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Men Share About Grief

A MenWeb Men's Community newsgroup discussion

Copyright © 1999 by Bert H. Hoff and the posters of the indivisual messages


A man in the MenWeb Men's Community Newsgroup posted about the tears and grief he was feeling as his mother is in the hospital.

Here's his post, and some of the replies he received.

Check out MenWeb's Men and Grief section.
Articles, men's stories, MP3 Webcasts featuring:

Tom Golden
expert on men and grief
and author of

Swallowed by a Snake book

A man using the screen name The Insect Trust posts:

sorry, gents, to take your minds away from the great free speech controversary. but i have what is to me a slightly less theorethical problem - grief and sadness.

we all know the the stereotype - the strong unemotional male - stoic inscrutable - sees his entire family killed in front of his eyes and our hero says "you ought not have done that, fellers, i'm a bit riled up now" before he hunts the killers down like dogs and kills them.

then there is that 70s sorta alan alda guy that cries when his souffle falls. so sensitive so caring

i reckon i grew up believing the former stereotype. and i tend to think that the alan adla sensitive guy is full of shit.

my mom (in this country there is only me, her and my gran (who is in nursing home, mind gone, after congestive heart failure) is at the present time in the hospital "recovering" from surgery. because she had lung cancer, they felt it necessary to remove the entire lung along with the tumor because it was so big in doing so the surgeon had to go into the heart sac and the aorta. in terms of the cancer, the procedure was a success. however, she is not recovering well. she is one step from being kept alive on machines.

now, i don't want sympathy. i think (as an old boss of mine was fond of saying) sympathy is between shit and syphilus in the dictionary and about as useful as either.

what i want is some basis to understand to understand my feelings as a man. i'm able to be as strong as is needed when i am with my mom in the hosptial, and when dealing with other people about it. but i go to pieces when i am alone. i feel so bad i feel physically ill and i do cry. i'm new to this forum and i know that you guys have probably discussed this before. gary talks often of "infantilisation." is that what i am doing to myself.

how does a man show grief and sadness? it seems to me that i have not been presented with much of anyone as a role model other than the two stereotypes i mentioned above.

any insight would be appreciated.

I wish you and your grandma well. Experiencing grief and sadness is part of being a man. What's happening to you is a terrible and wounding thing. There is no comparison over what you are experiencing and some SNAG crying over trivia. There is nothing wrong with expressing those feeling any way you need to.

Strength to you


For me there aren't only two alternatives out there. It seems a polarity that's particularly keen in American culture. It's a Hollywood lie.

Many years ago I saw a Japanese Samurai film, one of the more respected artistic ones. In that film the samurai discovers his sister has been killed. In the next scene he is sitting in the dark., You see only his silhouette. He cries like a baby.

The Hollywood tight-lipped hero is basically weak. He's scared that if the emotion begins his macho facade will crumble. Both men and women know there's a time to put on a brave face (for the sake of others) and a time when emotion will surface. Alan Alda won't admit the strong side of men, Wayne won't admit the weak. In war men cry. Confronted by the death of loved ones men cry. In real life it happens all the time.

This isn't infantilisation. What I'm referring to there is something OTHER people do to you when they treat you like a child unable to make your own decisions.

I've never been particularly separated from my emotions, but one difference between men and women is that they sometimes will nurse those emotions only when alone or with a woman (or man) they really trust. Sometimes hiding our emotions is part of what we feel we have to do to take care of others. When a friend looks awful because he's dying of AIDS you don't go in and give way to your emotions in front of him because at that moment you know it is HE who is in need.

I think that you are realising that when your mother needs support is not a time to indulge your own feelings. There is no shame in that. And no shame in those emotions coming out when you have time for yourself.


I remember that the first time I had to deal with sickness and death of a loved one. My grandfather went into the hospital on his birthday, and died on my birthday. I was living with him and my grandma at the time.

I didn't know how to respond. I felt like I had not been taught how to "feel" those kinds of feelings necessary to go through the process. I felt cold, and I felt lost in the "analytical process" that I had become so accustomed to (my dad was pretty stoic, and I adapted to that state of being).

Then my dad arrived (they were his parents). I stiffened up and fell into the role I felt like I was supposed to. I fully expected him to be the very same way (as he had been in my entire experience with him).

