Gender Differences in Grief and Bereavement

There is a continuum of grief and the ways we grieve. One style of grief is called Intuitive. Intuitive grievers are generally focussed on emotions and tend to utilise support networks more, whereas on the other end of the spectrum, the instrumental grievers are generally task focussed and prefer to have something to keep their minds occupied. Sometimes grieving in very different ways can cause difficulties or place strain on relationships 

Intuitive grievers tend to have more physical symptoms of grief, such as a change in appetite, a reduced interest in sex or more physical illnesses. Instrumental grievers might isolate themselves and want to remain focused on having something to do rather than utilising grief support services.

Parents often say that before their child died, they always expected that they and their partner would support each other in mourning. However, the reality sometimes turns out that each parent has two completely different grieving styles. You might wonder why your partner constantly wants to talk about the death of your child, and relive certain crisis points, whereas you would prefer not to think about it. Or you might wonder why your partner has returned to work so quickly after the death of your child, while you can’t even contemplate returning to work. When you have expected to grieve together, this marked difference in grieving styles can be very painful, and can be an additional loss to manage as a couple.

These different styles of grieving can help to explain some of our behaviour when we grieve. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it is important to give yourself and your partner space to grieve in the way that works for you. It can sometimes be disheartening to feel that you are on different paths in your grief, but the important thing is to remember that you are both individuals, with individual needs and ways of expressing your emotions.