James Richardson: Men and Grief

James Richardson with the Emerging Beyond non-profit organization spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. Dr. Horsley points out that Richardson has a lot of diversity in his own life, having served 29 years in the military and as an African American-Portuguese male. It’s important to note that the way someone in his position is “supposed” to deal with grief can vary greatly. “It really depends on how you came up,” Richardson explains, which has impacted how he’s dealt with three losses in his own life.

“For me, it (dealing with grief) really dealt with being in the military.” Being in a leadership position in the military, Richardson says there are “some emotions you just can’t let out.” He felt that since he was in a position of power, it was his job to keep a stiff upper lip, which ultimately kept him from grieving in ways that felt natural. “I think I had to be the strong one, so I kept everything on the inside,” he says. As a military male, Dr. Horsley asks if it was normal to hide your feelings, and Richardson agrees.

Men Finding Hope

When men are getting messages that they shouldn’t grieve publicly, it can be a tough stigma to get out of. However, Richardson does have advice for men, no matter what position they may be in, when facing a loss. “You gotta reach out and get help from somebody else.” This mimics what many have said about finding the right support network. It might not be in your immediate “military family,” but there certainly are resources available.

Talking to others who have been through similar situations puts you “on the same sheet of music.” Compassion and empathy are key when dealing with a loss, and unfortunately it’s often up to the person grieving to find these resources themselves—but they’re available for those who do the research.

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