Gender Differences in the Grieving Process

Grief is not gender-biased. The feeling of grief is often caused by some sort of stressor. The most impactful and life-altering stressor is bereavement. [1] A stressor such as bereavement could be impactful to the point that it becomes a trauma for an individual. When stress becomes trauma, specifically psychological trauma, an individual has a greater risk of becoming depressed.[2]  Depression is a common emotion people experience when they are dealing with grief. However, males and females do have different chances of experiencing depression after a traumatic and stressful loss. Females are “twice as likely as men to experience depression” in their lifetime.[3] While there is not one specific variable that accounts for the gender difference in depression, it can likely be contributed to the fact it is less acceptable for men to outwardly express their emotions[4] and women are more likely to ruminate on their thoughts.[5]  There are theories about the different ways in which men and women grieve, but there is no scientific evidence that men and women grieve differently.

There may not be evidence to support that “women are more prone to depression than men because of negative effects of estrogen…on mood,” but the cause could be due to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis which regulates stress responses. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to these stressful situations. People with depression have increased levels of cortisol hormones, meaning there is probable dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. It could be likely that women are predisposed to have dysregulated HPA axes because of the increased prevalence of depression among females. However, the relationship between female depression and the HPA axis has not been studied enough, therefore one cannot conclude that hormones are the reason for gender differences in depression.[6]

Bereavement is likely to cause stress regardless of gender. Neither the bodies of men nor women are well-equipped to handle stress. In fact, the body may present “sickness behavior” such as isolation, loss of appetite, etc. as a result of localized inflammation caused by stress.[7]  Uncoincidentally, the “sickness behaviors” that follow the loss of a loved one are nearly identical to the symptoms of depression. The brain plays a role in the development of depression and how one deals with grief. O’Connor et al. conducted a study in which activation of certain parts of the brain, specifically the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, were associated with increased local inflammation. They studied inflammation in the mouth in particular because “gingival inflammation is correlated with depression.”[8]  The purpose of this study was to pinpoint an area of the brain that deals with depression, which was successful. However, the participants of this study were solely females, and as aforementioned, females are already at a greater risk of depression; therefore, the results of this study are not necessarily generalizable to the entire population. This study did provide insight into how depression and inflammation are correlated and which part of the brain they affect, but does not provide evidence for gender differences in grieving.

Women are often the focus of grieving studies, but men grieve, too.[9]  Men and women actually experience the same emotions when they grieve, men have just been socialized and reinforced to express their emotions differently. Men are expected to grieve internally; whereas it is more acceptable for women to grieve outwardly, especially in American culture.[10]  Men are subjected to a “constricted range of expression” when it comes to grieving.[11]  There is no difference in the brain makeup of men and women, so why is it men are less likely to express emotion and why is it not socially acceptable in American culture?  Most of it comes down to reinforcement of the idea that men are supposed to be independent and stoic, whereas women are more codependent and rely on relationships more. When it comes to dealing with grief, men are more likely to turn to substance use, while women are more likely to seek assistance via therapy. Alcohol, in particular, is commonly used to mask male depression because men are so reluctant to seek help after the loss of a loved one.[12]  Lister proposes that social workers could be the solution to helping males find productive and positive treatment. Once that intervention is successful, male emotional expression will not be shunned as it is now. Males and females experience the same emotions when it comes to grief and the biological makeup of their brains is the same, it just comes down to social reinforcement of acceptable behaviors.

Complicated grief is grief that is prolonged and more debilitating than normal.[13]  Complicated grief poses serious psychological impact for males and females alike. There are two main pathways that are activated in the brain by those experiencing complicated grief. One pathway is the reward pathway, in which the nucleus accumbens is activated; and the other is the pain pathway, in which the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, insula, and periaqueductal gray are activated. People who are experiencing complicated grief are more likely to have activation of these areas than those experiencing non complicated grief.[14]  Based on the results of O’Connor’s study, one can conclude that men and women both have these pathways, and neither gender is more likely to experience complicated grief versus non complicated grief.[15]

Males and females also experience the same psychological and biological responses when it comes to grief. While there are potential causes for the gender differences in depression and grieving, there is not enough research to support that there is in fact a substantial difference. Therefore, males and females grieve in similar ways; however, the ways in which they outwardly express their grief is different due to social reinforcement.

Let’s say a man who had just recently lost his wife of twenty years to cancer expresses his grief in the form of anger by punching a hole in his bedroom wall. This expression does not appear out of the ordinary because it aligns with the “socially acceptable” behavior males are to exhibit while going through the grieving process. Men are raised to exhibit characteristics that are deemed “acceptable” by society such as; strength, successfulness, and inexpressive of emotion. Expressing grief, or any other overwhelming display of emotion, is often discouraged in men because vulnerability is viewed as feminine. The concept of being vulnerable and expressing emotions among close friends are the expected outlets of grief women are expected to ensue. Traditionally, women have been raised to be dependent on others for support where the expression of emotions, such as crying, is strongly encouraged.[16] These stereotypes suggest that women more strongly register, and express, grief compared to their male counterparts, however, research has yielded inconclusive results as to which of the genders is more strongly impacted by grief.

