Grief & Relationships: How Your Relationships Might Change When Facing Grief

Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the most significant challenge a person faces. Grieving can feel overwhelming and consume every facet of your life. During this time, you need the comfort of others the most, yet social connections often feel strained as the people in your life may struggle to understand your experience or are simply uncomfortable with it.

Here are four ways relationships can shift when you are trying to navigate the loss of a loved one:

1. Your Support System May Surprise You

You may be surprised who steps up to offer support. Your closest friends and family, those who have been by your side through life’s ups and downs, may not be there for you during your grief in the way you had expected. Sometimes, it is the people you’d least expect who show up to help you while you grieve. An old friend you’ve lost touch with, a co-worker you’ve hardly spoken to but who understands the complexities of living with death are sometimes the people who help as you navigate the pain of your loss.

2. You Might Feel Angry – And That’s Okay

You will try and understand why your closest friends and relatives seem to have abandoned you during one of the most painful times in your life. But understanding won’t make the pain of it go away.

Yes, it’s vital to realize that not everyone feels they can cope with death and loss, even, perhaps, the people closest to you. It’s also important to recognize that feeling this additional pain, even anger and resentment about feeling abandoned, is normal and okay.

3. Some People Will Avoid You

Losing loved ones is something all of us will go through, but some people have difficulty coping with this reality. Just the thought of a loved one dying can be more than many people feel they can bear. Seeing your pain and sitting with you at such a painful time will force others to face this stark reality in a way in which they may be uncomfortable. Therefore, many people will do what they can to avoid it. If you find that friends and relatives seem to be avoiding you, understand it is most likely because they do not know how to handle their fears of loss.

4. You Will Have Something in Common with Others

For many, it is hard to fully understand certain things until they experience it themselves: having children, running a marathon, getting divorced. After losing a loved one, the sense of loss can be especially hard to imagine. While your current group of loved ones will try to empathize with you, the reality is that you may feel as though you now belong to a special club, and those who you may feel understood by may change.

This does not mean you will no longer feel close to those you did before the loss; it means you have changed and how you perceive the world and others likely has as well.

Relationships are complex, and they can be more difficult during periods of loss and grief. Therefore, be gentle with yourself during this time and seek assistance. Consider joining a support group. Being around those who share your pain firsthand can comfort you during this time.

You may also want the guidance of a therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to work through your grief.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring grief therapy, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may help.

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