The nature of grief as the emotional response to the experience of loss has been the subject of considerable debate and discussion (Raphael 1983; Stroebe et al. 1993). However, the gendered nature of such a response has received relatively little attention. This chapter therefore begins to address some of the important issues relating to grief as a social construct shaped to a large extent by dominant gender expectations, rather than a ‘natural’ response to loss. Grief is presented as an emotion that needs to be understood in the context of mourning, defined as a socially constructed and codified set of expectations as to how a loss should normatively be dealt with.
Just as grief itself is recognised as a socially constructed entity, so too must the received wisdom of what constitutes ‘good grieving’. As Doka (1989) has argued, the established view of effective grieving is one characterised by the open expression of emotion, a view that tends to pathologise more instrumental, stereotypically masculine patterns of response. The question of what is necessary for the successful resolution of grief is a complex one, not least in terms of how issues of gender have an impact on the process. This chapter does not attempt to resolve this question but settles for the more modest aim of exploring some of the important ways in which issues of gender, masculinity in particular, intertwine with issues of loss, grief and mourning.