Coping as a Family

Communication is the key to coping and growing as a family through grief. It is important to be together, to talk, cry, rage or even sit in silence. At the same time, there should be respect for each person’s way of handling their grief. Some family members will grieve privately, others openly and others a combination of these two styles. In many ways, each family member must grieve alone.

Here are some suggestions to help with your grief as a family:

  • Maintain balance of attention between deceased family members and surviving family members.
  • Try to be sensitive to each others feelings. Feelings are often difficult to verbalize. Listen to what is meant as well as what is said.
  • Hugs or a hand on the arm or back give comfort and a sense of closeness.
  • It may be helpful to set aside time to be “alone together” as a family or to vent hold a family meeting. Encourage, but don’t pressure, family members to talk and express grief in their own way. Be a good listener.
  • Plan family projects or trips.
  • Be careful not to give each other the silent treatment. Make sure the person who has died continues to be a part of family conversations.
  • Everyone has a unique way of grieving which can at times be at cross purposes among family members. Accept each person’s method of coping.
  • Discuss the loved one’s former role in the family which now necessitates changes in family duties and new roles for the survivors in the family. Be careful not to expect a family member to replace or to be the same as the member who died.
  • If depression, withdrawal, grief or family problems are getting out of control, seek professional help.
  • Recognize that anniversaries, birthdays and special holidays will be difficult for the family and each member of the family. Discuss together how to observe these occasions. Should there be a variation on traditional celebrations? Do any family members have particular concerns, suggestions?
  • Consult family members on the disposition of loved one’s possessions, including their room. Take your time and tread carefully where these precious mementos are concerned. If possible, put off making major decisions about moving, giving away possessions, etc.
  • Studies show that a bereaved person’s self-esteem is extremely low. Survivors should work on their image of themselves and help each family member to think and feel good about themselves.
  • Remember, it is difficult to help your family if you are falling apart. Working on your own grief will eventually enable you to help your family to cope with their grief.

Reprinted with permission from
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