영문 의학저널에 출판되었거나 영문으로 쓰여진 학술논문들입니다.

Research Paper

Men grieve differently, but not deficiently.

written by Jai Jun Byeon

2001


 

Background and Purpose

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in gender differences in grief. Authors who found gender differences in grieving maintained that men tend to repress emotions and be reluctant to get help[1, pp. 42-3]. It seems that these tendencies of men have negative influences on grief, and so men are often regarded as having more difficulties in handling bereavement and loss than women[1, p. 37].

However, as Allen and Hayslip[2] reviewed, many authors found that bereavement outcome of men is as good as or even better than that of women[pp. 97-100]. Now, the notion that women’s grieving pattern is more efficient and acceptable is questionable[1, p. 37]. Men grieve differently from women, but difference is just a difference, not a deficiency[1, p. 46]. The purpose of this research is to argue the thesis that ‘men grief differently, but not deficiently’.

 

Method

This research is a literature review based on only one book, ‘Men Coping with Grief’ edited by D.A. Lund. All the supporting evidences were brought from the chapters of Lund’s book. To support the thesis, I examined the difference in grief between men and women first, and then argue that men’s grief is not deficient by showing that men achieve favorable bereavement outcome through resilient coping strategies best fit to their particular problems.

 

Results

 

1. Differences in grief between men and women

 

1-1) Gender-role socialization

Social expectations shape how a person feels, thinks, and behaves through socialization process. Gender related social expectation have a significant bearing on how men and women experience and express[3, pp. 275-7]. From the childhood, boys and girls are differently socialized. Adams[3] summarized this as boys are expected to be j emotionally strong, unbending, able to handle major emotional set backs k brave and bold, willing to take risks and stand up for their rights, l protective of others, m effective problem solvers, n assertive, action-oriented, able to promote themselves and succeed, ocompetitive and aggressive, p humorous and entertaining[pp. 275-7]. In contrast to boys, girls are expected to be emotionally more expressive, to share feelings with others, to be cooperative, to be empathic for others, and to draw support from others[1, p. 39]. Sex role expectations are reflected to grief of men and women.

 

1-2) Differences in grief between men and women

 

1-2)-(1) Differences in feelings

As a result of above socialization, men’s grief and women’s grief are shaped differently. To explain this point, Gray[4] quoted from Staudacher’s book titled Men&Grief. She quoted that:

Differences in the way fathers grieve can be attributed largely to cultural expectations. Men are not expected to express loneliness, sadness or depression, nor are they expected to exhibit helplessness or to cry openly. These cultural expectations for men directly correspond to solitary or secret grief. Another factor which may account for these differences is that men are usually more adept at masking their emotions and - as a natural outcome - may underreport emotional issues and reactions.[4, p. 330]

Anderson[5] also observed similar findings. She observed seven bereaved men for eighteen months and found that men are more likely to be socially conditioned to repress feelings associated with loss, and not to tell their stories in order to avoid the feelings associated with them[5, p. 322].

Doka and Martin[1] are another persons who well described the characteristics of men’s grief. According to Doka and Martin[1], men tend to suppress emotions of grief, to be reluctant to share their grief, and to be reluctant to get support from others[42-3]. Also, many men choose to confront their losses internally and cognitively[1, 43]. However, Doka and Martin[1] emphasized that this pattern of grief is not necessarily gender specific, and so he recommend the term masculine grief rather than male grief[p. 45-6]. He also commented that masculine grief has its own strength and limitations, so difference is just difference, not deficiency[1, p. 46]. Some words in thesis statement of this research paper are brought from his expression. 

 

1-2)-(2) Differences in behaviors

Men are also different in behavioral response to loss. Doka and Martin[1] noted that men immerge to their work, take a legal or physical action in response to the loss, try to find appropriate solutions, or take active roles in the funeral[p. 43]. Staundacher, whom Gary[4] cited to describe men’s behavior following reproductive loss, wrote that fathers keep themselves busy, are not inclined to ask for support and professional help[pp. 330-1]. In general, men tend to do something or immerge to something to cope to the loss.

Interestingly, Sakalauskas[6] found that men behave differently about funerals. He analyzed questionnaire received from 12 funeral workers and noted following findings:

Most women are more willing to talk and men would like to get the business completed.

