by Robin L Goldstein, EdD Licensed Psychologist

The stages of grief are predictable but never easy. It is grief that men are trying to escape when they turn to drinking, drugs or excessive activity in any area of their life; work or play. Psychologically, there are no short cuts for grief. If we try to escape it, we end up prolonging our misery. The only way is to go through it.

Numbness is the first stage with feelings of disbelief or denial. Men are often surprised and think they feel nothing in the beginning but this early stage of protective anesthesia turns in to shock and alarm before too long.

The second stage of grief is when the acute emotions rise to the surface. Men may feel panic, depression, intense anxiety or anger or any combination of these emotions. During this difficult period men can offer suffer more than women because they are less likely to reveal their distress to others. They may turn from support when they need it the most out of an attempt to appear in control. Crying, nightmares and great anxiety are the hallmarks of the second stage of grief.

The third stage often leads to withdrawal. It can be very hard to be around friends and loved ones and at this stage it is best not to force sociability. Keeping to oneself, perhaps sleeping more than usual, gives the grieving person the chance to recover. Obsessive review is normal for this period as we all try to make sense of the drastic changes that have occurred.

To move to the fourth stage of grief the man must make a conscious decision whether or not to try to re-build his life. I am not talking about suicide, although as I have discussed before, that is a choice for some. To move forward means to accept the losses and try to learn from them. The man who has lost his partner will have to push himself to try new things and meet new people; to discover what will make his life happy and hopeful going forward.