Family Members Should Draw Closer During Grieving

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

A bereaving family has to have family events when family members can focus on the loss together.  Family events that facilitate such a process are events such as, funeral rites, visits to the cemetery, death anniversary, birthday of the deceased, etc.  For family members who live a long distance away, my advice is, "Go there if you can.  The benefits that accrue from such a visit are worth the time and expenses."   For survivors, who could not organize proper funeral rites because of the circumstances of the loss, such as in the case of a miscarriage or death due to AIDS, my advice is, "Organize a funeral and a family get-to-gather now, even though the time elapsed may be years."  Such "public mourning" and family events allow the members to receive comfort and support from one another, unite them as family, and connect them with the lost person. .  These are the occasions when survivors can pay their last respects to the deceased in an open manner and apprise themselves of the circumstances in which other family members are living after the loss.         

 A vacuum is left by the lost person and the question faces the survivors is, "How do we relate to each other in the absence of our loved one?"  To learn how to relate to each other, they need to get together and communicate their feelings related to the loss and the problems they encounter in their recovery.  They can't learn enough about the emotional needs of one another if they are scared of even talking about the lost person.  How will they bridge the jarring gap left by the loved one?  

 When survivors meet after the loss of their loved one, they may come to realize that they have to learn to communicate with each other directly.  Perhaps, all their lives they communicated to each other through the lost person.  After my mother died, my brothers, sisters and I met the following holiday season.  We didn't know how to talk to our father about anything that really mattered.  We realized that all our lives, our mother acted as the communication medium between him and us.  Father never had to express his wishes and feelings to us directly.  Mother told us what father wanted and how he felt about various issues.   Similarly she carried "messages" pertaining to our emotions from us to father.  This "enabled" us to talk to our father about politics, weather and other trivial matters.  Since mother wasn't there anymore to help us out, so we had to learn how to talk to our father about issues that really mattered.  Have you experienced a communication void in your family after the loss of your loved one?  Work on it.       

 Consider how your family's physical and emotional needs that were earlier met by your loved one will be met from now onwards.  Who will be the caretaker, the leader, or the mediator of the family, from this point onwards?  In our case, after both parents gone, my siblings and I recognized that our oldest sister, also the oldest of the siblings, is the symbol of our parental authority.  She is the one who all of us now look up to for the final word in the family matters.          

 When surviving family members together have adequately focused on the past and been strengthened by the shared experience of their loss, they are ready to withdraw their emotional energy from the lost person and move on to other relationships and pursuits.  This process helps them to move on with what they want to do with their lives and focus on future. 

 Perhaps, in my third or fourth grade Primer, there was a story about wooden sticks.  The story was about three brothers who were always fighting with each other.  Their parents gave them  long lectures about the ill outcomes of fighting and tried to scare them of the enemies who would take advantage of their in-fighting.  Nothing that parents did stopped them from fighting.  One day, the father called the three sons, showed them a wooden stick and asked each one of them if they had the strength to break the stick.  "No sweat.  I can do it," each one said proudly, flexing his muscles.  One by one, father called all the three sons and gave each one an identical stick.  Each one put it on his knee and broke it with a crashing sound.  Next, displaying a roll of same size sticks tightly wound with a string, father asked with a poker face, "And now, who can break this bundle of sticks for me?".  "No sweat,"  each son said gleefully, "I showed you just now, what I can do with them."  However, each brother tried to break it on his knee and failed.  The roll of sticks was still intact and all three brothers ended with sore knees and hands.  The moral of the story:  When you stand alone, you are vulnerable.  When you stand together, you are unbreakable.  And so is a united family when confronted with grief.  

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor