Two years ago, when my husband of thirteen years was killed in a vehicle accident, I found myself feeling helpless and carrying a brand-new set of fears about my teenage sons. My twin boys, who were fifteen years old at the time of their father’s death, handled the entire situation much differently than myself and my daughter. They only missed two days of school, choosing to immediately delve back into their regular routine. While my daughter and I held each other and cried, they displayed little emotion and almost seemed annoyed about our lack of restraint in showing our grief.
I interpreted their actions as a denial of what had happened and a resistance to deal with their emotions. Over the last two years I have come to understand that there is a big difference not only in how adolescents and adults deal with grief, but also how males and females deal with it. Slowly, I have realized that there was not anything innately wrong or harmful about their behavior; it was different than mine and confusing for me to watch, but not inherently wrong.
There are numerous things that factor into losing someone so close to you. One minute your loved one was there, the next minute they are gone. You feel shock, numb, and so much pain that you can not put it into words. I was enduring the pain of losing my best friend and companion, and they were trying to process that they would never interact with their father again while on this earth. I wanted so much to protect them for what had happened, but that was literally impossible. Right away, I was worried about how they were handling (or not handling) it.
Among the issues I noticed surrounding the loss of my husband was that from day one, people were unknowingly putting pressure on my sons that just was not helpful in any way. I know without a doubt that they were trying to help and carried no bad intentions toward our family, but it is my belief that their words did more harm than good. We heard things like, “You guys have to step up and be the men of the house now”, and “I know it’s hard, but it’s time to grow up and be men now; your mom needs you”. I believe that this put an unneeded pressure on my sons. We were all very aware of what was happening to our family and that our lives would be changed forever. They were stressed enough without people adding pressure. I use my own story as an illustration because during my research about how men grieve, I have come to see that men are fixers, they see asking for help as a weakness, and they want to seem strong. They will often bury and ignore feelings in order to seem strong and in control.
Haley Grissom - The Hope & Healing Place Volunteer and Blog Contributor
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