Grief and loss changes many things and the people directly involved. There is no doubt that it also changes the relationship dynamics between directly involved people, as well as the way friends and family interact with the bereaved and vice versa.
1. The world has changed
The world of a bereaved person changes dramatically following a loss. The way they see and interpret what has happened influences their worldview.
2. I have changed
Many bereaved people are challenged with the way they personally are changed after a loss. There is a term, describing the time post loss as the ‘New Normal’, which in most cases feels anything but normal.
3. My partner has changed
As much as the bereaved person changes himself or herself, their view of their partner changes. Especially for bereaved parents, where the grief and loss affects both at the same time, the changes are heightened. The New Normal self has to meet and get used to the New Normal partner, which requires patience and time.
4. People don’t know what to say
The truth is, the bereaved persons themselves are speechless in the face of the shock following loss. It is therefore to be expected, that people around them reflect that in their helplessness with words.
5. Friends don’t talk to me anymore
As mentioned in #4, grief and loss are not yet common topics of conversation. As a society in the western world we have largely become unaccustomed to be with the bereaved in a supportive role. Loss also brings up existential issues, which can lead to fear and insecurity in people. Not knowing the ‘right’ words to say or the ‘correct’ way to connect, many stay away or believe the bereaved ‘needs time’. Another reason friends stay away is that the bereaved, at least at the beginning phase after the loss has occurred, often need to talk a lot about what has happened and about the person they have lost. This need can tire out many well-intended friends.
6. People say horrible things
As described before, speechlessness and helplessness in the face of tragic events can lead to hopeless attempts at trying to help and saying the most unhelpful things. Remembering their well-meant intentions and at the same time letting them know what would be more helpful instead are both ways to support our society become better equipped at being with the unavoidable of life and death.
7. My friends have forgotten me
In most cases this statement has a couple of causes: either the friends believe that the bereaved does not want to talk and needs time themselves or they have become overwhelmed with the sadness and pain they see their friend go through.
8. Differences in grieving
There are differences in grieving, both in terms of how someone grieves, as well as the time they need. Many relationship changes are due to the fact that people believe there is one way to grieve.
9. The relationship to myself
Even the relationship to one’s self, the way we perceive ourselves, is turned upside down. The bereaved often struggles with intense emotions, changes, and secondary losses like friendships, potential future, dreams and hopes. The changes on the level of personality are huge and often come with challenges of self-acceptance.
10. Friendships change with or without loss
What bereaved people in the midst of their state often forget is that friends come and go with the course of life whether loss has occurred or not. It is the natural cycle of life.
Anything else you find important about the changes relationship go through post-loss? Leave a comment below.
It’s so hard that friends and family don’t know what to say. I know it must be hard for them but anything would be better than nothing.
Thank you for your blog posts. They are helpful. Do sorry got your families loss.
Nathalie Himmerlich says
I think grief and loss makes us all speechless, even the bereaved person themselves. It brings up existential question, many of which don’t have definite answers. Society in general has not enough resources to deal with that… and that’s why friends and family don’t know what to say. Chapter 12 in the book addresses this topic.