“Man Up”: Re-Defining How Men Grieve

“Man Up”: Re-Defining How Men Grieve


There is a scene in a movie I wish to describe. Two men are walking on a baseball diamond towards home plate on a setting sun in Iowa. One of the men bends over and gathers his gear and wishes the other good night, then starts making his way towards the outfield. When the man gets to about the pitchers mound, the other says “Dad? Can we have a catch?” to which the other responds, “I would like that.” The two start playing catch, and continue to play catch until the sun goes down.

Photo Courtesy of: www.dvdbeaver.com

Photo Courtesy of: www.dvdbeaver.com

This movie scene, from Field of Dreams, is the only scene in which I have witnessed my father cry after it finished. When asking my mother why dad was so upset, a simple response of “It just reminds him of his daddy.” was enough for me. You see, my grandfather passed away at a very young age, my dad only being 20 years old. My father and my grandfather used to play catch in the yard often, and the scene I’m sure makes him wish that just one more time he could do it again.

I think it’s safe to say that men are expected not to cry. No mater how hard it hurts, society expects us to get up, dust ourselves off, and move on. Who cares if when sliding into second base, you scraped your knee. Who cares if while sorting through your files you get a paper cut. Put some ‘sporin on it and keep sorting! Unfortunately, these social stigmas have left us with no other choice but to “man-up” and move on.

My take: This needs to stop.

a32b0273e08e9be5b0235cb29a709f1fPain is singular. I’ll agree on that. Everyone has a different pain tolerance and experience. That being said, our reaction to such pain needs to change. Fella’s, the loss of a loved one is not a paper cut or raspberry. There is no shame if when you feel the emptiness of life missing around you, to let it show. Crying is how we let it show. It makes our friends and family around us aware of the support and love we need from them and allows them to love and reach out to you. Opening ourselves up to others is incredibly healing and helpful for everyone involved.

I guess what I’m getting at is “Man Up” and cry – if that’s what you need. Open yourself up. Closed doors during the grieving process are only waiting to be opened again.

After learning more about my grandfather’s funeral, I found out that my father held a lot in. He closed multiple doors to his friends and family, and now lives with the repercussions of breaking down into tears when he receives a painful reminder. Maybe letting it show earlier would have helped? I don’t know. Everyone is different. But I do know this: allowing yourself to grieve the way you need to is the best thing you can do for yourself. Whatever way, shape, or form that takes throw yourself into it. It’s difficult, but that’s what makes it all the more courageous, important, and manly.


For Men & Women: If you have faced grief in your life what did you find was helpful for you as you grieved?

. . .

For Men: Have you struggled with grief? To what extent has the idea of “Manning Up” helped or hindered your grief?

By | 2013-07-17T05:16:02-07:00 July 17th, 2013|Inspiration, Self-Help|36 Comments


  1. Neil O'Connor July 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Michael – I agree that men are told to not be a baby or cry. Men & women typically grieve differently. Women are much better at sharing their lives in open communication, men usually are not always good at sharing their feelings in a group setting. The older I get the more crying I do, since becoming a father my feelings are becoming stronger and stronger. Crying and grieving is a highest form of showing your love for your friends and family, other wise if we don’t cry or grieve we are just a bunch of broken robots and the relationship was never meaningful. Great blog post, I am proud to be in your company! BRAVO!!

  2. Becky Finch Lomaka July 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Thank you Michael! My family recently attended a memorial service for a young man who died of cancer. What a powerful experience it was for my boys to see my husband and other men crying and grieving. My boys will grow up knowing it is ok and healthy to cry, grieve and show emotion.

    • Michael Thomas July 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Thats great Becky! I’m sure they’ll be great men some day!

  3. Lori Bristol July 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    Wow Michael! How great it is to see this other side of you. I am so glad you wrote this post! When I meet with older gentlemen to design their loved ones markers, they often break down into uncontrollable tears. The first thing they do is apologize to me for crying. I tell them it just shows how much they loved their spouse, mother, etc. It is okay for men to cry and I am glad you have brought this to the surface. Men are held to this higher standard, but their grief is going to look different on any given day, just as ours does. Great job Michael!

    • Michael Thomas July 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Lori! High five!

      • Lori Bristol July 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm - Reply

        High five? Nope, hug!

  4. Anne July 18, 2013 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Michael, What a pleasure to read your heart here. Thank you!
    I cry a lot! I mean a lot!!! It comes more when I am alone, although I am definitely female. Sometimes I can’t wait to be alone to have a good cry. Also, that is when I am quiet and thoughts of Lou become just right there, front and center.
    I used to find it extremely precious when Lou teared up over something. It didn’t bother him, really, if that happened in my presence. Guess because he knew I loved that about him too.

    • Michael Thomas July 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      Anne I respected your husband so much even for the short time I knew him. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  5. Christopher Iverson July 18, 2013 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Michael, Wonderful insight into how men believe they need to work. And you are so right when you say, “Whatever way, shape, or form that takes throw yourself into it. It’s difficult, but that’s what makes it all the more courageous, important, and manly.”

    • Michael Thomas July 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      I don’t want to take all the credit. I have a pretty awesome editor 😉

  6. Molly Keating July 18, 2013 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Michael, think this post is so relevant to our society that is still, and probably will always be, steeped in the ideas of gender roles that preclude crying from the idea of masculinity. I know that even just in observing my husband grieve that male grief is different than female, but I’ve also seen that in some ways, we grieve very similarly and that I often have an easier time letting it out when he may struggle just to give words to how he is feeling. This will be an important topic for a long time & I really appreciate your take on it and your perspective.

