Women and Grief
Women, Mourning, and Grief
Mourning after the death of a friend or family member is normal and goes through predictable stages. However, grief is an abnormal process where mourning is prolonged, delayed, or otherwise unresolved. Unresolved grief may contribute to women's higher rates of depression, anxiety and other psychological disorder. Women are thre to four times more likely to seek professional help when a loved one dies. Part of this difference may be due to women's less aversion to seeing therapists. Women's average reaction may be more functional in the long run than the average man's. Stoicism may have long-term or hidden consequences, but this is all speculated and ahs yet to be deomonstrated clearly.
Women's increased vulnerability to grief and dysfunction after a loved one's death is mostly social. Women define themselves more in terms of their relationships with others. Women are the primary caregivers. They may feel responsible for not preventing death (in their children) or conflicted about being relieved of the responsibilites of caregiving (aged parents) Also, many women are dependent on others for financial support and social standing. Pregnancy loss is a uniquely female experience and has hormonal as well as emotional fall-out.
Three Types Of Abnormal Grief
Chronic or Dependent Grief When a woman's identity and self-image is too heavily emmeshed in the lost loved one, grief can become chronic and unresolving. Interaction and availability of the loved are essential for the woman's emotional functioning. The woman feels she is not strong, caring, or competent alone. Typically, this affects longtime married women who were homemakers. This is the most common form of abnormal grief reaction.
Distorted or Unexpected Loss Grief Deaths associated with sudden and unnatural causes like suicide, homicide, and accidents are common here. Women are more prone to Post-traumatic stress disorder and this type of grief is closely associated with it. The woman can experience easy startling, flashback, nighmares, and recurrent thoughts of the death, and flattened emotional response and numbing. The woman's required participation in official investigations or trials related to the death can promote this type of greif reaction. The three Vs -- violence, violation, and volition make a woman high risk. That means if the death was caused by violence, if the loved one was a victim in some way, and/or woman gets preoccupied with establsihing blame or bringing justice to her loved one. If there is media coverage of the death and/or illegal or socially unacceptable behaviors of the loved one involved, women are also at higher risk.
Delayed or Conflicted GriefWhen a woman has mixed feelings about the lost loved one, this type of grief reaction can happen. Typical situations for women involve death of a parent. Death or parent she was the caregiver for if that caused her to be overloaded is classic. But, even death of a parent she did not completely care for can bring up issues. Often today's midlife women have done more than their share of tending to older parents, yet they grew up in families where their brothers were favored. This gap causes unresolved conflict that may bubble up at the parent's death. And any unresolved issues with parents can lead to this. Unexpressed anger can turn towards the self and lead to depression. Another common situation for women is death of a child through violence, suicide or accident. She may feel anger at the child for his/her role in the death, but at the same time feel her upbringing of the child was inadequate.