The development of these stereotypes raises ethical concerns regarding the treatment of different genders during their time of grieving. With research displaying inconsistent results on which gender is more strongly impacted by grief, the societal pressures being placed on men to conceal their emotions is harmful to their mental and social health.

Men are more likely than women to grieve in isolation and employ strategies of avoidance when grieving. They also have a greater tendency to turn their emotional and psychological pain into physical pain by engaging in risk-taking behavior or committing suicide.[17] Although utilizing coping mechanisms such as avoidance tend to belittle the perception of how strongly the grief is being felt, there has been some research indicating that males may feel grief more strongly than females.

One study conducted on spousally bereaved individuals investigated the gender differences in symptoms of traumatic grief. After collecting data from 270 spousally bereaved individuals who had filled out the Inventory of Traumatic Grief, researchers could only conclude that their “findings suggest that widows and widowers do not differ in terms of absolute levels of TG symptomatology throughout their grieving process.” However, their study did find that the widowers had a more difficult time in recovering from the loss of their spouse, but they could not generalize the results due to their small population size.[18]

Another study, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found that men and women had different responses to an emotional stimulus in the right front of their insular cortex. This region of the brain plays an important role in how individuals experience emotion. The male brains showed higher levels of activity in this area, compared to the female brains.[19] This observation suggests that males may feel grief more strongly than females, but they could simply lack the communicational skills to convey these emotions due to social underdevelopment.

Instead of being taught emotion-focused coping strategies, men have been taught to suppress these feelings of grief. Emotion-focused coping strategies have shown promising results in the management of grief. Women who are better able to cope with their grief have fewer health consequences because they confront and express their grief more than men.[20] The inability to express emotions can creates tension within men, which can have detrimental side effects on their overall psychosocial health.

 

Brain scans comparing the insular lobe activity between males and females when exposed to an emotional stimulus. There are higher levels of activity exhibited in the male brains than the female brains. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3689820/Are-male-female-brains-wired-differently-Scans-opposite-responses-area-responsible-experience-emotions.html

This inability to express emotions has also been suggested to contribute to the fact that men suffer relatively greater health consequences than their female counterparts due to the “higher levels of social support” received by widows than widowers. A study conducted by Strobe found that “social causes” were “responsible for the observed sex difference in health findings.”[21] Another study’s findings were consistent with Strobe in that men’s experiences with grief were “less supported” than women’s experiences.[22] This is of  particular ethical concern and importance because the attitudes towards those who are grieving can be adjusted, so that gender is not a factor in the sympathy received.

Grief is a universal experience, yet how men and women both cope and respond to grief can vary widely throughout the world depending on background and cultural perspective. When examining grief, it is important to have an operational definition of it to ensure that everyone is on the same page as it relates to its core definition. Grief has been aptly described as “First, not a state but rather a process. Second, the grief process typically proceeds in fits and starts, with attention oscillating to and from the painful reality of death. Third, the spectrum of cognitive, social, and behavioral disruptions of grief is broad, ranging from barely noticeable alterations to profound anguish and disruption”.[23] It is important to think about grief as a process rather than a simple one-time action, as it oftentimes has a profound emotional impact on both men and women. While the way men and women grieve are often different and unique, there is also a profound difference in the way men and women experience grief based on cultural norms and expectations. This wide culture variation in grief and its impact helps shape both society and culture writ large.

The first step in becoming more culturally aware and inclusive as a society is to recognize that those who come from differing culture backgrounds often have very different ways of grieving than the average Caucasian American. For instance, in a case study involving a sixteen-year-old African-American female who gave birth to two premature twins who later died, cultural understanding and sensitivity would have provided a greater sense of comfort and understanding to the mother of the newborns. In examining Nileen, the African American mother’s responses, it could clearly be seen that she was despondent. However, the nurse continued to try and interact with her and comfort her, as seen in this excerpt: “Nileen initiated no body movements, nor eye-contact that acknowledge the presence of Jill and the preceptor. Nileen merely stared at the television and turned the channel. Instead of understanding Nileen’s body language and cues that she wanted to be left alone, Jill, the nursing student, chose to ignore Nileen and arguably made the situation worse.[24] While understanding the importance of culture and background is vital in respectfully and gracefully interacting with those from differing cultural backgrounds experiencing grief, it also helps to provide greater understanding as to why people from certain cultures and backgrounds differ in the way they respond to and experience grief.

Understanding that men and women experience and react to grief in fundamentally different ways is the first step in trying to further understand the cultural perspectives as it relates to grief. Alan Wolfeit, author, educator, and grief counselor, shrewdly observes that “Even in the face of tragic loss, men in our society still feel the need to be self-contained, stoic, and to express little or no emotion.”  Deb Kosmer, a bereavement support coordinator for Affinity Visiting Nurses, also succinctly observes,” More men are going to the gym and pound a basketball to work it out, where women have.. built-in support systems”.[25] Understanding these key emotional differences between men and women in our society is crucial. However, there remains a great lack of understanding as it relates to grief and the differing ways it is experienced throughout cultures.

