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Does a Mother Grieve More than a Father?

As a mother of child loss, I often wondered if we mothers grieved longer and harder than fathers. Fathers of children who died seemed to be able to move on to a place of semi-normalcy in a rather quick way. At least that’s how it seemed to be to me after my baby boy died. It took me literally several years to be able to look at another baby and genuinely feel joy, whereas my husband was able to move on almost without hesitation. As I heard from more and more mothers of child loss, I knew I wasn’t the only mother of loss feeling this way.

It’s been thirty one years, millions of tears later, and cumbered by the tragic loss of another son — this time an adult son — that I can finally say with full certainty that mothers and fathers (as a whole) do NOT grieve the loss of a child in the same way at all.

Women, by nature, are nurturers. We are almost always far more vocal with our emotions than men. And, we certainly do need that feeling of “group support” during painful times.

Men, on the other hand, seem to be far less vocal especially in terms of their emotions. They work out problems and pain by pounding a nail, or working on their car, or going out for a drink with the guys.

So, how do these differences affect the lives of couples grieving the loss of a child? As you know, I’m sure, the stress can become almost too much at times. In fact, we know that many couples shut down lines of communication following the death of a child, and they end up going their separate ways, compounding the grief that was already theirs.

Communication is a key element in our grief, especially when grieving the death of a child. I know that with both of my losses I “needed” to talk to others. I “needed” to share my pain. I “needed” to feel that I wasn’t walking this path of pain alone. I sought out help and support from others.

Sadly, my marriage is a statistic, but not from the loss of a child. There were other major factors involved, but the loss of my marriage had a direct impact on the depth and length of my grieving. I believe that because we women are designed with an emotional output meter, that we crave a way to spill it all out to someone. We long to be able to talk about our loss, to have someone close who understands, and who will be there for us. Because I had to walk the path of loss as a “one parent” it has been increasingly difficult at times. There have been so many hard spots in this grief journey when I’ve wanted to feel the closeness of someone (especially the father of my sons) to hold me close and say “I understand. I’m here. We’ll do this together.” But, that isn’t so, and I know it’s that way for countless others.

What do we do when we grieve alone as a parent? How do we get through? I’m writing this from a woman’s view because a father/man will have a totally different set of circumstances to deal with. ***Perhaps we can discuss that in another blog post.**** I’d like to share two things with you that have helped me tremendously in hopes that they will help you, too.

  1. Work hard to build your network of support. This support can be from your church friends, work friends, other family members, or support groups — both online and in person. The point is to get support. We cannot and must not try to do this alone!
  2. Work just as hard incorporating hope into your life. Life without our child is NOT easy! Everything we do, say, and think is tainted with the words, “I’m so sorry. Your child didn’t make it.” We live and breathe those words forever no matter how much we move along in our grief, and no matter how many years pass. Always, always this cloud of grief is hovering above us. We need hope! I found that immediately after my second son’s death, I began reading everything hopeful I could! There were times when my tears flowed so heavily that I couldn’t see the pages of the book, but I understood from my previous experience with loss that if I lost hope, I’d lose everything. **My hope comes from God and the beauty of nature that surrounds me along with my belief of heaven. Every person needs to search within to find where their hope lies and build on that.

Where am I today? I’m in a good place, and I’m so thankful to say that. I know that grief for my sons will always be a part of my life, but that grief is not all of me. I’ve learned from my grief, and I continue to learn. My heart has opened and my heart has softened. So many of us are traveling this road — far, far too many of us. We need to be here for each other, loving and supporting one another along the way.

To end, I’d like to say that not all marriages that endure child loss end in divorce, nor do they have to end at all. Many marriages grow stronger and closer and more loving. Why? Because they’ve learned to make allowances for their differences in grieving. Yes, women and men really and truly do interpret and display their grief differently. BUT, that doesn’t mean that one or the other is grieving more deeply. I truly believe that many fathers grieve the loss of their child just as deeply, but their grief is shown outwardly in a different way.

