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Gender Differences in Grief and Bereavement

Families are all different and unique and when we refer to parents here we are including the following people who have children in their care:

  • Biological Parents
  • Kinship carers, who maybe grandparents or aunties and uncles or other members of the extended family
  • Adoptive and foster parents 
  • Single parents
  • Same sex partner parents

Parents often say that before their child died, they expected that they and their partner would support and understand each other in mourning. However, in reality sometimes it turns out that one parent has a completely different grieving style than the other and sometimes this can be a very painful challenge to manage as a couple.

It may help each of you to understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people show more outward feelings and emotions in what is known as Intuitive Grief. Others expressing their grief in more doing or practical ways, in what is known as Instrumental Grief. Often but not always, women tend to show more of the intuitive style of grieving whereas men may have a more instrumental style of grieving. However this may be because society and cultural expectations mean that men are expected to be strong and stoic while women are expected to be emotional and sensitive. This can make it difficult for both men and women to grieve in the way that feels natural to them as an individual e.g. men may wish they had more freedom to cry openly and women may feel judged if they do not show emotion openly.

Whatever the role of gender, grieving in very different ways can cause misunderstandings which may place a strain on relationships. Differences in grieving styles can also affect couples in same sex relationships. It can sometimes be disheartening to feel that you are on different paths in your grief. The important thing is to remember that you are both individuals who need space to grieve in the way that works for each of you. However if the differences in your grieving styles get in the way of you and your partner being able to communicate and support each other,  you may need to seek some additional support (see information on Bereavement Support).