Thursday, February 7, 2013

Grief for guys - the toughest stretch...

Note: This post took me MONTHS to write, rewrite, rewrite, etc. I'm finally only somewhat happy with what it expresses. If it seems a bit disjointed, that's why. But I'm tired of working on it, so here it is.

So it's well known that men and women process grief differently. I mean, men and women pretty much do everything differently, right? So what I'm about to relate will probably have some truth ring to it for men (at least, if they're honest), and maybe not so much for women.

For me, the hardest stretch since Aimee died started in about February of last year, roughly 2-3 months after her death. The shock and numbness had worn off. A new routine had kind of settled in, requiring less deliberate thought.

And I got lonely.

I mean, really lonely. "Desperate" is the word that comes to mind.

My response to this was to decide that I wanted to begin dating again. As in right now, if not yesterday. I even joined a dating site to begin meeting people. I didn't care that it had only been 2-3 months. I didn't care that I was still in a lot of pain over Aimee's death. I needed companionship, and I needed it now.

Let's just say, it didn't go very well.

In all, I only ended up meeting two women for coffee, and I didn't see either of them a second time. I quickly realized that being with someone else might make me feel better on the surface, temporarily, but that if I pursued anything more serious, people were probably going to get hurt. I just couldn't do that.

The bottom line is, these experiences did nothing to make me feel better about my loss. It was a horrible few months, and it only got better slowly. I missed Aimee so badly, but her being with me wasn't an option, so I wanted someone, anyone, else. Luckily, I suppose, that really didn't work out. But that doesn't mean I didn't want it to work out. Like I said, I was desperate, and in a lot of pain.

By June, I had begun to feel a little better. I was still terribly lonely, but I was getting more used to living with it. Plus, summer was starting, and more sunshine always improves my mood. I put the idea of dating out of my head for a while, and focused on trying to enjoy the summer and the activities Rowan and I could do now that it wasn't raining so much.

I began this post describing the difference between men and women in grief. I did so because over the last year I've checked out a number of other blogs by those who've lost spouses, and they're all by women. And they pretty much all seemed to have had absolutely zero desire to begin seeing other people during the first year (or even several years). Or at least, I didn't see where any of them talked about it. They did express loneliness, but not a desire to alleviate it by getting back into dating. These women seemed to prefer to stay focused on the grieving process without getting involved in a new relationship, and do so for quite a bit longer. Men? Well, to be blunt, we're weaker and we want another woman in our lives because they'll comfort us and make us feel better. And let's face it, some men can't really take care of themselves or their kids nearly as well as their wives, either. I'm not being critical, it's just a fact in many families.

(Gladly, I take GREAT pride in being able to function at a high level on my own in regards to running the Rhoads household. A partner to help me would be awesome, but I don't need a wife to help me.)

For some of the guys who do move on quickly, it doesn't always necessarily turn out to be a bad thing. I have two good friends who lost their wives, and my mom is friends with another. All three were remarried within a year. And by all accounts, all three seem to be happy and have good marriages with the women they married following their spouse's passing. Before Aimee's death, I might have been a bit surprised that someone might move on so fast. Now, I totally get it. If things had gone a little differently for me, that might have been my road as well.

I am thankful now that it wasn't.

PS. I think this fundamental difference leads women to often be very disapproving of men who do jump right back into dating after losing their spouse. I think they see it as tremendously disrespectful to the late wife. Trust me, it's not our intent. We're just in unbearable pain, and only know one way to address it. I'm not saying we're right or that women are wrong - I'm just explaining the difference.


  1. I both agree and disagree. My wife died last April and getting through the shock, the memorial services, and back to work, took time. In September I decided it was time to get out in the community. I was lonely, but not ready to date. I got involved with volunteer work, joined a community chorus and a monthly book club.

    That helped but yes I was lonely and looking for more one on one conversation, someone to eat a meal with, go to a concert, etc. I too joined a online dating site late in October, but put in my profile I was just looking for a friend and not a serious commitment. I also did it more to see if there compatible people out there. I know that I don't want to spend the rest of my life alone, but I also know that getting into a serious relationship now would probably be a disaster. I will let my dating site membership lapse when it expires as it helped me know that yes there are people out there that I can relate to and no I'm not ready for a serious relationship.

    Another group that I found that is more what I'm looking for was through They focus on interest groups, hiking, reading, meditation, dancing, etc. The group I found is called Just Friends and is for single people 45 and older that are just looking for people to do things with and not a relationship.

    P.S. I hate the term dating. Why is getting together for coffee or a meal with no intent of a serious relationship considered a date. We are social people and talking with someone at a planned event doesn't denote a date.

    1. Paul, thanks for your comment. Obviously each person's journey is different, and I'm in no position to tell anyone if theirs is "wrong" or "right". It sounds to me like you've been very true to yourself, your feelings, and your own grief process. I fully applaud you for that.

