Grief affects everyone, but women and men may not grieve in the same way. In supporting a grieving man, consider that his grief may manifest in different ways. He will likely not be as quick to talk about feelings, and his sadness may show up as irritability. When supporting a grieving man you love, be patient with him. Understanding who he is and how he processes emotions will be an impactful way of supporting him.
Give Him Space
Emotional processing occurs differently in men than women, so give him adequate space to be with and think about his grief. Men are not socialized to be emotive as women are -- your man may not feel comfortable openly expressing emotion. Give him time and space to process his feelings rather than pressuring him. Trying to get him to open up may lead to frustration on both his and your part. Many men also seek autonomy and independence as a way of mitigating grief. Allowing him the room to do things for himself may help ease some of his pain.
Instead of emotional expression, men may become more goal-oriented with activities to deal with grief. If he has hobbies, you may see him pursuing them with an increased frequency. Encourage him to engage in his hobbies or new activities to cope with his grief. Having a sense of power and creation will be a welcome break from the powerlessness many feel while in grief.
Patience with Irritability
When they have depression, many men manifest their sadness as irritability. Since grief often creates the circumstances for depression, be patient if your man is irritable. His irritation could stem from feeling powerless to prevent the loss or from having to resume his day-to-day life without someone he cared for. No matter the cause, a short temper after the loss of a loved one is not uncommon in men. His irritability may represent the sadness and frustration he feels and any difficulty he has dealing with grief, as many men do not get the same tools to deal with emotions as women do. If he becomes snappy, do not instantly deride him, but consider the role of grief in his irritability.
Consider Professional Help
Therapy can help grieving men process, and encouraging professional help demonstrates your support for their mental health. Therapists are trained to help people work through crises. For men, therapists can be especially helpful because they show men how to grieve and emote in healthy ways without suppressing or avoiding emotions. Group therapy is another helpful avenue for grieving men because they process their pain with other people like them. Grieving groups for men are important because men may feel like other men will better understand their emotional lives. Cohort support in group therapy is itself a factor in change.
S. Grey has a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. He is also pursuing a PhD and has a love for psychology, comic books and social justice. He has been published in a text on social psychology and regularly presents research at regional psychology conferences.