While differing cultures may very well have differing ways of expressing and showing grief, one African-American male in a cultural study on grief candidly stated, “I believe we all grieve the same. Any cultural group would probably use different words, but they all mean the same thing.” A native American male also echoed a similar sentiment, observing that “It’s a part of being human.” A woman of African ancestry tersely stated after acknowledging the many differing ways those in her own cultural grieve, “We all feel the same.” It is also notable that in this cultural study, participants “almost universally contended that as an intrapersonal experience, there are no differences based on culture or ethnicity alone. They rather staunchly maintained that the differences are individual both within cultural groups as well as across cultural groups”.[26] This is a key conclusion to make, as it seems to confirm the fact that when it comes to grief, the emotions and feelings one has after loss are shared across cultures and the human experience.

One of the key issues is the extent to which those in different cultures choose to express or hide their grief. For example, in Japan, “Japanese people have rituals to follow after the death of a loved one. Family and extended family gather together and remember and talk about the family member who has died.” However, as the social makeup of Japan has changed and as the extended family has transitioned away from the nuclear family, nurses and other caretakers are often now tasked with memorial plans.[27]

While cultural and gender differences do indeed shape how a person might grieve the loss of a loved one, the overall emotions and feelings one experiences after the passing of a significant other is remarkably similar across gender and culture. While men may lack the social structure and sense of community that women do, it is important to recognize that there is a remarkable amount of overlap when it comes to the emotion they both experience. Scientific studies regarding gender differences in the grieving process do not have sufficient evidence to definitively state that differences exist. “Social norms” are the main influence on gender differences because they lay out what emotions are acceptable to express while grieving. With inconsistent results in the scientific studies conducted, it is unethical to hold males and females to different standards of grief when there is little evidence to support differences exist. Grief is a universal concept that transcends both gender and culture.

Rebecca Bagley

Emma Bumgardner

Brooks Fitts

 

[1]O’Connor, Mary-Frances, Michael R. Irwin, and David K. Wellisch. “When Grief Heats up: Proinflammatory Cytokines Predict Regional Brain Activation.” Neuroimage 47, no. 3 (2009): 891–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.049.

[2] Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan. “Gender Differences in Depression.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 10, no. 5 (2001): 367–74. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00142.

[3] Ibid

[4] Lister, Larry. “Men and Grief: A Review of Research.” Smith College Studies in Social Work 61, no. 3 (1991): 220–35. https://doi.org/10.1080/00377319109517365.

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Dubose, J. Todd. “The Phenomenology of Bereavement, Grief, and Mourning.” Journal of Religion and Health 36, no. 4 (1997): 367–74. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1027489327202.

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] O’Connor, Mary-Frances, David K. Wellisch, Annette L. Stanton, Naomi I. Eisenberger, Michael R. Irwin, and Matthew D. Lieberman. “Craving Love? Enduring Grief Activates Brain’s Reward Center.” Neuroimage 42 (2008): 969–72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.04.256.

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Versalle, Alexis, and Eugene E. Mcdowell. “The Attitudes of Men and Women concerning Gender Differences in Grief.” OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying 50, no. 1 (2005): 53-67. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://doi.org/10.2190/r2tj-6m4f-rhgd-c2md.

[17]  Canetto, Silvia Sara, and Anne Cleary. “Men, Masculinities and Suicidal Behaviour.” Social Science & Medicine 74, no. 4 (2012): 461-65. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.001.

[18] Boelen, Paul A., and Jan Van Den Bout. “Gender Differences in Traumatic Grief Symptom Severity after the Loss of a Spouse.” OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying 46, no. 3 (2003): 183-98. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://doi.org/10.2190/6c8g-c0xr-f0q4-vr3x.

[19] Mailonline, Shivali Best For. “UCLA Scientists Uses Scans to Prove Male and Female Brains Do React Differently.” Daily Mail Online. July 14, 2016. Accessed April 05, 2019. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3689820/Are-male-female-brains-wired-differently-Scans-opposite-responses-area-responsible-experience-emotions.html.

[20] Stroebe, Margaret, Wolfgang Stroebe, and Henk Schut. “Gender Differences in Adjustment to Bereavement: An Empirical and Theoretical Review.” Review of General Psychology 5, no. 1 (2001): 62-83. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1037//1089-2680.5.1.62.

[21] Stroebe, Margaret S., and Wolfgang Stroebe. “Who Suffers More? Sex Differences in Health Risks of the Widowed.” Psychological Bulletin 93, no. 2 (1983): 279-301. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.93.2.279.

[22] Stillion, Judith M., and Susan B. Noviello. “Living and Dying in Different Worlds: Gender Differences in Violent Death and Grief.” Illness, Crisis & Loss 9, no. 3 (2001): 247-59. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/105413730100900302.