  2. Hey Pat -- this is a great post and a great site -- just found you through Paul. I agree that this is not a topic that has been well explored on grief sites or blogs, and it is a difference in men vs women. Your post really got me thinking, as I do know and have worked with women who have also gotten into relationships very very quickly, and men who have had no interest. I wonder if it is a man/woman divide or if it may be a divide having to do more with introvert/extrovert personalities, general comfort being alone, etc. I am really not sure, but so glad you have started a conversation on this. We will definitly repost this on our website's weekend review and fb page. I think many grievers, men and women, will appreciate!

    1. Thanks for the comment, and for featuring this post on your site's Weekend Edition. As with every post I write, I sincerely hope that someone somewhere gets some sort of help from it. Sharing these posts with more people increases the likelihood that that will be the case.

      As for your thoughts, you may very well be right. My observations and experiences are far from a scientific study, and just what I've seen in a very small sample size. But I'll say this for myself - before I married Aimee, I was not chomping at the bit to do so. But after spending five and a half years married to her, I realized what a huge part of my life that relationship was, and how badly I loved and missed it once it was so suddenly gone. A huge part of that was Aimee herself, but the depth of that love was something I missed. I'm as much of an introvert as I was before, but my need for that companionship had most certainly shifted.

      Thanks again!

  3. Hi Pat, I came across your website and, let me start by saying that I think you are such a good soul and I feel like you are the best father that little Rowan could ever be blessed with. I lost my mother somewhat unexpectedly this past July. And, while I am 42 and my father is in his 60's, your posts really have helped me to understand grief from his perspective. He has started to make a "friend" or two, and I'm, quite honestly, nowhere ready for that to be a reality. However, this last post, really brought to light all of the things I've been thinking about the difference between grief and moving on for men versus women. I think my dad is missing a companion. Given that they were married for 47 years, it doesn't change the love he has for my mom, but I can see now that he is lonely and in need of someone to spend time with (and not his buddies to go to "the game" with or anything like that). It's still going to be a while before I am comfortable with this concept, but thank you for your blog and, again, this post specifically, for helping me to grasp and understand it all a little bit better. Best wishes and many prayers to you and Rowan in your future.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! It's interesting, I got several similar comments form female friends of mine via Facebook, regarding their own fathers' actions after the deaths of their spouses. And your absolutely right about his moving on to other possible relationships does not in any way change his love for your mom. In fact, it seems like the better the marriage, the more the surviving husband wants to try and recreate that in his life again. I know that's how I feel.

  4. Dear pat
    I have never talked to anyone about my losses except my children and my mother. Only they know all my pain. I have thought about doing a blog but don't know how to go about it. I have been. Widow 3 times . The last one was the hardest cause it was the best relationship I have ever been in. I am 54 now and Rick has Ben gone for 5 years. At first my grief was so bad that I tries to drown it with relationships with other men to soothe the loneliness I thought just like you did that I'd I could love again I would be ok. I truly missed sex and closeness with a man. It took a few months to realize that didn't work and I haven't dated since. But the grief hasn't gotten any better. I cry alot. I can just now start to enjoy Christmas again with my kids and grandkids They have been my rock and my salvation. I pray alot. But it's been a long and hard road. I dream about my husbands and the grief comes back. I still grieve for my first husband who died when we were 26 years old. Sometimes I feel at the end of my rope. I really don't even know why I'm telling you all

    1. Carrie,
      I'm so sorry for the sheer amount of loss you've had to deal with. We're all told that life sin;t air, but when we get out into the big bad world, some of us are shown just how unfair it can be. Again, my deepest sympathies.

      I'll tell you that from my experience, the grief does NOT go away. It lessens somewhat, and becomes more manageable, but it does not go away. Now that I have found love again (I am engaged), I still miss Aimee terribly, and sometimes long for the days when we were still together. It's not anything against my fiancee', who is amazing and whom I love dearly. But that pain just doesn't disappear. Coming to terms with that may be one of the best things I did for myself.

      The other was that I accepted that grief is a long, slow process, and there's not much to be done about it but just cope with it and process it as best you can. Hiding from it or trying to numb it will only make it worse.

      If you haven't seen a counselor for your grief, please let me recommend that you consider doing so. As a guy, I had a hard time admitting I needed help processing my grief, but I'm so glad I did.

      I pray that whatever life brings you next, it's something wonderful and fulfilling. May the rest of your life's journey be filled with enough joy to ease the burden of the sadness you've had to bear.


  5. Thanks for your blog. My wife passed away suddenly on 19 Dec 2013 after we had been married about 2-1/2 years. This has been a horribly lonely time. I'm in no hurry to get remarried, but sure would like a lady friend.

    I've noticed in talking to the single ladies I know that when they feel lonely they tend to look for friendship in other ladies, and they say "get together with your guy friends", but that isn't the same thing. I can't talk to my closest male friends the way I can talk to my lady friends. Glad to see I'm not the only one.

    I've been single before and can survive by myself, but I miss the companionship I once had, the person to share experiences with. I signed up right away on a dating site, but quickly realized that it was a dead end street in my current condition. Most of the women I met were either looking for something legal and permanent or were just looking for something temporary fun, neither of which describe what I'm looking for.

    Perhaps someday I might meet the right person, but right now I have no intention of re-marrying again. Glad to hear that you have found another person who can accept that you are still in love with your missing half. May God bless your union.