He was crying when he got out of the car. I didn't know how to respond. I felt shocked, betrayed and angry at the same time. (and then I felt guilty for feeling all those feelings).

WOW.. what a bunch of baggage we build around ourselves!

I happen to think that it's bullshit for men to train their sons that emotion is bad, and indifference (or feigned indifference) is good. There is NOTHING WRONG with the expressive man. Our culture seems to have built up some kind of role that men are supposed to fit into, but I just don't think it holds water anymore..

I'm JUST as turned off by a man crying over spilt milk (or a fallen souffle), but damnit, we should feel free to express ourselves in ALL the spectrum of our being, even if it IS trite. The expression of GRIEF makes us better (and resolved). The same holds true for joy, curiosity, love, etc...

FEEL what you feel. Don't cover it up with a wet blanket, because NO ONE benefits, only loses.


BTW, for what it's worth.. I feel more STRENGTH in my emotions than I ever did as a stoic youth (and it seemed so convenient then).


-----------------------------------------------------------------, Inc. -
If you Ecobuild it... they will come...


Throughout our lives, men have been raised to be strong; suck up the pain and not show it as it is a sign of weakness. We start at a very young age to iron-plate our emotions, a suit of armor where I am strong and nothing can hurt me. We learn to control our emotions, push them to the back where only we know where they are hidden and are out of reach of everyone else. There are times when human nature overrides our abilities to maintain such a fascade; falling in love or the illness of someone truly dear to us. We feel vulnerable and unprotected in our surroundings. Most of us have felt the same as you. You want to be strong for those around you and at the same time, you want to let your emotions go. Don't continue to shield yourself from them. Express them to those close to you and you will realize the fallacy in which men have been raised.

We have to live somewhere within the two examples in which you cited (stoic/emotional) but not at any one point. Let your guard down when you are with these two important people in your life and they will realize how much you care. Good luck and best wishes.


Sorry your mom is going through this, and that you are going through this. I don't say this to extend sympathy, but simply to say that I'm with you, and that I hear you.

Men and grief? Basically, men grieve differently from women. They talk about it less, but "do" more. Tom Golden, an expert on grief, was giving a talk to mental health professionals about grieving. One hospice worker asked him how to get men involved. She had put out flyers, did lots of outreach, to get men who had been widowed to come to groups to talk to other men. They wouldn't come. "What should I do?" she asked. "Charter a fishing boat and take them out on the bay for a day." "Oh, bring along counselors, that sort of thing?" "No, leave the counselors on the dock. The men will have a good time together, and if a man feels he needs to talk, he'll find someone to talk to while they fish."

He wrote an article for MenWeb, that is also in his book Swallowed By a Snake. When his father died, the women in the family met in the kitchen over endless cups of coffee. Tom followed the family tradition, and was out in the workshop making his father's coffin. Friends and family would come by. They'd tell stories about Dad, maybe razz each other about the not being able to drive a nail straight, hang around, be together, and talk. Our American "talk culture" is just about the only one in the world that doesn't create space for men to do their grieving in their own way.

I invite you to check out the stuff on MenWeb's Men and Grief page. I wrote an article about a ritual for my Dad, scattering his ashes in the mountain. Tom has two articles there, excerpted from his book. We have 3 MP3 broadcasts from his book, you can listen to.

And know that as you stand in this grief and this pain, a lot of other men stand with you.

We won't extend "sympathy." But if you want help, want us to do anything, just ask and you've got it ...



We men are taught to be triumph, be victorious and rise above the failings of body and emotion. We learn not to surrender to the fates of life. We fear failure, grief,. loss, aging, death. When we can not triumph over them so we deny them showing no sign of defeat or wound. When we deny ourselves the humanizing experience of grief, failure and defeat we become prisoners of perfection.

Bert that imagine of a man building his fathers coffin hit me like a hammer. Sometimes it's necessary to DO something, some act of closure. Funerals are supposed to do that and maybe they did back in the days when family washed and dressed and prepared their dead. We have others do that for us now.

When my father died my brother and I were left with one simple request, he wanted his ashes scattered over his favorite beach. We saw to it and somehow it helped.



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