Men tend to be more interested in the facts and information about funerals.

Women deals with more details and are able to discuss more of the emotional aspects surrounding the death.

Men are afraid to cry and express their emotions openly.

Men are more task-oriented and look for a problem to solve. [6, pp217-8].

In summary, men and women grieve differently in ways highly reflective of gender-role socialization. This difference can be seen in feelings as well as behaviors. That is, men tend to repress emotions and do something by themselves, while women tend to express and share feelings and to get help.

 

2. Favorable bereavement outcome in men

Many authors suggested that grief is so highly emotional that men are more vulnerable to loss. For example, Thompson argued that “The dominant conception of masculinity, with its emphasis on holding back the expression of sadness and grief, present challenges for the effective management of loss. It creates artificial barriers that add to the difficulties of handling bereavement and loss” [7, p. 32].

He extended his argument to the concept of ontological crisis, concluding that “Masculinity ¼ leaves men vulnerable to ontological insecurity and crisis at times of loss and upheaval; and ¼ if ontological insecurity is experienced, the emotional inexpressiveness of masculinity leaves men ill-equipped to deal with it[7, p. 34].

In addition, Adams[3] suggested that gender proneness to vulnerability to loss could be found in male children also. He wrote that:

When males are expected to keep their feelings inside, they may feel anxious and fearful due to their inability to cope ¼ . When they encounter losses and must grieve, the unmanageable emotional and unattainable behavioral expectations that confront them place male children and teens in opposition to what may help them most ¼ . Bereaved male children and adolescents frequently differ from their female counterparts and vulnerable because of the way they have been socialized and acculturated [3, pp. 283].

However, there are ample amount of evidences to dispel the myth that men are necessarily more negatively impacted by loss. Hayslip, Allen, and McCoy-Roberts[8] strongly denied men’s inferiority in bereavement outcome. They recruited 193 persons who lost spouse or close relatives and measured bereavement adjustment by combined measure of Bereavement Experience Questionnaire, Beck’s Depression Inventory, Hopkins Symptom Checklist, Life Satisfaction, Profile of Mood Status, and UCLA(University of Califonia in Los Angeles) Loneliness. Their result clearly showed the lack of gender differences in bereavement adjustment[8, p.221-46]. They concluded that “bereaved men indeed more adaptive and self-sufficient than one might otherwise expect. ¼ The task of bereavement adjustment are universal, and consequently are not mediated by the effects of gender specific role behaviors, coping skills, or accessibility of resources” [8, p. 138].

We have much more evidences. In their extensive review about gender difference in bereavement outcome, Allen and Hayslip[2] showed that how many researches supported that men have favorable bereavement outcome. Followings are the quotations from Allen and Hayslip’s review:

Carey concluded that widowers were significantly better adjusted than were widows during the first year of bereavement .

Others  <Futterman, Gilewski, and Peterson, Gallagher, Breckenridge, and Peterson, Shuchter and Zisook> have also found women to have more difficulty in coping with conjugal loss than men.

Striebe and Stroebe found that --- there were no gender differences in bereavement outcome.

Arbuckle and DeVries found that --- widowed women were more hopeless about completing future plans than were widowed man.

Thompson, Gallagher, Cover, Gilewski, and Peterson, in a thirty-month longitudinal study, found that --- bereaved men and women scored similarly on the Brief Symptom Inventory.

A similar lack of gender differences in bereavement outcome has been found by Galagher, Breckenridge, Thompson, and Petersom, by Lund, and his colleagues, by Faletti, Gibbs, Clark, Pruchno, and Berman, and by Van Zandt, Mou, and Abbott.

Worden and Silverman did not find men and women to respond differently to the loss of spouse four months after the death in terms of CES-D scores, confirming the findings of Robinson and Fleming.

Gass found that windowed men and women each appraised their bereavement as equally manageable.

Meuser, Davies, and Marwit, who studied older widows and widowers, did not find gender to predict Texas Revised Inventory of Grief (TRIG) scores.

Similarly, Caserta and Lund did not report gender differences in bereavement adjustment over two-year period among the widows and widowers Levy, Marinkowski, and Dery did not find gender to differentiate four patterns of bereavement adjustment defined in terms of both the extent of depression and stability of pattern over an eighteen-month time frame. [2, pp. 97-100].

