Who I am.

I write about the landscape of grief, nature, and the wisdom of fools. The author of four books, my essays, poems, and reviews have been published in over 50 journals, including in the Huffington Post and Colorado Review. I’ve won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award, the Chautauqua and Literal Latte’s essay prizes, and my work has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and named a notable by Best American Essays. My account of hiking in Yosemite to deal with my wife’s death, Mountains of Light, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. http://www.markliebenow.com.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Grieving Men and Emotions

An Ocean of Emotions

(This is a broad statement written from my personal experience. For almost everything, take it in the context of, “In general, men ….”)

Men have an emotional toolbox the size of a walnut for talking about their feelings, while the emotions they feel in grief are the size of an ocean. When they try to express their ocean of emotions through this walnut-sized hole, most of it gets stuck behind the wall, and what comes through is so forceful that it knocks people over.

* If you would like to read the rest of this post, let me know and I’ll send it to you. *


  1. Your article is very helpful in understanding men's grief. I especially like the part about "one sentence of feeling" and not terse but "to the point". Thank you for sharing your perspectives, Mark.
    Monica S.

    1. Monica, I don't know if it's because I'm male or because I'm a writer, probably both, but this weekend my companion cat of 17 years died, and I needed time away from people to sort through the rush of emotions and find the core of what I was feeling. He comforted me after Evelyn died, and I will write about losing Buff later.

  2. Thanks for your post. I am so glad I found it.
    I often feel a void or an empty feeling or sadness or loneliness or something. I can't very often figure out what it is, exactly.
    My wife died 10 months ago, and it's not easier-just different. I write in a journal often, but it isn't the same as having someone there.
    You said people showed up to see how you were. Not one person has done that for me, although I do have a lot of friends. They just don't want to "go there ", I think.
    I feel the need to get away like you did, but can't seem to find the right time.
    One thing is certain. This is never going away. I still love Sandie so much...

    1. I am so sorry about the loss of your wife, Rick. As you know, there are no words that will take the pain away or make sense of the chaos. At the 10 month, I was just drifting, no longer knowing where I was going to go in life. The grief will never completely go away. You are right in this, because you will always love and miss Sandie. And yes, it will be different. I’m sorry, too, that friends haven’t stopped by. For me it was odd because at parties my wife was the one talking and I was in the background, and yet they came. Still, I was in my forties when my wife died, and none of our friends knew what to say about grief. In the last year I’ve been discovering different resources for those who are grieving. If you are writing about your grief and want a community of people who are dealing with grief, you might look at the 30-day online writing course at Refuge in Grief. Each day a new prompt comes to write about, and everyone shares what they have written, if they want. Besides helping each person deal with his or her grief, a community of support develops that continues after the course is over.

  3. I'm sorry your old dear cat companion died.
    It's interesting to read about "in general" men and feelings.
    It is difficult when those who could listen are far away. The telephone is so cold and sometimes hard to understand the suffering soul on the other end.
    And to Rick Burke, 10 months is yesterday, keep writing, take walks, the bus, train ... there are many suffering persons around, smile to them.

    1. I want to be respectful of how different people grieve, because we are all different, so how we deal with grief is different. There are commonalities that unite us, and where we are different, that is where compassion comes in.