Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the biggest challenge a person faces. Grief can feel overwhelming and consume every facet of your life. It is during this time that you need the comfort of others the most, and yet social connections often feel strained as your relationships and social network seem to be flipped upside-down.
Here are four ways relationships can shift when you are trying to navigate the loss of a loved one:
- Your Support System May Surprise You
You may be surprised who steps up in your greatest hour of need. Some of your closest loved ones, those who have been by your side through dating and childbirth and other life dilemmas, may not be able to be there for you during your bereavement. It is often people you’d least expect who show up to hold your hand 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… these are sometimes the people who help the hurt go away. And sometimes it’s a combination of all your support systems, including those closest to you.
- You Will 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 important to realize that not everyone can cope with death and loss, including the people closest to you. It’s also important to recognize that feeling this additional pain, and even anger and resentment about feeling abandoned, is totally normal and okay.
It’s also okay to feel anger at the person you lost. Sometimes we feel angry because we feel that person did not take care of him-/herself the way doctors ordered or lived a life that led to an early death. Sometimes we’re just plain angry at them for leaving the earth no matter how they died. We just feel angry about the loss. And that’s okay if it’s part of your grief.
- People Will Avoid You
Losing loved ones is something all of us will go through, but some people cannot handle this reality. Just the thought of a loved one dying is more than many people can bear. Seeing your pain and sitting with you in your time of darkness will force others to look this stark reality in the face. Many people simply can’t do it. If you find that friends and relatives seem to be avoiding you, understand it is most likely because they cannot handle their own fears of loss. You can also totally talk to them about it and tell them how their distance isn’t helping you. Let them know they can just sit with you and hear you and they don’t have to “fix” it.
- You Will Have Something in Common with Others
For most people, it’s hard to understand certain things until they experience it themselves: Having children, running a marathon, getting divorced. Losing a loved one is certainly on this list as well. While your current group of loved ones will try to empathize with you, the reality is that you now belong to a special club and those who you feel close to and understood by may change.
This does not mean you will no longer feel close to those you did before the loss, but it means you have now changed and how you perceive the world and others has changed as well.
Relationships are hard, and they can be more difficult during periods of loss and grief. It’s important that you are gentle with yourself during this time and seek help. Consider joining a support group. Being around those who share your pain firsthand can be a comfort 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’d like to explore how counseling might be helpful in navigating your grief, feel free to reach out to me at 919-891-0525 today for a free, 15-minute consultation. I would be happy to explore how I may be able to help you. Appointments may be scheduled for my Wake Forest counseling office or online.