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The Needs of Grief: It Takes a Family to Grieve a Loss

By Yourtribute @yourtribute

The Needs of Grief: It Takes a Family to Grieve a LossThe loss of a family member impacts each person in the family, but it also impacts the family unit itself. I think it takes a family to grieve a loss. That does not mean people with no family cannot work through their grief. It just means if there is a family, the interpersonal relationships are vital to the family completing the grief journey without being estranged from one another.

Parents often try to protect their children from having to see them cry. Children do the same for the parents. Spouses seem reluctant to bring up the loss when they are alone together. Often they are reluctant to let their mate know how they feel until they are sure how the mate feels and both sides just avoid the subject. For two weeks after my father-in-law’s funeral, my wife and I acted as if nothing had happened. Neither knew how to breach the subject so we simply said nothing. Late one night, I began to say how much I missed her father and broke through the silence for both of us.

Most of the time, the mates will experience and express their grief in totally different ways. If there is no expressing of feelings between them, it can result in misunderstandings, misjudgments and wedges driven into the relationship that can have a long and sometimes devastating result.

Until someone breaks through the silence the death becomes the elephant in the room that no one dare notice. The longer we hide the harder it becomes to broach the subject and the more isolated we become. It forces us to grieve in silence as far as the family is concerned.

My father broke through the silence the night before my grandmother’s funeral. He suggested that we go visit her at the funeral home. We sat beside her casket and began to tell stories about who she was and what she meant to us. We laughed and cried together and the elephant in the room vanished.

Since that time, I have tried to offer that kind of experience to the families I was called upon to serve. It has become one of the most healing things I can do for a family. I have urged families to have such a session on their own. These sessions do not have to happen before the funeral. Anytime the family gets together can be a great time for breaking the silence. Someone has to take charge and suggest such a time together. They won’t all go smoothly at first, but anything that breaks through the silence and isolation will prove to be helpful. The key to grieving is permission to grieve. The key to a family coming through grief with stronger bonds is permission to grieve in front of one another.

I have walked with several families who suffered the death of a child and the immediate family lived close enough to attend sessions together. These became a grief group just within the family unit. We agreed to meet at least eight times and then evaluate what we needed to do from there. I was frightened the first time I tried this. I had not heard of it being done anywhere else and wondered what impact it would have on the family. I must say they have proven to be the best group experiences of my life. I recognize that not every family can have a person available to lead them through such an experience, but maybe we can figure out how to get at least some of it done with just the family being involved.

The structure and process is not important. I think it works better if there is a set aside time when the family is going to talk, but the goal is to communicate not just to have a meeting. If the family is sharing their feelings in unorganized times with no structure, that meets the need. A family needs to agree to be open with their feelings. Perhaps they should agree upon some clue each one could use to signify they needed some time to talk or just needed a hug. The parents need to lead the way by being open with their feelings. We are not helping our children when we are hiding our pain from them. To do so just makes it harder for them to find the right time and place to share their feelings. If we hide from them, most likely they will hide from us. The result is estrangement instead of healing. It is not easy nor comfortable for the family to talk and cry with each other. Setting up the sessions and maintaining the schedule will prove to be difficult, but the healing of the family and the maintaining of relationships demand that we walk this journey together. It really does take a family to grieve a loss.

Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community


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