating for if your husband hasn’t returned to his normal routine months later, but it’s important to have grace and be patient with him as he works through his emotions. Expressing empathy toward him is one way to validate his feelings and let him know you care.
Even if he has abandoned his normal daily duties for months, stay poised and steady. Hire extra help a few hours a week or adjust your schedule as needed to help pick up his slack.
It’s also important that you express how much you appreciate him and how much your family appreciates his support and care. This can help boost his morale but also share how much his changes in mood and behavior are affecting your lives. It’s okay to let him know that you feel he has been detached recently, and how much you miss your late-night talks and cuddles.
You might even consider getting one of our conversation-starter games for couples like edible conversations. It’s a board game you can print out at home that allows you to flip over a card to reveal a piece of candy and a conversation starting sentence or question.
Ways Grief Affects Physical Health
Studies have shown that men who are grieving are more likely to die when compared with other men of the same age and health. Men are more likely to abandon self-care, reach out for help, or accept offers of help. Men are also more likely to have a smaller circle of friends they can talk to and are reluctant to discuss their feelings when grieving or experiencing strong emotions.
Long-Term Grief Affecting Your Marriage?
If you wife or husband’s complicated grief is affecting your relationship, we can help. We’ve worked with hundreds of couples experiencing marital strains during times of grief and we’re ready to help when you need us. Book a free 30 minute clarity call with us or call (443) 570-7598 today.
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