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When a Family Grieves

Image of family grieving

After a death, family members often deal with grief in different ways. Grief can draw families closer together. Sometimes, it can pull them apart.

No one can adequately prepare you for handling your grief, let alone a spouse or a child’s grief. Learning about grief and how it affects your family can help you get through the difficult times together. It may even help your family grow stronger.

When you’re grieving, you tend to be in a state of chaos.

Grief can: 

  • Challenge your beliefs
  • Disrupt your routines
  • Throw your life into turmoil

You can’t predict how you will respond when someone you love dies. Reactions to a death depend on many factors, such as:

  • How the person died
  • If you have had other losses, and how you dealt with them
  • The kind of relationship you had with the person

People will express grief in their own way. There are as many ways to grieve as there are people.

  • Many tend to take an active approach to handling their grief. They may, for example, plant a tree or organize an event in honor of the person who has died.
  • Others tend to feel more comfortable talking openly about their emotions and expressing emotions, such as crying.

What is important to remember is that there is no right way or timetable to grieve. Knowing that your parent, child, or spouse deals with grief differently than you do can help you understand and support one another during such a difficult time.

Dealing with loss

These suggestions can help you and your family with your grief:

  • Talk about the person who died and use the person’s name
  • Tell stories and express what the person meant to you
  • Try to wait at least one year before making big decisions
  • Make new friends and spend time with old ones
  • Accept changes in family traditions; family roles may change
  • Plan ahead for holidays, anniversaries and birthdays; these times might be more difficult for you and your family

Suggested Reading

  • When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  • Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying “Yes” to Living, Ramie Liddle
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