Men and Women Grieve Child Loss Differently
If you have suffered the loss of a child, then you know that men and women grieve very differently. This difference between the way we grieve has caused much additional pain to a couple already feeling alone, lost, and often without hope. So many times, a woman will shout out in despair to the father of her child saying, “You don’t care about this loss! You don’t show any emotions at all. I need you to hold me, to cry with me, and to tell me how much you miss our child!” The father remains silent with a puzzled look on his face. Fathers do care. Father most certainly do grieve the loss of their child, and they grieve long and hard. But, they grieve in a very different way than a mother grieves. And, that is something that should be explained to couples early on after the death of their child. So many relationships have ended following the loss of a child mostly because communication ended and there was such a misunderstanding about the different ways men and women express their grief. +
I saw it happen to my own mother and father. Following the death of my 13-year-old sister Carmella, my mother fell into a deep, dark depression almost immediately. Not only was she struggling with heavy grief, but she was unable to claw out of this pit of despair because she had fallen into the grip of depression, also.
My mother cried endlessly, and she desperately wanted my father to talk. I can still hear her anguished cries for help.
And, I can still see the look of questioning on my father’s face. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know how to fix this. So, he did as a lot of fathers do. He stopped talking. Instead, he spent endless hours in our basement working on farm equipment, thinking of ways to build our farm business bigger and better than before. And, he stayed away from the cries of my mother as much as possible.
Sadly, their marriage ended in divorce less than two years after the death of my sister.
Communication had broken down. Later on I would find out just how much my father grieved the death of my sister. He ended up moving away and living out the remainder of his years on this earth separated from all of his family. I truly believe that he never was able to express the grief he had over the death of my sister.
And, my mother? She eventually got help for the depression, but she grieved the death of my sister and the loss of her marriage until the very day she died. She never remarried. She simply couldn’t understand what happened — why she was left alone by the man she loved during her greatest time of need.
This story isn’t unique. Thousands of couples experience this same parting of the ways each year following the loss of their child because they have not been told how differently men and women grieve.
Men feel the need to “fix” everything and child loss is the one thing they cannot fix. Women, on the other hand, feel the need to “share their feelings” with anyone who will listen. Women need the support of a community. Men often feel like they are total failures for not being able to prevent the death of their child, so their communication shuts down.
During this time of grief and turmoil, we need to be extremely sensitive to the fact that men and women grieve in vastly different ways. In order to keep your relationship strong and intact, there needs to be allowances made for these differences. It is my prayer that the following video will help. The pain of child loss is hard enough without having to experience the death of a relationship, too!
It is my hope and my most sincere prayer that as you are grieving the loss of your child, you will remember that we each grieve our child in a different way, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Allow space for differences, and always, always work hard to communicate!
As a grieving father, my life experience was the opposite – Great article. You are so right that we grieve differently When my daughter passed away in 1993. I was the one that wanted to talk, seek help such as groups. My wife was quiet, didn’t talk much. She has always said that she had to be the strong one because I wasn’t strong like a father and a husband should be. Our marriage did end 8 years later. All of which I can trace back to that day back on June 15, 1993 I don’t blame her or the death of our daughter for our divorce. We just stopped communicating. We grew apart and eventually went in different direction.
Rick, I wish I had seen this comment sooner. Thank you so much for your input. You’ve offered a perspective that we often lack — a father’s perspective of grief and the way he is grieving the loss of a child. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your daughter, and also so sorry for the loss of your marriage — the two most difficult losses in the world of grief. You’re so very right — when the communicating stops, a couple grows apart. Thank you for your input. I hope you’ll offer us your experiences with grief more often. It’s always so good to hear from a dad!