A Poetic Look at Men and Grieving

My wife died of ALS; during her final 13 months, my mom and dad also died.  It was almost overwhelming, and I learned more grieving than I ever thought I would.  My most effective way of dealing with this was writing and the strongest feelings emerged as poetry.

In the months following, I worked with others as I was going on my own grieving journey.  How men dealt with things differently became all too evident.  How they handled grieving can be summarized in three poems I wrote:

WE TRY TO FOOL OURSELVES

When we are grieving, often times,

There’s obstacles we’re making;

And what is done most commonly,

Is simply that … “We’re faking.”

Not saying how we really feel,

Is helpful, we’ve discovered;

We’re more accepted by your peers,

If we can “act” recovered.

“I’m fine” is often such a lie,

Such words are mere pretending;

When deep inside there’s loneliness,

And hurt that isn’t mending.

Suppressing grief’s emotions mean,

That we are being cheated;

By glossing over what is felt,

Just symptoms are what’s treated.

All aspects of relationships,

Are what should be included;

To fake some good…deny what’s bad,

Makes grief not well concluded.

Denying feelings, buried grief,

Saps energy for sure;

It leaves us drained and makes our life,

Much harder to endure.

So…sharing only partially,

Concerned how others feel;

Suppressing grief, we fool ourselves,

And makes it hard to heal.

MEN GRIEVE DIFFERENTLY

No one’s immune from strong effects,

When someone loved has died;

The grief you’ll feel can overwhelm,

And cannot be denied.

Both men and women feel the same,

But, outwardly are not;

Most men hurt just as much, but they,

Don’t show their grief a lot.

When someone special dies, a man,

Especially can be troubled;

Behavior expectations cause,

His problems to be doubled.

First, there is the loss with which,

He struggles to be dealing;

And then the turmoil deep inside,

From all the ways he’s feeling.

Remaining mostly silent as,

They grieve can seem uncaring;

Or grieving mostly privately,

When focus should be sharing.

The way most try to handle grief,

Is “manly” coping styles;

But, when they try to act like this,

It’s much more like denials.

This causes men to lose control,

Afraid and hurting, too;

This certainly’s not masculine…,

Just what’s a man to do?

These ways that most men cope with grief,

Denies what they are feeling;

But really, these will tend to hurt,

Their healthy path to healing.

This is a man’s dilemma, it’s,

Quite wrenching to be sure;

It’s why men struggle so with grief,

And seldom find a cure

THE VALUE OF TEARS

To cry’s completely normal, to

Shed tears is apropos;

When you’ve got strong emotions, tears

Will lubricate their flow;

Most women cry more often while,

Most men don’t cry enough;

No tears keep feelings bottled up,

Makes coping much more tough.

You tend to weep at times when life,

Is filled with expectations;

Like birth or graduation or,

At wedding celebrations.

Your tears will come those times for you,

When life seems most intense;

They function like a safety valve,

For feelings, in a sense.

For grieving, tears are valuable,

To weep needs no permission;

You find you’ll cry more often when,

You’re in a stressed condition.

Your feelings can be volatile,

When you are deep in mourning;

You’ll find that tears can be intense,

And show up without warning.

Do not inhibit crying, though

It may give friends distress;

To cry gives clearer thinking since

Tears cleanse and conquer stress.

You’ll feel relief, when crying’s done,

They help you gain composure;

Your tears are therapeutic, they

Can give a sense of closure.

Ed Gray

www.essenceofgrieving.com

edwardgray@charter.net

Edward Gray

More Articles Written by Edward

Ed Gray graduated from Cornell with a degree in mechanical engineering and earned his MBA while in the military. He is author of the new book, Essence of Grieving. From the early 1970s to the end of 2007, his career was marketing and new business development for plastics in the auto industry. Ed has been doing woodworking since he was a teenager. Recently this has evolved to sculpture involving natural materials such as driftwood and stone. He is widowed and lives north of Ann Arbor, Michigan. In his blended family, there are six children and eleven grandchildren (so far). Ed enjoyed poetry as a child, but never wrote any until he met his wife Nancy in 1984. She inspired him to begin writing; her creativity, artistry, and loving support encouraged him to develop his poetry extensively. Ed published his first book, In Rhythm with Your Feelings, early in 2004. His next two books, both published in 2005, were “adult humor”: Ode to a Load and Ode to a Load … Look, I did a number 2. He was working on a fourth poetry book when Nancy became ill, and then passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). To help him through her dying process, Ed began journaling. Toward the very end of Nancy’s life in June 2008, this had evolved into using poetry to express how he felt and what was happening in his life. This poetry exploded after her death and has been a crucial part of his movement through the grieving process and transition back into life. To Listen to Ed's Radio show

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  • Poetry is the juice and essence in life which we very rarely appreciate. The beauty is that poetries are written to suit the occassison and is only limite dby our own imagination. From what I read, poetry has given you a place to not only grieve but an outlet to share it with others.
    I admire your spirit

  • Paul Bennett says:

    Edward,

    Thanks for the poems, and even more for the reminder that writing is a way for both men and women to approach their grief, explore it, and find what it has to teach us about ourselves.

    I began keeping a journal after my wife, Bonnie, died; and that gave me markers with which I could notice the change in myself and my grief as weeks and months went by.

    Ultimately, that journal provided a lot of material for my book, Loving Grief. You can read more about that at http://www.lovinggrief.com.

    Thanks again for your poems and insights.

    Paul Bennett

    • Ed Gray says:

      Hello Paul,

      It is good to hear from a man who has had similar experiences to me. I will be interested to look at your website and learn about the book you wrote.

      Ed Gray

  • Deb Kosmer says:

    wonderfully expressed. My hospice agency sponsors a Men Only Grief Group and some of them find great comfort in journaling or writing poetry to express what they are feeling. When they bring it in and share it with the group others can relate and fin some comfort in it.