If a man responds with “I’m fine”, or “No, I’m good” when you ask if he’s okay or if he wants to talk about something on his mind. It’s likely he’s holding in emotions that are causing him pain. You probably have no concept of the real pain he is suffering or the battle he is fighting.
As men, there’s a stigma that we all have to be strong, and that our vulnerability is a weakness that we must never show. As men, we are not supposed to show our emotions. A man is expected to remain strong in the face of adversity and to always have the answers. We are expected to be stoic at all times and deal with our emotions by ignoring them whilst harnessing the fighting spirit. In reality, this is a tragic aspect of the expectation, perceptions, and ignorance of what it means to be a man. Societal norms have caused a mass imbalance when it comes down to men and their mental health.
Your Role As A Man Is An Illusion Based On Ignorance
Men are facing a difficult situation in society, as they are pressured to conform to outdated and restrictive norms. They are held to an archaic illusion of what a man should be and how a man should act. In fact, there is a common thread of expectations that are prevalent in society. These are noted below.
- In traditional gender roles, societal norms expect men to be strong and not vulnerable. This is why men are often portrayed that way. Traditionally, men have been viewed as protectors and providers for their families. Displaying vulnerability may be seen as a weakness that could jeopardize their ability to fulfill these responsibilities.
- Emotional suppression: Society often teaches boys from a young age to suppress their emotions in order to be seen as “masculine.” In the US, men may feel pressure to appear tough and stoic. This caused men to suppress emotions like sadness, fear, and grief to avoid being seen as weak or feminine.
- Fear of judgment: Men may feel pressured to appear Stoic in order to avoid being judged or ridiculed by others, particularly by other men. Men may hesitate to show vulnerability because they don’t want to be seen as weak or fragile, even if it’s important for their emotional health.
- The need for control: In many situations, men are expected to be in control, and to be the ones making decisions. Men may hide their emotions and appear strong, even during personal hardships. The reason is because showing vulnerability can be perceived as losing control. Men may hide their emotions and appear strong even during personal hardships because showing vulnerability can be perceived as losing control.
- Many people mistakenly believe that vulnerability is a sign of weakness or incompetence. However, this is wrong. This could be an indication of emotional intelligence and strength. Men are generally expected to remain strong in difficult situations, as appearing vulnerable may be interpreted as a failure to cope with obstacles. This misunderstanding can lead to unrealistic expectations and a reluctance to seek support or share emotions during times of grief.
Grieving Men Are Lost In Fear and Judgement
All throughout the world, it often seems contradictory for men to experience grief and handle the expectations of their reactions when they lose a loved one. From my own experience, I can tell you that I fell into the expectation trap. I never had a great relationship with my father and his loss did not hit me until much further down the line. The last words I spoke to my father, were not comforting, they were not loving and in fact, they were very negative. We fell out so many times, and we had a distinct mistrust of one another. I never thought for one minute that I would lose my father, yet that day came and after that, I had to be as stoic as possible, after all, I was the man of the house.
I fell into the expectations trap, causing internal suffering based on perceived beliefs and others’ expectations. I didn’t realize I was engulfed in guilt and shame, leading me to take drastic measures to escape my internal suffering. I felt down, alone, distant and depressed, and labeled myself negatively, but I kept it inside and tried to show a certain image to those around me.
A Drunken Misunderstanding
One evening after drinking too much, I found myself yet again at the precipice between life and death. I had already tried to take my own life before when I was a young soldier in the british military, which was a massive-failed attempt. You can read about that in my first book, Brocas.J. (2008). Powers Of The Sixth Sense: How to remain safe in a hostile world. O-Books. This is when I explain my first failed suicide attempt.
I sat on a beach in the north of Scotland crying and drowning in my shame and guilt over the passing of my father and our strained relationship. That was probably 6 or 8 months after my father had passed. I had no one to turn to and no one to listen to me. I was more alone than I had ever felt in my life, and I felt detached and distant from life. In fact, I felt abandoned. For me, the shame was unbearable, and I once again found myself contemplating on my own suicide.
It was different this time, because in my drunken state I stumbled home and sat on my living room floor with Tanto in hand and ready to commit Seppuku. This is the act of taking ones own life because of shame and was a ritualistic act carried out by the Samurai class in order to save a warrior’s honor. This was outlawed in 1873 formally.
It was not to be that night as a friend who was concerned about me stopped me in my tracks just as I was about to plunge the dagger into my stomach. I am sure divine intervention played a role at that time of my life.
