Ben’s’ friend died, like many other young men, when he crashed his motorcycle after leaving a party. “I’d remember him like every night,” says Ben, “and would be like, ‘why the hell did you do that? How and why?’”
A University of British Columbia study has provided a unique window into the worlds of 25 young men as they struggle to find ways to grieve their male friends. Live for the Moment is an exhibition at The Fall Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. featuring photos taken by research participants to answer questions about grief, loss and dealing with it as a man.
The photos tell a powerful story about how men deal with unexpected death in a culture that expects them to be stoic and invulnerable.
Dubbed “the dangerous demographic,” young men are more likely to die of accidental injury than any other cause. Though these statistics are all too familiar, less is known about the young men left behind to deal with these deaths.
“Young men are under pressure to grieve in masculine ways,” says UBC post-doctoral researcher Genevieve Creighton, a member of the UBC team that conducted this study. “They risk being rejected if they don’t grieve according to the ‘rules.’”
Evidence shows this inability to express grief can leave men at risk over the long term for greater likelihood of illness, injury or premature death, says Creighton.
The photos by the participants show images of emptiness and shock, but also what it means to honour and remember. Some commemorate their friend with a tattoo or a bracelet. Others visit a special place. Some numb the pain with alcohol and drugs. Others see this as a transformative moment and leave behind an old life. The pictures take the viewer into the private experience of these young men as they learn to accept the loss and embrace their own futures.
This study was funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the UBC School of Nursing and UBC Dept. of Education, including Creighton, Prof. Elizabeth Saewyc, Prof. John Oliffe, Assoc. Prof. Shauna Butterwick and Project Coordinator Jennifer Matthews.
Live for the Moment: a research-based photo exhibit about life, death, and young men is showing at The Fall Tattooing and Artist’s Gallery, 644 Seymour Street, Vancouver, from April 27 to May 4, 2012. There will be an opening event on April 27th, at 7:30 p.m. A painting by David Pirrie from his series “Risk Analysis” will accompany the photos, along with select avalanche footage from the Rocky Mountain Sherpas, “A Fine Line.”
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada.