Men and Grief: Finding Courage to Express Emotions and Heal

The loss of a loved one is always painfully difficult. But societal expectations around masculinity can make openly grieving particularly challenging for men.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Jul 27, 2023
10 min read

Suppressing emotions and grieving alone often leads to more isolation and compounds grief. There are healthy ways for men to express grief, remember loved ones, and truly heal.

How Men Tend to Grieve

Men often grieve differently than women due to social norms and pressure to appear strong. Common experiences men have with grief include:

  • Not openly expressing emotions of sadness or crying
  • Masking grief with anger, irritation or numbness
  • Using distractions like work, sports, or hobbies to avoid grieving
  • Turning to alcohol, drugs or other risky behavior to cope
  • Withdrawing from family and friends who want to help
  • Feeling obligated to “be strong” and help others first

These tendencies come from societal messages that men should be self-reliant, stoic, and stay in control of their emotions during times of crisis or loss. However, grieving entirely alone can be extremely detrimental to mental health. Finding safe outlets to fully feel and express grief allows men to process loss in a healthy way.

Why Expressing Emotions Matters

Being vulnerable and expressing the full range of emotions allows men to grieve in a constructive manner. Benefits of releasing emotions include:

  • Acknowledging the complete pain of your loss
  • Reducing stress, anxiety and depression
  • Strengthening connections with family and friends
  • Allowing joyful memories to surface along with painful ones
  • Receiving needed comfort, support and perspective
  • Preventing destructive coping mechanisms like substance abuse

Expressing grief openly does not make you weak as a man. It simply makes you human. Emotions naturally arise during loss – they need some outlet, or they will find dysfunctional ways to leak out indirectly. Give yourself permission to grieve.

Tips to Help Men Express Grief

Here are some tips to tune into emotions that feel foreign or scary and find healthy ways to express grief:

  • Take time alone to identify and accept your full range of feelings – sadness, despair, anger, fear – without self-judgment. Allow yourself to cry privately.
  • Confide in trusted friends who won’t judge you for expressing deep pain. Sharing memories or regrets about the deceased can help emotions begin to flow.
  • Write in a journal to privately express whatever arises – the full spectrum of emotions, poetry, candid letters to the deceased, simply venting. This releases what’s within.
  • Create art, music or vigils to symbolically express your grief without needing words. Make a photo tribute, playlist of meaningful songs, garden sculpture, or visit a memorial spot.
  • Join a support group to connect with others also experiencing grief. Knowing you aren’t alone in the painful struggle is powerful medicine.
  • See a counselor to talk through complex feelings one-on-one if that feels safer than groups. Therapists help guide emotional healing.
  • Do meaningful commemoration through charitable acts, events, or donations that honor your loved one and their legacy.
  • Let memories flow while doing activities you enjoyed with the deceased – eat their favorite foods, watch favorite movies, visit meaningful places together. This can unlock emotions gently.

Be Patient with the Grieving Process

Remember that grieving is a rollercoaster. Intense emotions come and go in unpredictable waves. You may cycle rapidly between sadness, anger, anxiety, and confusion – sometimes all in one day. This is very normal. Over an extended time, the pain slowly lifts.

Don’t judge yourself for the feelings that arise or the speed of your grieving process. Set small, manageable daily goals and celebrate incremental progress. The support of at least a few trusting family or friends can make a tremendous positive impact in getting through the turbulent emotions.

Losing someone close is incredibly hard. But finding courage to express grief openly is brave and healthy. Letting emotions out can strengthen relationships. You honor those lost by fully experiencing the love and meaning they brought you. There are people who genuinely want to help lighten the burden – you don’t have to shoulder it entirely alone. The more you communicate emotions, the more true healing occurs.