The Grief Spectrum

A spectrum is represented as a line drawn horizontally, where each side of the line represents some type of opposite or polarity. Although a center or ‘midpoint’ typically exists, rarely does one’s personality or disposition get placed right onto that midpoint. Most individuals fall to one side or the other.

For instance, if the spectrum being drawn was the direction we focus our attention and energy, with one side representing Extroversion (tendency to focus externally, on other people and environments), and the other representing Introversion (tendency to focus internally, on personal thoughts and feelings), few if any would be identified as being right in the middle. Most people lean to one direction or another to at least some degree.

A personality spectrum that is often overlooked is the Grieving Spectrum. Most Americans identify typical patterns of ‘grieving’ to include emoting sad feelings via crying or sobbing, done with a group of close friends and/or family present. The fact of the matter, however, is that description only matches one half of the spectrum, the feminine side.

Contained below are brief descriptions of the two styles of grieving that encompass opposite sides of the spectrum. Important note: It is more than common, in fact it is proven and accepted that not all men grieve according to the masculine parameters, nor women to the feminine. Members of both genders can be found anywhere along the line. However, a general trend does exist towards their respective sides:

Feminine Styles of Grieving:

  • Interacting with others throughout the grieving process to find soothing and comfort; “group grieving”
  • Using words to describe and express experiences and feelings; “talking it out” 
  • Tangibly emoting, and allowing emotions to be released tangibly; ‘crying’ or ‘sobbing’

Masculine Styles of Grieving:

  • Coping privately, with few others or no one present; “self-soothing”
  • Relying on action to metaphorically move through grief; “working it out”
  • Internally sorting one’s experiences through thought and reflection; ‘thinking through ‘

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