[23] Zisook, Sidney, and Katherine Shear. “Grief and Bereavement: What Psychiatrists Need to Know.” (2013).

https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2051-5545.2009.tb00217.x

[24] Ellis Fletcher, Sally,N. “Cultural Implications in the Management of Grief and Loss.” Journal of Cultural Diversity 9, no. 3 (Fall, 2002): 86-90. http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/docview/219311841?accountid=14244.

[25]Anderson, Cheryl. “How Men Grieve: Understanding Differences between how Men and Women Handle Grief Leads to Fox Valley Support Network.” The Post – Crescent, Jun 05, 2011. http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/docview/870567586?accountid=14244.

[26] Cowles, Kathleen V. “Cultural Perspectives of Grief: an Expanded Concept Analysis.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 23, no.2 (1996): 287–94. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.1996.tb02669.x.

[27] Shimoinaba, Kaori, Margaret O’Connor, Susan Lee, and Judi Greaves. “Staff Grief and Support Systems for Japanese Health Care Professionals Working in Palliative Care.” Palliative and Supportive Care 7, no.2 (2009): 245. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1478951509000315.

39 Comments

  1. This post not only offers explanation for factors that can account for the difference in grief between men and women, but it also accounts for variation in expression of grief. However, the research intensive nature of this project could be emphasized through integration of statistics (quantitative data). The post does a good job in cohesively combining each of the three perspectives, with no noticeable difference in the arguments of each one.

  2. Caroline Vincent

    April 20, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    Both of our entries discuss the new DSM-5 category complicated grief. Complicated grief is a new and unclear diagnosis. It would be interesting to research if the rate of diagnosis for complicated grief is higher in women because women are an at-risk group for depression and other mood disorders. It would also be important for researchers to look at an overdiagnosis in mood disorders in women now that people experiencing grief are not excluded.

  3. Kristen Lennon

    April 20, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    This post does a good job of addressing the social stigma surrounding men and women in respect to sharing their emotions. The article states that women have a higher chance of getting depression but then goes on to say that men and women have no difference in brain makeup. This leads me to question if women really are more likely to get depression or if it is just that they get diagnosed more frequently or that studies are done more commonly involving women. In respect to how men and women are treated during grieving I think an interesting potential study could be what people say to men and women respectfully at an event like a funeral and how they differ.

  4. This article is very interesting, and does a good job of describing the influence of biological makeup and societal expectations. Men and women have similar makeup, but women are more likely to show emotion and be depressed. While this article touched on the fact that women are more likely to attempt suicide than men, it would have been interesting to read about the fact that men are more likely to be successful in committing suicide. Understanding why this is and grasping how men and women express themselves differently could be really interesting.

  5. I think it’s really interesting that there is a gender disparity regarding the risk of depression. One of the possible reasons for this difference is that women are more likely to ruminate on their thoughts more than men. The differences in how men and women expression emotion can inform how they deal with grief. More importantly, US culture further enforces societal gender norms towards grieving. Society tends to make women out to be more emotional and men more stoic. In the case of grieving, women are allowed to grieve emotionally whereas men are meant to “stay strong”. There is actually research that suggests that males may feel grief more strongly than females, but they “could simply lack the communicational skills to convey these emotions due to social underdevelopment”. Individuals who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS go through Kübler Ross’s stages of grief because receiving this diagnosis is essentially terminal condition. Acknowledging the differences in grieving between men and women can be imperative in psychological treatments for individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the future.

  6. I think this post does a good job acknowledging how, even though grief is universal among humans, culture has a huge impact on how people express their grief. Men and women may have some differences in how they deal with or experience grief, but a huge part of that difference is that our culture tries to suppress men’s expression of emotions. Men feel depressed and upset and angry and confused, just like everyone else, but they aren’t really allowed to process it out loud. I think it we as a society need to move away from that and encourage men to express their feelings.

  7. Your post was very informative, and when you talked about the tendency of people to assume that women are the perceived grievers I thought you made a great point by simply saying “men grieve too.” I think with the gender biases today, crying and depression as man seems as if it makes them less masculine when in fact grief is something that we all go through and must deal with in our way.

  8. Madeleine Smith

    April 22, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    I was really interested to read this post because grieving and potential gender differences associated with it are fascinating to me. I think the whole process of grieving has been defined by society. The fact that we have this idea in our brains that men should act a certain way and women should act a different way when dealing with the same situation is insane. I think it’s interesting how if a woman doesn’t cry or show emotion about something it’s seen as odd but if they show too much emotion for a situation it’s also seen as odd and the same goes for men. I even catch myself thinking if a man punches a wall out of anger it’s normal and if a woman does the same thing it’s a bit crazy but truly there is no one way any person should act when facing grief and anger but these ideas have been ingrained in us due to societal norms. I thought it was really interesting how grief and stress can show themselves as sickness behaviors in your body. It further supports that mental health diseases are a form of sickness and should be treated as one. I think the studies included in this post are important because no conclusive results were really found that show women grieve more than men or vica versa. This shows that these ideas about grieving come from society, men shouldn’t talk about their feelings and women are expected to be emotional. I think these societal norms need to be stripped of their value because there is no right way to grieve and men should be able to express emotions and women should be able to do the opposite if that’s what will help them in their process.