Be kind. Be understanding. Be tolerant. We each hold a lot of pain and brokenness from child loss. Let’s learn to travel this road together in support of each other.

I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment. I’ll make every effort to reply.

With love,

Clara

PS Next week I’ll have a special writing on Thanksgiving without our child.

19 Comments

  • Emma McDowell

    My husband and I lost our son almost 10 years ago. We both agreed that we would do what it takes to stay together – knowing that the loss of a child often leads to divorce. We do both still grieve (and always will) – his is often silent, while I turn to online help. Sadly, neither of our families or friends gave much support. We did see a grief therapist for a year – together for the first few sessions, then separately.

  • Todd Copeland

    My son, Pierce Triston Ingram Copeland, went to be with our Father in Heaven on March 3, 2016. He was 19yrs old. He was with me the last 5 yrs of his life. His mother and I had been divorced since2002. We shared our son equally during those years. I have to say, that I gave my son back to God, when he had his 2nd heart surgery at the age of 11. My son also had downs syndrome. Moments before his heart stopped beating, I whispered in his ear how much I loved him, and knew how much he loved me. Then told him, if he saw Jesus reaching for his hand, to go with him, cause I would be ok. As I sat back down in the chair beside his bed, I watched his heart rate at 125 beats start to lower, I immediately took his hand, kissed him, said I love you and see you later. The monitor went straight to zero. My heart broke into pieces, but I knew where he was, with Jesus. These past 3yrs has been a journey of brokenness that is unexplainable pain. I hated to open my eyes each waking morning and hated to go to sleep knowing, I’d wake up to another day with out my youngest child. Most people I meet are so amazed that I can still smile, bit it helps hide the true feelings inside. I always tell them, God made a promise I would see him again and that is where I stand in my grief. I’m thankful for your insight to child loss. It has been very helpful every day. Thank you. Love sent. Together in grief. Todd.

  • Liana Whitcraft

    yes you are SO right. Tho my boy’s dad and I weren’t together when we lost our son, whenever I call my ex, I’m.in tears while he seems to be much better

  • Janie Trujillo

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and that of your marriage. I’ve always wondered how it would be to have someone to help you through the loss of your child because I was a single parent when I lost my son in 2015 he was 29. I still Have a hard time every day I cry myself to sleep every night family gatherings vacations holidays I still find myself looking for him and feeling guilty..” I have another beautiful son and two grandchildren but I still find myself wanting to be with my youngest one passed away. I have never been to a support group and my family don’t know what to say or how to handle it when I try and talk to him about it, I feel like it makes them uncomfortable when I do talk about him. I saw a lot of times I just keep to myself and talk to him at night and cry myself to sleep this month on the 31st my precious little boy Committed suicide. But then their stories that people say somebody did it so I go back-and-forth and try and figure out what really happened in my mind and pray for answers all the time. But I wouldn’t know the answer to your question because my husband had passed away years and years before my son. I think they grieve in a different way and try to be the strong role model so they don’t show their emotions as much as a woman. But there is a difference we carry those babies for nine months.

  • Frans

    I lost my daughter in a car accident on the 3rd December 2016. She was 14 years old. She was a special needs child which meant she was under 24 hr watch due to Dravit’s symdrome from the age of 6 months.
    I agree with your statement to the effect that although Minette is in my thoughts every single day and night there’s a difference in the greeving between mother and father. I seem to hold on to the hope of seeing her again. I know where she is!!! My wife’s grieving has turned into depression and anxiety in the worst way possible. She wants her child back period.
    I through myself into my work and keep at it where PTSD has now become her reality and impossible for her to work and function in society.
    Don’t get me wrong, I MISS HER SO SO MUCH, but I can see a mother griefs differently, not necessarily more but rather different. My spare time is given to support my wife which means less time to focus on grieving.
    Nevertheless its a disturbed order and I sympathize with each and every parent that has to endure such a loss, even more so for the parents who are non believers in Christ Jesus.
    Blessings to you all.
    Frans

  • Tori

    Today is my 5th anniversary without my son, it hurts just as much today as it did the day he passed the only difference is I have learned how to hide it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain ever getting any easier, everything is different since the day he died. Nothing seems to matter anymore, no holidays, no birthdays, nothing even sounds good to celebrate. I am just existing day to day anymore but the funny part is I’m okay with that. Don’t know if that is right or wrong. I don’t really care to be honest.

