Candid street shot in Cardiff, Wales.
While women who lose their husbands often speak of feeling abandoned or deserted, widowers tend to express the loss as one of "dismemberment," as if they had lost something that kept them organized and whole. The Harvard Bereavement Study, a landmark investigation of spousal loss that took place in the Boston area during the late 1960s, reported that widowers often equated the death of their wives with the loss of their primary source of protection, support, and comfort. This went to the very core of their overall sense of wellbeing. It has been described as "being lost without a compass," usually due to their profound loneliness but also because widowers often depended on their wives for many things like managing the household, caring for their children, and being their only true confidant. This sense of being lost is more profound when widowers need help but have difficulty obtaining or even asking for it. They also can experience ambiguity about the emotions they are feeling and the uncertainty of how to express them.
Emotional response. Similar to widows, bereaved husbands experience an array of emotions, such as anger, shock (especially if the death is unexpected), numbness, denial, and profound sadness. Unlike widows, however, grieving men tend to control their emotions (with the possible exception of anger), for instance, by holding back and crying less openly. Widowers, more often than not, will channel their energy into active coping and problem-solving strategies like work, physical activity, or addressing disruptions in the household. At other times they may prefer to be alone with their thoughts, whether thinking about the circumstances surrounding their wife’s death or reflecting on ways to cope with their new situation.
Widowers who experience the same emotions as widows but were raised with the belief that emotional control is a sign of strength often find themselves confronting an inner conflict about how to respond to a loss. The situation may instinctively call for a response that is emotional but the widower may not be socialised to express himself in that way. Adding to this confusion on the part of the widower is an assumption that there is only one way to grieve. Men usually express their feelings of grief in solitary ways, but this should not be construed as being any less intense than a widow’s grief. At the same time, to a varying degree, some widowers express their emotions more openly than others, suggesting that while some responses may be more typical, any one widower’s experience can be somewhat unique as well.
Some potential Help:
"Way Up" is an active self help group aimed at providing mutual support to those widowed their 50’s and 60’s. they are based in the UK but are open to members from all over the world.
It is a group with a positive forward looking attitude to rebuilding lives and discovering that our lives can be good again, that we can be happy once more.