What The Research Posits
Research on how grief affects men is scarce, despite an abundance of gender-specific studies on grief that have focused on women. That’s why I’m shedding light on this issue and hoping to spark discussions that lead to more research and shatter false societal expectations. There is a need to understand the deeper aspects of grieving from a man’s perspective. In fact, Zinner, E. S. (2000) postulated that men are very marginalized in society in regard to the suffering of grief. This is because grief from a man’s perspective is totally misunderstood and men are expected to just ‘Get over it’ when it comes to grief and grieving. Therefore, men are often forgotten about when they are in a very closed personal prison of grief. The scale tips toward the female gender role.
Women Remain The Focus and grieving men are forgotten
Having studied grief and its societal impact extensively, I’ve concluded that women tend to attend grief and counseling groups more frequently. It’s not uncommon for men to lock themselves in a “silent prison” and present a facade of Stoicism by keeping a stiff upper lip. To this end, men are afraid to express their grief and this can lead to other deeper complications of grieving. There is lack of understanding and men are not expected to seek help.
The Hidden Danger Of Men’s Grief
Yet, there is a very real – hidden danger that needs to be uncovered. Not having a shared comprehension of how men grieve raises the chances of them experiencing mental health conditions like Prolonged Grief Disorder and Psychosis. Wagner et al. (2021) presupposes that there is a relationship between guilt, depression, prolonged grief, and post-traumatic stress after suicide bereavement. However, I personally hypothesize this goes far beyond suicide and exists within any loss or bereavement. If men don’t receive proper support during grief, they’re at a higher risk of developing psychological symptoms that could lead to more serious problems like psychosis. When are we going to drop the illusions and allow men to grieve in their own way and make it acceptable in society?
Men, It Is okay to Grieve, and It is okay to Express That Grief
To truly embark on your grief journey, it takes courage to let go of stoicism and ego, allowing your true self to emerge as a warrior who accepts his path on the grieving journey. It is essential to recognize that grieving is a natural and healthy process for all individuals, regardless of gender. Men, like women, have the right to express their emotions and work through their feelings during times of loss or hardship.
Unfortunately, men commonly trap themselves in a cycle of self-inflicted abuse while striving to fulfill societal expectations. Acknowledging and addressing grief can be an important aspect of emotional well-being and personal growth. By exploring their grief, men can gain a deeper understanding of their emotions and develop stronger connections with others who share similar experiences.
Coping Mechanisms For Grieving Men
There are numerous ways men can explore their grief in a safe and constructive manner. One approach is seeking support from friends, family members, or professional therapists who can provide empathy and understanding. We, as men, should not be afraid to talk about grief and how we are coping with it. Whilst there are many support groups and programs for grief, the man is often afraid to embrace the support for fear of being judged as being a weak individual. However, the truth is that it takes more courage and warrior spirit to ask for help and to admit that one is suffering through the loss of a loved one. To be able to talk with someone openly or privately can make a huge impact on the grieving journey.
Take Action Now
Attending support groups and grief workshops connects individuals with others experiencing similar life challenges, providing a comforting and validating environment for their grieving process. Engaging in creative outlets such as writing, art, or music can also provide men with a way to express and process their emotions. Practicing mindfulness, like yoga or meditation, can enhance men’s emotional awareness and acceptance, leading to stronger resilience and personal growth. Men can challenge societal norms and redefine strength by accepting vulnerability and embracing the grieving process, leading to a healthier and more compassionate view of masculinity.
Grieving men, join me on my journey to self-discovery. Apply to our support community and explore your potential for growth through grief. Email me for more information.
Brocas.J. (2008). Powers Of The Sixth Sense: How to remain safe in a hostile world. O-Books.
Zinner, E. S. (2000). Being a Man about it: The Marginalization of Men in Grief. Illness, Crisis & Loss, 8(2), 181–188. https://doi.org/10.1177/105413730000800206
Wagner, B., Hofmann, L., & Grafiadeli, R. (2021). The relationship between guilt, depression, prolonged grief, and posttraumatic stress symptoms after suicide bereavement. J Clin Psychol, 77, 2545– 2558. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.23192
Li, J., Tendeiro, J. N., & Stroebe, M. (2019). Guilt in bereavement: Its relationship with complicated grief and depression. International journal of psychology : Journal international de psychologie, 54(4), 454–461. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijop.12483