    Great blog!

    • Michael Thomas July 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Molly. I really appreciate your leadership as top Blog Dog 🙂

  7. Sharon Watkins July 19, 2013 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Great job Michael…..I think it is even more helpful knowing that this article was written by a man and also someone who deals with grief everyday in our profession. I agree totally with everything you said and the insightful points you put forth for us to consider. I hope there are many men out there that take what you said to heart and believe it it true and not only true but important!

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:26 am - Reply

      Me too, Sharon! I hope this reaches a lot of people, not just men in particular!

  8. Shayna Mallik July 19, 2013 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Wow who knew what great writer you are! I also really like this topic and you are so right on. Men and women do grieve differently, of course women usually cry a lot more than men. I think you saying it needs to change is right. Men should not feel like they cannot open up and cry if they want or need. It does not matter who you are it is not healthy to hold everything in. Thank you for your blog and your insite on this important topic. 🙂

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:25 am - Reply

      You are very welcome, Ms. Mallik!

  9. Jenn July 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Great post, I think men need to be able to express their feelings regardless of what society thinks, they may do it in their own private way but the release is as important as any gender’s grief or sadness outlet or any emotion for that matter.

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:24 am - Reply

      Thanks jenn!

  10. Kari Lyn Leslie July 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Great job Mike.

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Thanks Kari!

  11. Rosemary July 21, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Michael! This is a very wise observation on grieving and, hopefully, one we can all learn from. In our society, men do need to learn how to grieve, but we all need to give them the opportunity and space to do so without the expectations to always “man up” and move on without tears.

    Best of luck in your training as a Service Director! I know you will do well. It is always a pleasure working with you.

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:22 am - Reply

      Thanks RoRo!

  12. O'Connor Mortuary Blog July 22, 2013 at 5:06 am - Reply

    Hi Michael, I’m a Blog Follower and your topic Touch me about how our men do Grieve. I Believe this all started in the early years of mankind when Men had to be Men due to not being weak.,and that carry thru the years. Do to time passing many changes had to happen,they did. Thank God!!! Men are more sensitive to their feelings and they should be, Their not as” Hardy” as maybe their “DAD” were…But Thank God they are being their ow persons on how they see themselfs That is Profound!!! May it follow thru their children to see it is O.K to be Yourself all their life. Bless them…..Thanks for letting me express myself…….Feeling should always be express……<3.

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:22 am - Reply

      Hello faithful follower! I’m so happy that even a few words could speak into your life. I will have many more blogs to come, and I would always love to see your feedback!

  13. Fitz July 23, 2013 at 6:28 am - Reply

    Thanks for your insightful words. As a society, we have almost programmed to believe that “big boys don’t cry”. Your words are an important reminder that it is ok to be vulnerable especially when grieving. Let the tears flow if overcome with those emotions. Great blog!

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Vulnerability is the #1 think that was emphasized when I was taking all those acting classes. Why? Because that makes us human, and others can relate more completely. Thank you for your wise words, sir!

  14. Jeff Turner July 24, 2013 at 5:18 pm - Reply


    Thanks for this very poignant piece. I believe your career in our profession will be long and full. Full of accomplished purpose as you grow to help families walk through the most difficult of days. I love the capable young man that you are and the tenderness of your heart that makes you perfect in facilitating services and welcoming families and their guests, making them feel at home and confident because of your care and professionalism.

    I am proud to be a part of any team that you are a member of.


    Jeff Turner

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:18 am - Reply

      I wouldn’t be part of this team if it wasn’t for you, sir! Thank you so much for bringing me aboard this wonderful company!

  15. Joanna Ramirez July 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Michael T. Thomas. Very well written and definitely a subject that most men do not even want to speak about. I grew up in a culture that has always asked men to “Man up” and suck it up so reading your article hit close to home. Good job young man!

    • Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:17 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Joanna! and hey, I’m not much younger than you! 😉

  16. Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Thanks Chuck! I really appreciate the feedback!

  17. Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Thanks Mitch! and Thanks for letting me read the blog to you before I submitted it!

  18. Michael Thomas August 1, 2013 at 9:19 am - Reply

    I get good cry’s in. Not as often as I should, but when I do, they are very therapeutic. Thank you for greeting with me!

  19. Hiro August 4, 2013 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    A very helpful message and thank you for sharing about your family. It seems that in many cultures men have a role to keep it together during difficult times and not get emotional. Whoever you are, you should be able to express your true emotions. And we should not be frightened or uncomfortable when someone, man or women, show their feelings.

  20. Patricia Kolstad August 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Michael . .
    For nearly 23 years I have watch you grow and mature. This blog is a culmination of what you have learned in those quick 23 years. I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished.

    Your words ring true for a lot of men who sense that “feelings” are something to push down or hide away. It’s apparent to me that you have learned early on . . . and by shepherding families the way you have here . . . that emotions bring healing. Crying brings comfort. Maybe not at the moment, but certainly after a period of time.

    Thank you so much for sharing and for expressing how you feel about “Manning Up”.


  21. Lauren August 15, 2013 at 9:11 am - Reply

    A very helpful message and thank you for sharing about your family. It seems that in many cultures men have a role to keep it together during difficult times and not get emotional. Whoever you are, you should be able to express your true emotions. And we should not be frightened or uncomfortable when someone, man or women, show their feelings.