Boys and girls grieve differently, as do men and women. Dr. Heidi Horsley talks with Sara Daren about the unique way boys grieve. Daren is from Experience Camps, and as the founder and executive director she runs one-week camps for boys in Maine and New York. In 2015 a camp for girls began, but she has focused on boys for the past seven years. Boys and girls emote differently. At camp, the boys are often stiff and uncomfortable when they first arrive. Boys like to play before talking and need to get active.

Diving right into camp with tug of war, and getting the boys sweating and happy is the way to get them to connect. This opens them up and gets them comfortable. Boys have a harder time communicating the language of grief. Sports and getting them active gives them the words and coping skills they don’t have naturally.

Grieving Boys

If you have a grieving boy, especially if you’re a woman, it starts with meeting the boys where they’re at. Not all kids want to talk about their grief. Let them know they don’t have to talk, but it’s always an option. They might not be ready when you’re ready to talk. IF you let them know that you’re there for them, they will come around when they’re ready. Don’t pressure them and force them to talk, but rather be present.

Boys may never want to talk to their parents. They may choose to talk to someone else eventually. This can be more comfortable for them, as it will feel like they’re not adding a burden to their parent. Just because they don’t talk to a parent doesn’t mean they can’t talk about grief at all. They may be talking to others, and always remember that their grief is unique.


Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is a licensed psychologist, social worker, and bereaved sibling. She co-hosts the award-winning weekly cable television show and podcast, Open to Hope. Dr. Heidi is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, and an award-winning author, who has co-authored eight books, and serves on the United Nations Global Mental Health Task Force. She also serves on the Advisory Boards for the Tragedy Assistance Program, the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and Peace of Mind Afghanistan. She served on the National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, and for 10 yrs. worked on a Columbia University research study looking at traumatic loss over time in families who lost a firefighter in the World Trade Center.

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