A member of the University of Utah Social Work Department, Mark de St. Aubin attended the 2015 Association of Death Education and Counseling conference where he spoke with Dr. Gloria Horsley about the unique relationship between men and grief. Having lost both his parents at a young age, St. Aubin explains, “I’ve had to process my own grief.” Over the years, he’s studied how grief processing works, and now teaches MSW students skills necessary for grief counseling. “I liken grief (for men) as being lost in a car on a trip,” says St. Aubin. Men don’t want to ask for directions. Many times, they just keep plugging along, even on an empty gas tank.
“Men want action, women want interaction,” says St. Aubin, and that can be a problem when grief arises. Men also want to solve problems, and that tendency can be tweaked to help greatly in the grieving process. St. Aubin, when counseling men, will often say, “Let’s map out grief,” which taps into a man’s desire to problem solve. It gives them a mission and an end goal that’s achievable. “Distracted” by such projects, St. Aubin has found that men, over time, begin to open up.
Stuck in Gender Stereotypes
Both men and women have fears steeped in their grief. For men, St. Aubin says it’s possible to provide specific tools so they can stare down this monster called grief. Leaning into that grief monster can be much more effective than trying to escape it. Men also have a bigger fear of losing control, which will likely happen when you face the emotional side of grief head-on.
Another issue is getting stuck in anger, and getting out requires support and knowledge. “My advice is first, let yourself be okay with needing to talk to someone,” says St. Aubin. Finding an expert or group who specializes in men’s grief can be the ticket men need to process this in a healthy manner.