Changing Relationships in Grief

By: Therese Barrett
Monday, March 2, 2020

Changing Relationships in Grief


Public Information Evening

James Reid Funeral Home

March 2, 2020

Therese Barrett


We have talked throughout the year of the many experiences we encounter after the death of someone very dear to us. We have touched on the topic of relationships during many of our talks. Tonight we’d like to go into a bit more detail on how a death changes our relationships with:

1.            Ourselves - our  ‘new normal’

2.            Our family

3.            Our friends

4.            Our significant person

There is no doubt that after the death of someone close to us, relationships change.  Sometimes amidst the pain and grief of losing that special person, we are not totally aware of this and it may catch us by surprise to see how much this change can affect us.

Let’s talk about how these relationships change, why and how do we cope with the change.

Our new relationship with ourselves:

In our grief, we might find that our personal identity changes. This is in large part due to the many different roles that we might have to assume.

When a spouse dies it may mean taking on new tasks that have previously been done for us. An adult whose parent dies may feel like an orphan or may now be a caregiver. Likewise a sibling dying may leave us feeling lost and alone when dealing with aging parents. Having a child die may leave us feeling empty and wondering what is my purpose now.


What are some of the new roles you have now? (banker, cook, caregiver, teacher  etc.)

What are some of the changes/tasks you have had to assume in your new roles? (doing homework with kids, taking care of parents, car maintenance etc.)

How have you handled these new roles? (hire help, call on friends, assign new duties to family members etc.)

New tasks can be difficult for us. It can be overwhelming to have to do the book-keeping, dealing with the repairs, the cooking, the cleaning. They may seem monumental at first. Break them down into smaller tasks and tackle each one independently. When in doubt, call in a friend or a professional for help and advice.

Some of these new roles will also play into the changes in relationships with others. As we continue to explore these changes you might begin to see how the changes have come about and why they might continue or after a period begin to be similar to what it was.


Family Relationships:

Grief grows from the same seed as love so after someone dies, one seldom exists without the other.

We all deal with tragedy differently. It’s important to understand and expect that we all grieve differently. Even whole families or cultures will experience a full outpouring of emotions. This is both normal and expected. In some cultures it is traditional for families to cry openly and spend as much time as possible at a funeral (including services, burial and viewing) mourning the loved one who has died.

Other cultures may grieve more privately. It is the same with people. Even in one household, each person may be different. One may not cry openly or want to talk about the tragedy at all; but another may want to talk about it all the time. There is no wrong or no right way. They are just different.

The hard part comes when the people we love are grieving in their own way for the same tragedy. 



Have you found this in your family? (some are angry, despondent, withdrawn)

What are some of the differences you have observed? (kids being overprotective, parents reassuming the parent role, in-laws not knowing how to react to your loss, siblings becoming distant or bossy etc.)

Can you share how you handled these differences?


Finding a way to support each other in the way we need to grieve can be somewhat challenging. Try to find some common ground so you can communicate your feelings about what is taking place. It’s ok to grieve the way your own family or culture does, and it’s also ok to change how you grieve. Grief isn’t right or wrong. Allow your family to grieve in their own way, and support the healing process.


After a tragedy or loss, grief can take time. For some, they seem to get over it quickly, but for others the grief stays around. If one person is still grieving while the other seems to not be, some anger or resentment may be experienced. Just because someone took less time or more time doesn’t mean they are stronger or weaker. Grief has no deadline. It can go on for years and years, and it can be triggered by obvious and not so obvious things. A relationship can be affected negatively if one person tries to hurry the other’s grieving process. Don’t do it. Don’t give grief a deadline.


Relationships with Friends:

Grief will change our social life. Friends often find it difficult to know just what to say or do. They are afraid to hurt you by saying the wrong thing. Sometimes, rather than take a chance of being wrong, you might not be included in the plans. People may be determined to keep you in their group or they may find it so awkward they might seem like they are moving on. 



Have you experienced anything like this? (awkward dinner invites, I just don’t want to go, it’s hard to be around others with kids etc.)

How have you handled these situations? (stayed home, found excuses, brought a friend etc.)


Seek Out New Sources of Support:

Maintaining relationships takes effort, and they’re vulnerable to the difficulties we face as we move through life. You may need to turn to distant family members, other friends or acquaintances, make new connections through bereavement groups or seek professional help from a mental health counsellor to find solace and understanding.

Although we can expect bereavement to change our relationships, we can also expect some semblance of normalcy as everyone affected copes with the loss over the passage of time. By forgiving friends or loved ones who weren’t there for you as you dealt with your grief, you can re-establish lost connections.

If you’re having difficulty with your relationships as you grieve and need some understanding and guidance, please give us a call and we can set up an appointment to talk.


Relationships with the Deceased:


We wonder how we can maintain a relationship with our significant person who is no longer physically present. We struggle with what is ‘normal’ for us in this new grief we are experiencing. 



 How are you keeping the relationship alive? (journaling, writing letters, just talking to and about them, sharing memories of them) 


You are a new version of the you before the death. You have grown in ways you never thought possible. Keep in touch with the people who are important to you. You may not go out with them for a while but maintain the communication. Some people will disappear but that’s ok. New people will come into your life who know the new you and appreciate you for who you are now. 


Relationships come to an end for all sorts of reasons, and sometimes for no reason at all. Illness strikes, accidents happen, tragedies occur, and bodies, minds and spirits are changed fora  time or forever. People die, expectedly and unexpectedly, and life is suddenly altered for those who shrive, never to be the same again. There is no question: change is a constant in life. (James E. Miller)


As we conclude, we want to remind you that there is no timetable in grief.  As the children’s song “Going on a Lion Hunt” says, You can’t go OVER it, you can’t go UNDER it, you can’t go AROUND it, you have to go THROUGH the middle. You must go through the pain of grief to get through it.  We are all individuals with unique personalities and so we won’t fit into any mold or schedule.  However, it is good sometimes, to check in with yourself to see how you feel  about how you are moving forward in this long journey of grief.  You will come to realize that you can, at the same time, carry both gladness and sadness.  Above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself time, time, time.



The Beginning is an Ending  

(from "Little Gidding," by T.S. Eliot)


What we all call the beginning is often an ending

and to make an end is to make a beginning

The end is where we start from.






The Impact of Grief on Relationships - Retrieved from:


What it means to change your relationship with Grief - Retrieved from: 


For Better or For Worse: How Personal Tragedies Can Change Your Relationship (by Malini Bhatia) - Retrieved from:


Welcoming Change. James E. Miller,1997  (Augsburg Fortress)


Widow to Widow. Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S., 1995 (Fisher Books)


"Little Gidding," The Four Quartets. T.S. Elito. 1943. Harcourt, NY:NY. 


Excerpts from past presentations by Dorothy Messenger Feb. 4, 2019


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