  9. I find it extremely valuable that you begin by offering the explanation that grief is not biased based on gender and is a common factor that many people experience during their lifetimes. For the factor of depression, I find it very interesting that women are more likely to experience depression because they “ruminate in their thoughts,” but I also believe a gender difference in depression exist because men are less likely to report symptoms of depression as compared to women. I loved your example about increased rates of depression based on inflammatory response, as this is something I had never considered before, but it is true that the body “tells” us when something is wrong. I like that you proposed for social workers to be an intervening force for men to be able to express their emotions around grief, but how would one actually enforce this if its still on a voluntary basis? I am also wondering how social workers would change the perception of males expressing emotion in society because even if the men are more willing to deal with their emotions publicly, that doesn’t necessarily warrant others being accepting of the emotional display. An avenue for future research may be investigating postpartum depression in both men and women to discover the effects on both gender with particular regard to physiological effects to serve as another determinate to indicate how grief and depression presents itself in certain sexes.

  10. I always knew that women were more prone to depression than men, but I could never understand why that is. It was very interesting to hear that a reason for this could be because of the “negative effects of estrogen on mood”. I had no idea that estrogen and also the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis affected mood which led to stress. I was not surprised to read that women grieve just as much as men do, but the social stigmas around men is for them to not share any emotions or show “weakness”. I am intrigued why and how this came to be? Especially if there is no difference in the brain makeup of men and women, where did this social stereotype of men not being able to share their emotions come from?

  11. This post was very interesting in that I learned why women were more likely to experience depression why dealing with grief. I always knew that women were more likely to but never understood truly why. Men and women both deal with grief, which is a term I think has been defined by society. However, do you believe that since men and women both deal with grief, men are just less likely to report being depressed since society has established men as not one who should show their emotion?

  12. Kendall Bradley

    April 23, 2019 at 10:43 am

    The ethical link you made from this topic is so intriguing. I had never considered these pressures to perform grief in a particular way based on gender through the lens of ethics, but I definitely agree with your conclusion. I wonder what the solutions to this phenomenon are…you mentioned helping males find productive and positive treatment, which sounds good, but I’m curious whether the same inherent factors that lead men to naturally choose avoidance and isolation would make counseling or therapy less effective for these same men. This doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea, just that it’s probably not a one-size-fits-all solution. I think there’s something to be said for the way we employ these expectations every day, because if we have built a culture that doesn’t want men to express emotion and process internal wounds, that isn’t just going to disappear when grief enters the scene.

  13. The stereotypes surrounding men and women make this topic really interesting, because it is widely accepted that women are more emotional than men, and therefore, it would be assumed that women would be more likely to experience depression in their lifetime. The focus on the ethical issues of these stereotypes is interesting, mostly because all of them are true and it is very hard to understand why we have been conditioned this way as Americans. Also, many of the studies mentioned in this post seem to not be generalizable to a population, so why do you think they do them? Overall, this post is very cohesive and informative and was very interesting to read.

  14. This post takes on a more serious, applicable topic that I find to be more useful in today’s world than many of the other topics. I liked how the three perspectives of the research meshed so well together and the flow of the article worked smoothly. Furthermore, I appreciated how the post addresses stigmas men and women deal with in regards to sharing their emotions. The article does a remarkable job at speaking on both the social and biological/chemical aspect of differences between the genders. One shortcoming I did notice while reading this post is the lack of quantitative data that could proficiently serve to reinforce the points made and add validity to the arguments.

  15. I found this very eyeopening, as we often understand our cultural norms but rarely analyze why they exist. This post does a great job of examining grief not only across genders, but across cultures as well, which ultimately affect each other. I would have liked to have heard about the different stages of grief, and if they were consistent across gender and culture as well. I love the point you made about all humans feel the same about death, but it is how we express these feelings that are different. For example, how you mentioned men and women have the same brain makeup, but it is society that reinforces the differences how we each react to grief. It poses the question of how can we change this reinforcement, so that nothing is expected form men or women in the grieving process?

  16. My group researched the difference in the grieving process and age, so it was interesting to see how our two topics were similar and different. One aspect I found interesting was the similarity between how men grieve in American culture and Hispanic culture. In both cultures, men are not supposed to outwardly show grief and are supposed to be stoic and independent. Do you think this is the case for all men, or do you think there is a culture where men are allowed to outwardly grieve as women do? It’s unfortunate that it is not socially acceptable for men to show any negative emotions or cry, even when grieving. It was also interesting to know that men and women do not differ in how our brains process grief, but rather how we cope with it. Why do you think more women are susceptible to depression than men?