 

In spite that above studies are different in the subject selection criteria and in the outcome measures, they give clear and sufficient evidences that support men are not necessarily more negatively impacted by loss. That is, men’s grief is not inferior to women’s grief in terms of bereavement outcome.

 

 

Discussion

 

1.The term, men and women vs. masculine and feminine

I examined the gender difference in grief in the first part of this paper. However all men grieve in identical way. The grief pattern I showed is just a usual way of grieving in men and in women. Some men grieve like usual women, and some women grieve like usual men[1, p. 38].. Also it is probable that man grieves like usual men at one time and grieves like usual women in other times. In this regard, Doka and Martin’s [1] recommendation is very appropriate. That is, masculine grief is more proper term than men’s grief or male grief and feminine grief is more proper term than women’s grief or female grief[1, p. 38]. I totally agree Doka and Martin’s  notion of masculine grief and feminine grief. In spite of this understanding, I used term ‘men and women’ rather than ‘masculine and feminine’ in this research paper. It is because, except Doka and Martin, and Thompson, all other authors of resource studies of my research used the term ‘men and women’, and because in all resource studies I referenced, bereavement outcome were compared between men and women, not between masculine griever and feminine griever.  

 

2.The reasons why men have favorable bereavement outcome.

It is clear that men’s grief is not deficient in terms of bereavement outcome even though men’s grief is different from women’s grief. In my opinion, the reason why men can adjust well is because men’s copying strategy has their own strength and men can adopt resiliently a best fitting coping strategies to their particular problems.

 

2-1) Men’s coping strategy has its own strength.

As noted earlier, men often take cognitive/active coping strategies” [1, p. 43]. These coping strategies are highly compatible with men’s social role. We may reason that men’s emotional inexpressiveness is reflected to cognitive coping strategies, whereas men’s to-do-something tendency is reflected to active coping strategies. Undoubtedly, as we can’t say women’s grief superior, so we can’t say men’s grief is better. However, as Allen and Hayslip [2] suggested, “If a behavior lead to increased realization of and adaptation to the loss, it can be considered a successful coping strategy” [2, p. 101]. Hayslip, Allen, and McCoy-Roberts [8] noted that, “for some individuals and for some situation, a more closed, encapsulated, self-initiated style of coping appears to adaptive, in contrast to prevailing wisdom suggesting that an other directed, inter-personalized style of coping is better” [8, p. 139]’. It means that if men adopt their coping strategies appropriately, those coping strategies functions as best ones in that situation. In other words, men’s coping strategy has its own strength.

 

2-2) Men are resilient in adopting coping strategies.

The second reason why men have favorable bereavement outcome is because men are resilient enough to take a coping strategy best fit to them. Lund and Caserta[9] examined 192 widowers and found that:

Most of the bereaved men in this study were coping better than expected. Bereavement is a very stressful and difficult process but there is some evidence that these men are somewhat resilient and find their ways to cope ¼ . The bereaved men reported greater coping ability than what the nonbereaved men in the sample imagined their coping ability would be if their wife were to die. [9, p. 157-60]

In addition, he also reported that men made positive comments about supporting group and men valued the companionship, sense of belonging, and the opportunities to be expressive of their personal and sensitive feelings in gender mixed group[9, p. 163].

Anderson[5] also observed that “men’s grieving style can be changed when men become conscious of their patterns and take the different path” [p. 322], and showed that many of widowers talk about their experiences including feelings[p. 322].

Lund and Caserta’s, and Anderson’ observations show that men are resilient enough to take a coping strategy best fit to them.

 

2-3) Best fitting coping strategies to particular problems work best.

The third reason is because bereavement outcome is determined by whether the coping is effective to solve particular problems. Women’s coping style is not fit to all kinds of problems. The problems people have to confront during grief process differ by individuals and also by phase of grief. Lund and Caserta[9] examined old age widows and widowers and noted that both reported the loneliness was their single greatest difficulty during the first two years of bereavement and that completing the tasks of daily living was their second most difficult problem[p. 148]. According to Lund and Caserta[9], the most important predictor of bereavement outcome is not a gender-specific coping strategy, but competency in managing tasks of daily living, high self-esteem, and opportunities to express their thoughts and feelings with others[p. 149]. Lund  and Caserta[9] continued that it is much more important to have a well developed set of internal coping resources to rely on. These internal resources include pride and confidence in oneself because they provide the motivation needed to cope with very stressful life experiences[9, p. 165]. Pride and confidence is far away from women’s social role or women’s grief.