  • Marie Brown

    So very true. My 16 year old son died in a car accident February 14, 1999. It took me so many years and so many tears to get through this. My husband and I (married 20 years at the time) divorced in 2000. Men grieve so differently than moms do. My husband went right back to work, planned vacations went places….me??? I just went to a very dark place, didn’t think I could ever find joy again. But, I have 3 other beautiful children and now 10 grandchildren that light up my life. I still miss B every day, but life is good and I know I’ll see him again on the “other side “.

  • Judy Levy

    Hi Clara,
    Thanks for sharing the article. I definitely believe that women and men grieve differently. My husband at the time ( we are divorced) even admitted that we grieve differently. He stated then women grieve harder because we are more connected with the child because we have carried them for 9 mths. We both dealt with her death differently. I had 3 other children to take care of, a son that turned 10 five days before his sister died, a daughter that was 7, my angel that was 5, and another son that was 3. My husband dealt with our daughters death by relapsing. He is a drug addict and that was his means of coping. I had nothing to hide my pain, I dealt with it head on. 16 years later and I’m still grieving,

  • Frances McIntosh

    I lost my daughter, I have turned inward, I dont have no close friends, I do however have three sons, two of which dont speak to me, cause I dont see eye to eye with their wifes. the one does call but otherwise no interaction, I have 15 grandbabies, and 7 are grown and are living their own lifes, the eight babies need someone to bring them to see me, never happens, I truly dont know how I make it through the day, I live on the 10th floor of a high rise, and every time I go out on the balcony, I see myself falling over the rail, so I stay inside quite a bit, I really dont know what I am expecting you to do, but maybe listen, as I dont think I have made it through my loss, all I have to do is say her name or think about her and I lose it. Laura is going to be gone 3 years on December 31, at 7:48 p.m. When I started this I was crying, now I am just sad, I think this is all I need, is to let things out, but like I said I have no one to talk to, In the past 5 years I have lost 4 sisters also, so I dont have family there either, well thanks for listening

  • Shirley

    With my first child I lost my husband drowned his sorrows in alcohol and avoided talking about my daughter(not his child but took her as his own) He was gone already when I lost my second child. He passed away from cancer. Our oldest son died in a car accident February,2015. So I guess men do grieve differently from us women. I have to talk about my 2 kids I have lost.

  • Lee Bateman

    No ones pain whether male or female is any worse than another. As a father of a son lost to suicide in 2011 I am still grieving and I’m not sure it will ever stop. We all grieve different but it doesn’t make one better than another. It’s All About Love Lee RobertZ

  • Steve`

    I lost my oldest son 23 years ago when he was 15.
    A little bit about me, 7 years before my son died my wife died. Leaving me
    with a 7 year old, 4 year old and 3 month old boys.

    From a mans point of view, I had to try and make life normal for the sake of
    the children. Disregarding my own predicament. When my son was diagnosed with cancer. I lost it. (privately) but maintained a persona of control. For the sake of the family.

    I feel that when a man is portrayed as being non-verbal or “holding their emotions inside” It’s because we need to show strength for those who depend on us.
    The loss affects us all with having to deal with a child who will never be with us again. In public I would deal with what duties lay before me. In private I was a mess.