  17. I found it very interesting that depression could be the cause of inflammatory symptoms of one’s body. I never would have thought that there was a correlation between depression and inflammation in the mouth. However, I wish there was more information on the connection between depression and the areas of the brain related to depression to inflammation in the mouth. Were there parts of the brain such as the anterior cingulate cortex that also were activated when concerning inflammation in/on the body? When you say that “gingival inflammation is correlated with depression,” does this mean that having an inflection in the mouth results or correlates with having depression? I wish this portion was a bit more clear. Other than that, this particular fact piqued my interests and I would like to learn more.

    In addition, I liked how you guys addressed how men are socially conditioned to suppress their emotions, especially when it comes to grieving. I think it would’ve been a good thing to include the negative physiological effects on the body when it comes to suppressing emotions. From a psychological standpoint, the body experiences detrimental negative physiological effects when one tries to suppress their emotions to the point that studies have proven that those who do suppress emotions, tend to live shorter lifespans. This could then be related to complicated grief and the negatives of grieving for long periods of time.

  18. First of all, I love your opening – it gets right to the point and lets me know what to expect right off the bat!
    Going into this post, I thought there would be a distinct difference between the way men and women grieve, but this post changed my mind. I should have expected this to happen, though, since as my group wrote our post (How the Age of the Deceased Affects the Grieving Process), my preconceived notions were similarly negated. Most research supported the idea that age wasn’t as important as the survivor’s relationship to the deceased. We found very similar information about how people process the death of a loved one, such as loss of appetite and feelings of isolation. However, I haven’t often considered how men and women may seem to grieve differently based on cultural expectations of emotional expression. That’s interesting and I’m glad you guys brought it up! I think we should all be asking the same question you ask here – why is it socially unacceptable for men to show intense expressions of emotion? Seems pretty dangerous and unfair for us to force men to hide their emotions in that way – especially those that come along with something as devastating as the death of someone they love.
    Overall, I’m so interested in this topic, and I appreciate seeing a slightly different perspective on the psychology of grieving! I wish there was more research on this topic… maybe we can find out more about it in our futures! I think your closing statement wraps up this topic extremely well: grief is so nuanced that we can’t really give it a one-size-fits-all definition. Great job!

  19. I thought that this was a very interesting article, for multiple reasons. My group wrote about grief by age; I always knew that there were differences in how people responded to death based on their stage in life, but I never thought about the differences in how people respond to death based on gender. It is upsetting that the social stigma surrounding gender in U.S. culture affects the way people respond to the death of their loved ones. It was mentioned in this article that “it is less acceptable for men to outwardly express their emotions and women are more likely to ruminate on their thoughts”; does this cause people to feel as though they are grieving “incorrectly”, and does this make the grieving process more difficult? I also raised this question after reading another research post – Universal and Cross-Cultural Models of Grief.

  20. Juliet Alegria

    April 23, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    Very interesting analysis! From my perspective, many of the issues with grief, especially with the male grieving process, could be changed with social adjustments. Though it is difficult to change gendered socialization, men in particular seem to need better social support through grief. While anger may make one feel better in the short term, it does not relieve the feelings of grief. Perhaps there needs to be a greater urge for the bereaved to get therapy. For instance, maybe funeral services should recommend therapy to a family coming in with the deceased. I wrote my post on suicide bombers, so I noticed a similar theme that unprocessed or difficult emotions can lead to dangerous outcomes, often performed by men. While the grieving process and cultural expectations may differ for each gender, I believe men, like women, also could greatly benefit from social support. This being said, why, in our culture, do we still act like men need to be strong and stoic all the time? If there is ever a time that one feels vulnerable, it is after the loss of a loved one, so both men and women should seek out help and support!

  21. The post has well-explained the gender differences of grieving and how different genders show grief. In China, men took the main responsibility for supporting his family. Therefore, society in China expects men to hide their expression of grieving since those expressions are considered weak. This culture seems universal. It would be interesting if the post can compare the gender difference of grieving in different cultures or religions. Good jobs!

  22. I found this post extremely interesting and insightful when discussing the discrepancies between the ways both men and women cope and experience grief. Due to societal expectations men are expected to suppress their emotions and to be strong. Whereas women are depicted as more emotional and as stated in the post, are more likely to experience depression. However, by bringing awareness to how our culture enforces societal gender norms in terms of grievance, I believe men should not feel the need to hide their emotions since holding their feelings in could cause both physical and mental issues leading to more serious health problems.

  23. The topic of gender differences in the grieving process is very interesting to study and read about. I thought it was particularly interesting that bereavement can cause physical as well as psychological symptoms. I knew that being stressed can make you feel physically sick but I didn’t know that the “sickness behavior” that a stressed or grieving person experiences is due to actual physical symptoms such as inflammation. It is also interesting that although men and women experience the same emotions when grieving, they are conditioned to express these emotions in different ways. Since the article states that men often turn to substance abuse to cope with their grief, I wonder if working to lessen these gender norms would decrease the rate of substance abuse in America?

