Widowers Often Unable to Express Grief

By Haas, Jane Glenn | The Florida Times Union, August 27, 1999 | Go to article overview

Widowers Often Unable to Express Grief


Haas, Jane Glenn, The Florida Times Union


Her clothes still fill the closet in the master bedroom.

Twenty months after his wife, Fern, died, Jack Farrington can't bring himself to sort her personal items.

Many of her clowns are gone -- the dolls and figurines and refrigerator magnets she collected -- and her bedroom in their Orange, Calif., home is his computer room.

But her clothes? "Let's just say there are a lot of them," he said. "We don't need to look at them."

Farrington, 80, is a widower struggling to adjust to life without the woman he met during World War II when both of them were in the U.S. Coast Guard.

He didn't expect to be alone like this. Few men are.

Almost 1 million married people died in 1996. Two-thirds of them were husbands. They left widows who find support in grief groups, in books, each other.

There are eight widows for every widower among the 13 million widowed people in the United States.

Little wonder many of the widows become frantic to find a new mate. Farrington fended off one woman who wanted to bring cooked dinners to his home regularly.

Little wonder men who lose their wives feel adrift.

Society expects men to walk tall through their grief, yet offers little male-related support. Each man we talked to felt he made the journey alone, even when friends and family were around.

"I became furiously busy," said Farrington, whose wife died one month before their 50th anniversary. "I went through all the swings of emotion: anger, fear, loneliness. Being busy helped."

Keeping busy also protected him from predators.

A year after his wife died, another woman asked him to spend a Saturday night in her bed.

"Oh, I can't do that!" Farrington said. "I'm the cookie chairman at church tomorrow morning."

There is no "manly" way to grieve, the experts say. There are many ways to cope with loss that have more to do with personality than gender.

Given society's need to pigeon-hole people, however, there is a stereotype for a man who loses his wife: two or three months of woe, then suck it up and get on with living. Solve your problem by getting remarried.

Stereotypes exist because they often are true.

"Many men are what I call `instrumental grievers,' " said Ken Doka, senior consultant for the Hospice Foundation of America. "They grieve in a more cognitive way."

In other words, they don't show emotions.

This attitude makes men "stoic and manly," Doka said. Men who do cry are "warm and fuzzy."

"On the other hand, we expect women to be more emotional, so when they approach grief in a cognitive way, we think they are cold and uncaring."

Men and women switch roles in widowhood.

Men often have to learn to be more caring and more social in widowhood, said Phyllis R. Silverman, an expert on social development and bereavement. "Women often hold the home together and men depend on them to be their social secretary."

On the other hand, women who are widowed often have to learn to be more self-reliant, she said. "There's a crossover."

Not a great proponent of grief groups -- "They sometimes deprive people of what they can do for themselves" -- she does encourage widowers to reach out to a friend, to others. "I think a bereavement service of some kind is necessary," said Joan Gibala, senior program specialist with the American Association of Retired Persons' grief and loss service. "That can be talking to somebody who's been widowed. It can be a support group. We do three online grief support groups each week, and some people prefer that anonymity. Some people read extensively; others keep journals.

Jim Conway joined four grief groups after the death of his wife, Sally, in 1997. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Widowers Often Unable to Express Grief
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.