Family Grief

Soon after the death of a loved one we, are very much aware of the loneliness we feel by their physical absence. As time goes on, though, we might experience other deprivations. One of these can be the difference between the way we’re grieving and the way other people are grieving, including those in our family. When this happens, we might be left feeling alone and confused. Parents of a deceased child might become estranged from one another. Siblings might be embittered toward one another and cease communicating.

It’s important to remember that the way we grieve is based somewhat on our personality, as well as on the nature of the relationship we had with the person and the manner in which they died. People who are generally quiet will tend to be quiet in their grief. People who are more outgoing might be more expressive in their grief. Those who are logical, practical and analytical by nature might express their grief differently from those who are more sentimental, intuitive and emotional. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one way is good or bad; it just means that it’s different.

Generally, there are some differences between males and females in the way we experience and express grief. Although not true for everyone, of course, males will be inclined to see their grief as a private problem to be solved on their own; females will want to talk more about feelings related to the grief. Males often rely on activity, sometimes associated with the deceased, to come to terms with their distress. Females might typically find strength to deal with their despair through relationships with others. Again, neither manner of grief in itself is right or wrong. Actually, a balance of the two is probably best.

Age can be a factor. Depending on their understanding of death and the degree to which they are supported in their grieving, young children might be either very direct, curious and talkative, or very withdrawn. With all that’s going on in their lives and the energy it requires in return, teenagers might not appear to be grieving at all, though they probably are in some way. The grief of middle-aged and older people might be compounded by the memories and feelings of previous losses, which they now focus on rather than the most recent death.

Each relationship, even in families, is unique and the nature of the relationship we had with the deceased affects our grief. Was it a close, intimate relationship? A neutral one? A distant one?

On balance was it a pleasant, enjoyable friendship, a tension filled conflict, or something in between? Responses can vary within the family; so, too, the expression of grief.

It can be difficult, but respecting each other’s needs in a time of grief can be a good starting point for keeping the lines of communication open.