  24. I enjoyed reading about how women and men grieve differently, especially from the cultural perspective. I recognized similarities between the American gender roles for males as well as the machismo culture discussed in the “Grief by Age” post. It is interesting how men in both of these cultures still perceive expressing emotions as taboo. As society becomes more accepting of freedom of expression, do you believe males will become more willing to communicate their feelings? It was also interesting to read about how people from different cultures all agreed that death is a universal process. This raises the question as to why gender norms influence the grief process of men and women differently, if grief indeed universal. Besides gender differences, do you also think the differences of individualized vs. collectivized societies influence grief processes? Japan is more collectivized while America is more individualized. This perhaps makes the process of grief either a group process or an individual process which could change the way people express and interpret their sorrows.

  25. Kenzie Chasteen

    April 24, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Rebecca, Emma and Brook, your research and post was insightful. The Anthropological significance of your post was very clear. From the outside we observe grief through of own cultural lens and biases, this does not exclude gender. I have personally seen the pressure on men to “be strong” and refrain from visual signs of deep emotion and I have also felt pressure as a women to show “more emotion” or appear disturbed on the outside when I purely desire to keep my emotions to myself. I think these culture facts allude to a whole host of other factors impacting mental health.

  26. I found this post extremely interesting in that it directly addresses how American social norms have caused women and men to express emotion differently and how those norms then translate into the grieving process. Is just knowing that men and women are biologically wired to feel the same emotion enough to allow for them to feel comfortable expressing emotion or is a deeper societal change required? If so, what could feasibly be done? It would also be interesting to try and find the root cause of why women are told to express emotion while men are not, what the historical significance of that could be. Furthermore, the article touched a little on this, but it would be interesting to explore how men and women grieve differently depending on cultures. In some places in the world, is it more socially allowed for the man to express grief more publicly?

  27. Parian Covington

    April 24, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    I enjoyed this reading article because it discussed the gender differences in grieving. I think the stereotypes between genders should be extinguished because it really makes it hard for men to grieve and express themselves when they need to. We are all humans who have feelings, cry, get angry, and experience a range of emotions; nobody should feel like they have to keep everything bottled up just to uphold societal standards.

  28. Alejandra Fernandez-Borunda

    April 24, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    This post captured very well the way in which females and males are divided in our culture. I was not very surprised to learn that men are told to hold in their emotions and that is why they appear to cry less. This reminded me of a Tony Porter’s A Call to Men, which talked about a concept known as the man box which encompasses the ‘ingredients’ to becoming a man. Part of that box was the concept that boys were not allowed to cry. He even cited his own experience where, one time when his son was very young, he saw his son crying. Instead of comforting his son as he would have his daughter, he yelled at his son to get himself together and talk to him like a man. This is something that he is trying to combat in our culture, and he does this mostly by speaking and educating at events. I believe that in our culture right now it is becoming increasingly more acceptable for men to be seen crying and expressing themselves. I think that the way we have started combating this stigma is by repeating over and over through social media, movies, books, etc. that it is okay for men to show their emotions. Do you think that pushing forth the idea that it is acceptable for men to show emotion through all these platforms will eventually lead to a lessening of the stigma against men crying?

  29. Thank you for such an interesting post! I was intrigued by your article title in gender differences in grief and I found it very interesting to hear about the research you all collected. I found the scientific data proving that men and women do in fact grieve the same, biologically that is, to be fascinating. As you all explored, my understanding of grief is typically based on its expression but this, as you all pointed out, have more to do with cultural boundaries than the actual experience of grief. I also found it interesting that widowers tend to grieve the loss of their spouse more than widows, as this goes against many traditional American assumptions.

  30. The idea that men and women grieve differently is perhaps widely believed, but even more interesting is the idea that these reactions come from the same feelings—that is to say, women don’t feel more deeply, but they express the grief differently. I also never thought about how grief could be quantified, as is shown through the example of widow and widower showing the same levels of TG symptomatology. It makes me wonder about children grieving and how the lines for gender stereotypes aren’t always known to them—a girl might lash out in violence and a boy might cry. Perhaps their outward manifestations of grief overlap because they haven’t been taught the societal standards for gendered emotion yet? What would grieving processes be like without these stereotypes?

  31. This was a really well written and intriguing article. It was especially informing when you explained the relevance of the hormone cortisol when it comes to stress. It never clicked to me the symptoms of depression were identical to those of grief to the point where parts of the brain are inflamed. Are those who are experiencing depression from grief given the same medication as those who are just depressed? It was also interesting to see the distinction between women and males when it comes to grieving. It’s sad to see that the matter is typically related to females, and males aren’t typically given much attention in the matter. However, as your research mentioned, they both experience the same responses when it comes to grief. I was also surprised to see that men are more likely to grieve in isolation. Is this by any chance based on their upbringings/ childhoods? It was also interesting to see how grieving was similar in different areas of the world. The African American study mentioned was eye opening. Although we’ve been taught the many ways that grieving practices differ in different countries, it was intriguing to see how they’re also the same at times.

  32. I think that this post does a good job of explaining that, even though grief is universal, women often experience depression when grieving more than men do. It also explains the cultural differences and how that impacts grieving. I think a lot of grieving is defined by society and we think that men and women have to act a certain way. It is interesting that men are not able to really show emotion because it is not considered appropriate. I wonder if there are places in the world where it is more acceptable for men to show grief.