Hayslip, Allen, and McCoy-Roberts[8] also confirmed that the most important factor associated with bereavement outcome is not a gender, but experienced competence, perceived resources, and impactfulness of loss[8, p. 138]. Gender has no effect on bereavement outcome as well as on these three factors[8, p. 138].

Based on Lund and Caserta[9], and Hayslip, Allen, and McCoy-Roberts’s observation, we can conclude that problems confronted during grief are so universal among both genders that any one type of grief pattern can not be a better one.

 

3. Limitations of study

First, in most of resource studies, outcome was measured only at one or two point of time during grief process. However, grief is so highly variable process like a roller coaster that some coping strategies best fit at certain point may become inadequate at other point. In this regard, it is probable that women grieve more efficiently in earlier phase of grieving, at which emotional aspect is most apparent. The notion that women grieve better may be a conclusion derived from observation in early phase of grief. To clarify this question, we need more research that measure the bereavement outcome along the course of grief.

Second, resource studies are heterogeneous. Study subjects are different among resource studies. Study subjects of resource studies include bereaved children, parents who experienced reproductive loss, young adults who lost spouse, old adults who lost spouse, and more. In addition, outcome measures are different among resource studies. Also the time from the bereavement to outcome measurement is variable among studies. Because of these kinds of diversity among resource studies, the comparison between individual study result and generalization of conclusion may be less valid.

Third, individual resource studies have some weakness in study design.  In most of studies, sample was made up of volunteers with high attrition rate.  Volunteers who actively participated the study or subjects who were missed may have different characteristics with other subjects, and so made selection bias.  Also, in some studies it is not clear whether outcome measures were validated or not. These kinds of weaknesses in individual resource studies may make the conclusion of this study less valid.

Finally, this research paper is based on only one book, which is composed of 19 heterogeneous studies. Among 19 studies only 9 studies are fit to support my argument, so I couldn’t gather sufficient number of supporting evidences. Certain studies are cited in spite of some weakness as a supporting evidence. In addition, I cited citations in resource studies without access to the full details of original studies. These kinds of limitations are fundamental ones which originate from the nature of this research, that is book review.

 

Conclusion

In this research, I reviewed 9 resource studies contained in Men Coping with Grief. I examined the difference in grief between men and women first, and then argued that men’s grief is not deficient in terms of bereavement outcome by showing that men achieve favorable bereavement outcome through resilient coping strategies best fit to their particular problems. These findings support the thesis that ‘men grief differently, but not deficiently.’

 

 

Bibliography

 

1. Doka, K.A., & Martin, T. Take It Like a Man: Masculine Response to Loss. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp. 37-47). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

2. Allen, S.E., & Hayslip, B. Jr. Research on Gender Differences in Bereavement Outcome: Presenting a Model of Experienced Competence. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp. 97-115). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

3. Adams, D. The Grief of Male Children and Adolescents and Ways to Help Them Cope. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp. 273-308). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

4. Gray, K. Grieving Reproductive Loss: The Bereaved Male. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp. 327-337). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

5. Anderson, P.M.L. A Grief Unheard: A Woman’s Reflection on a Men’s Grief Group. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp. 309-325). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

6. Sakalauskas, P. Male Attitudes on Funeral Rites and Rituals. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp. 215-224). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

7. Thompson, N. The ontology of Masculinity – The Roots of Manhood. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp. 27-36). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

8. Hayslip, B. Jr., Allen, S.E., & McCoy-Roberts, L. The role of Gender in a Three-Year Longitudinal Study of Bereavement: A Test of the Experienced Competence Model. In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp 121-146). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.

 

9. Lund, D.A., & Caserta, M.S. When the Unexpected Happens: Husbands Coping with the Deaths of their Wives. . In D.A. Lund (Ed.), Men Coping with Grief (pp 121-146). Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc. 2001.


men coping with grief -research.doc

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