Chapter 5: Your changing relationships with other people

Your family

I've been there
Peter reflects on how everyone's journey and experience with grief is different. (3:22)Video transcript

My parents loved him, but they didn't lose their future like I did. I think the hardest part for them was watching how hard it was on me. I could see in their faces how hard it was for them to watch me.

We have always been a close family. Nothing really changed except that maybe we became more appreciative of each other.My grandma would make me soup, come over, and just sit with me. We didn't talk. We just sat in silence, but she stayed with me.

Depending on your situation, your family may consist of children, parents, grandchildren, in-laws, or other relatives, or you may have a “family of choice,” composed of people you trust and look to for support. Because families work as a system, when someone dies, the whole family unit shifts, affecting all the different relationships within it.

Think about what might happen if you removed the catcher from a baseball game, the drummer from a band, or the conductor from an orchestra. In a similar way, your family may feel off balance, especially at the beginning.

All families, and the individuals within them, have their own ways of being and of responding to difficulties, including grief. Click on the arrows below for examples.

What may help

Let others in your family know what you need, and acknowledge that they are also grieving.
Keep in mind that it will take time for your family to “rebalance.” Someone may take on a role that was previously played by your spouse but do it differently.

Try to be open to changes. Thinking about your family as a system, ask how everyone might begin to adapt:

  • Who might step in or up?
  • Which things can work as they did before?
  • What must be changed?

Even if others are not grieving in the same way as you, staying connected to them can sometimes help you in your grief.

If members of your family aren’t able to provide what you need, you may need to look to friends or others, such as a peer support group or a grief counsellor.

​​ Helpful resources  - Module 3 - How has this life affected my family and me?