  33. I think its good from the beginning that the mental illness of depression is highlighted being associated with grief. Like I read in the post, Leading Causes of Death among College Students, it speaks on the stigma of mental illness and you all point out that this stigma is heavily tied to me, as they are casted out for speaking about their emotions. Bringing a feminist aspect on mens “constricted range of expression,” I feel like this statement kind of blame men for their patriarchal dominance and their inability to grieve openly. I think men need to start deconstructing the stigma they initially have made for themselves to hold themselves to masculinity traits and not grieve and take advantage of comfort and codependent relationships. Can the stereotypes of women being more strongly register and express grief be because they do it openly. Would men be seen in this light if they started opening up more? Contradicting you post, in my groups post, How the Age of the Deceased Affects the Grieving Process, the ethics section supports the idea that grief can be unique among people, which would include gender. This belief that grief is autonomous and the lack of following in trends among different demographics supports the gendered stigma of men not grieving openly which can be damaging.

  34. Although I find this topic interesting and believe some aspects of the post are well-executed, my immediate concern with this post is the omission of any discussion of people who do not fit into the gender binary, and the subsequent conflation of gender and sex in this discussion. This aside, I am intrigued in particular by the concept that, according to the UCLA study, men may feel grief more acutely than women. This seems like it creates a “double whammy;” men are expected to curtail emotions that are already stronger than those of their female counterparts. Could this be an explanation for the rather high gender gap in suicides you mention later in the post?

  35. I think this is an important topic to shed more light on because knowing how a male or female innately grieves is useful in the healing process. While statistics may show that women have a ‘built-in immune system’ or usually ‘ruminate more’ and men ‘lack the communication skills’ to talk about their grief, it is essential to realize that the roles can be reversed. Culture in America has a big part to play in what emotions are socially acceptable for each gender, but that does not mean that females can’t be closed-off or males be more sensitive. Destroying that social boundary is key to creating a more inclusive society. Why can’t strength be associated with some vulnerability? Is it due to ego or is it all a social standard?

  36. This article is very well written and flows in between sections nicely. Honestly, I am surprised that grief is not gender-biased. Culture in the United States lends to the belief that women are more emotional and therefore more susceptible to the grieving process. I would think that because of the different chemical makeups in the different genders this would lead to varying ways of grieving. I think the way societal norms and expectations influence how genders express their grieving process is very interesting. Over time it has become less socially “acceptable” for men to express deep emotions as opposed to women. This is troubling to me; I think everyone should be able to express themselves the way they choose without fear of living up to societal expectations. I wonder if in the future it would be possible to change the reinforcement that has been created over time? This would hopefully create an equal platform for each gender to express themselves the way they would like to.

  37. Great article! I found it very interesting that the differences in grieving didn’t come from biological differences between genders but more from societal expectations. I wonder how this disparity between genders could be further explored in the diagnosis of a terminal illness, would it show the same types of differences? In the previous article I read about tobacco use in the US, there was another interesting difference between tobacco use in different genders. The way different genders handle death, and other things associated with it, is a very interesting topic and your article did a great job in sparking my curiosity into these differences.

  38. I find it very tragic that society has come to a point where people are unable to properly express their feelings and sadness because it takes away from their masculinity and therefore the view that people have of them. It’s almost as if these social norms have been so engraved into the brains of people that it’s hard to conduct studies since men are less willing to be open about their stuggles with mourning their deceased loved ones and some people actually consider the idea that people’s way of grieving is more of a biological process that is affected by certain differences in brain functions and amounts of specific chemicals in the brain. Sadly, it was surprising and almost unbelievable to me that males might actually be the gender that feel grief harder than the other gender, although it’s more socially “appropriate” and acceptable for women to show their emotions to their significant others and everyone else around them. This article really drives the reader to feel for the male gender and want to change the norms in order to assist the closing of this gap between males and female when it comes to mourning because it’s getting to point where it’s actually starting to create psychosocial issues in men since what they feel internally and what they show externally are far too different and causing men to suffer from cognitive dissonance. It was great idea to put the solution to this issue after these claims since it makes the reader want to know how to diminish this issue to the best of their abilities.

  39. It was a very interesting choice to start the article with the claim, but it worked well as a strong hook. I find it interesting that there is no evidence for differences in ways of grieving, especially with the differences in depression and different manifestations of grief. Was reminded slightly of one of the other articles, “International Military Approaches to Mental Health and Suicide.” It would be interesting to see the grieving process for military persons and if that skews the gender difference express if there was a calculated difference. The inclusion of different cultures for comparison was good. It was interesting to see that different societal pressures off different cultures and the similarities in between. However, there were sometimes claims such as the differences in activities and the habits each gender is taught that made me question the claim set at the start. I would like to see the definition or threshold for a true difference in grieving if these were not enough. The inclusion of the sympathy that each sex receives was a very interesting and thoughtful inclusion. This was very thorough and interesting, thank you.

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