Understand How to Help Your Family Deal With a Loved One Passing Away

If someone in your wider family or a close friend has recently passed on, then it can be a very impactful time. Crucially, the after-effects of their death may not just affect you but they could also affect those around you in your immediate family. A typical example would be the death of a parent. Although losing a parent in adulthood is never likely to be easy, at least grown-ups have some ideas about what is likely to happen next – a funeral, property inheritance, a period of mourning, and so on. On the other hand, your children, who might have never experienced the loss of a loved one before, may have only a very meagre understanding of what it means to lose a grandparent. So, what should you do?

To begin with, note that no two people will grieve in the same way. Some people will feel guilty while others may be despondent and even fall into despair. Others, perhaps your siblings or your spouse, may seem as though they have been unaffected emotionally. Whichever emotions your family throws at you, it is important never to ascribe them as being right or wrong. Family members will all respond in their own way so don’t be judgemental and don’t let anyone judge you for your response either.

When you are dealing with children, especially little ones, explaining the finality of death can be difficult. This is why some people choose to talk of the deceased having ‘passed on’ or ‘gone away’. Some people may tell you to speak about the death of a loved one in more straightforwardly honest terms. However, as any parent knows, this will not always be the best thing to do in all circumstances so use your best judgement. Remember that most children are resilient and will be able to come to terms with the loss of a loved one especially if you explain that it is perfectly normal to feel sad about it.

Listen to what your family has to say. If you are suffering from the initial shock of grief, then it may be hard to do so but try to listen. Give yourself a little time before rushing into funeral arrangements. Consult with those around you about what would be good to include in the funeral service. Your family may surprise you about what they’d like to say or read at the service. They may even know things about your loved one that you do not. An open discussion about funeral arrangements tends to help avoid some family members resenting the funeral service. 

Equally, you could arrange for a celebration of life service a month or so down the line after the emotional dust has settled a little. Like memorial services, these tend to work well in large family groups. This is because they afford an opportunity for everyone, young and old, to have their say about the life of the deceased rather than focussing on their death.

Finally, it is worth underlining that the grieving process can be long. Continued support for your family may be needed, especially when it comes to matters like selling the family home, meeting the conditions of the will or working out which family member will inherit which personal possessions. Any event or decision after the death of a loved one can bring back painful memories. So, above all, it is important to continue to be kind and supportive as the months – and even years – go by.