    I have just been cleaning my attic out and going through the things I saved from my son. Going through the shirts he wore, the school papers he wrote and the ribbon that was in his casket. I realize that nobody is going to want these articles that have so much meaning to me. So I burned them.
    Was I being cold hearted? Was I being non-emotional…. No.
    These things hurt me every time I look at them.

    I don’t want anyone to forget him, but I don’t want to PUSH my grief on anyone else.
    I know that EVERYONE will experience grief. so I remain stoic with my own grief.

  • David

    Your right men don’t openly speak of their emotions. It’s been 18 years since my 20 year old son died, but I still feel the pain as if were yesterday. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and cry. No one else ever sees this. I wish I had someone to talk about it with, but everyone still avoids the subject.

  • Michael Vile

    Dear Clara,
    I have been reading your blog for 8 years, since our son Michael was diagnosed with glioblastoma and passed into eternity October 19, 2011. My wife Frances grieves privately and shares her pain with only a few close trusted friends. I grieve publicly, loudly, pouring my broken heart out for the whole world to see. We are together 29 years and even the death of our only child hasn’t broken our bond. It has not been easy but I give Frances her privacy and she gives me my freedom to share on facebook, Twitter, speaking at different events, etc.
    We have handled Michael’s death as best we could. Not perfectly, but hopefully with grace and mercy. I know I’m not like most men. I cry often and openly about Michael. I am so proud of the young man he was becoming. We both miss him every day. Yes the holidays and anniversaries of his birth and death are hard. But many don’t really understand so are every other days. It’s often the little things that tear me up inside. Nothing special. His favorite cereal, a song he liked, a special restaurant. No one knows but his mom and me. It’s the little things. Thanks for sharing your pain with us. I have shared many of your posts. May God help and comfort all of us with this special and unique cross we carry. It is heavy but God is strong. Thanks again.
    Michael Vile

  • Sandy Naidoo

    Its true, a mothers connection with her children are more deeper than a fathers, this is 9 years since i list my 17 year old daughter, and it took me 8 years to finally find balance in my life, i lived with so much pain, just missing her and talking about her, that all I wanted was to leave this earth to be with her, my hubby maybe only spoke about her that year she left, he loved her but he wS able to do normal things and live a normal life in like 3 months. I couldn’t understand why and i still dont.

  • Nunya Bidness

    I lost my adult daughter over 7 years ago in a vehicle crash. My wife showed little sign of grief. She wasn’t interested in talking about it. That she was driving might have something to do with that.

    I still feel the loss deeply EVERY DAY. It affects my view of life, and my social activities. I still harbor anger over several aspects of the events from that day. I don’t believe ANYONE when they say the loss of a child is felt more deeply by mothers than by me. I don’t mind seeing all the posts about a mother’s grief, but I don’t understand why there are so few about a father’s.

    I guess I need to start writing. Might be cathartic.

  • Chere Davis

    My husband and I lost our youngest son to suicide he was 24 years old. It has been just over a year ago now. I can tell you that men and women grieve differently it isn’t that one loves more or hurts more for the loss of a child.
    It is important to give each other the space to grieve in there own time and own way. It has brought my husband and I closer and sometimes we will be just be sitting together and know that we both or one of us is having a moment or a wave of grief and just hold hands or wipe each others tears or hug a bit longer. We have been married 20 years now and have four grandchildren we enjoy with our two other adult children. We have learned to take it day by day and try to count our blessings and find our joy again.

  • Jannie

    Hi, tankyou for giving your view on this. We lost our daughter 26 years ago at the age of 13. For the first year my wife couldn’t stop talking to anybody who was willing to listen. I think that helped her to cope. Myself on the other hand couldn’t get myself to talk to anybody except my wife.

    Today 26 years later Iam the one still longing for my daughter. All that is keeping me alive is my wife and son otherwise I would have ended everyting a long time ago.

    My daughter and I were very close so was my wife and son. I don’t say that is the reason why it seems that she is over it more than myself. I think it differs from person to person weather it is the father or mother longing the most.

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