At SKATTLE we see lots of families going through life changing experiences, including families affected by loss. Here is a short list of ideas that can be helpful to remember when you or someone you know is trying to support family after loss…
Everyone Responds Differently
You might feel concerned that someone you care about is not responding in the immediate time after the loss in a way that you would hope or expect for them. The most important thing to know about a big life-changing experience is that everyone responds differently. Sometimes checking in with the person, or exploring your concerns with a grief & loss professional, can help you allay any fears and feel more sure that their response is normal.
Everyone Grieves Differently
Like the many different immediate responses, how people grieve also varies hugely among different families and individuals. For example, adults often think that kids should be having a certain response and get concerned when they seem normal or don’t want to talk a lot about the loss. This is more often than not because adults and kids have very different ideas about what grief is meant to look like. Adults have a whole lifetime of ideas around what grief should feel like, but kids don’t. Try to support the person to grieve however they need to (as long as they’re not hurting themselves or someone else) and know that you are there for them when they want to talk or process.
Distraction Is Ok
One of the most common ways that people deal with loss in the immediate aftermath is by finding ways to distract themselves. This can sometimes lead to feeling guilty or unsure if this is what they should be doing. Encourage the person to explore any ways of coping that work for them, but monitor it and talk about it as time passes to make sure they are comfortable with how they are processing. There are no right or wrong ways to cope, and distraction can be a really helpful way to have something else to think about, even for a short time.
Look After The Basics
When a loss happens, often the first things to go out the window are those you and your family need most – sleep, food, activity, other people. Without sleep, food and activity, you will surely feel more depleted and less able to cope and process in a helpful way. Isolating yourself from your support networks can also be troublesome. When you are in a good place you need all these things to stay strong – when you’re struggling you need them even more.
It might feel overwhelming and like you will never be able to ‘get over’ the loss, but this is not what the goal should be. Putting one foot in front of the other and taking each day as it comes is not only necessary, but more often than not the only way that you will start to get some perspective and feel like you can manage the gravity of the loss. It’s a cliche, but time really does help. Give yourself permission to have the space and time to grieve and process and you will find that with time it starts to shift and change.
They Are Called ‘Life-Changing Experiences’ For A Reason
This one might be a little controversial but we see it time after time in our work here at SKATTLE. People fight the changes they might experience after a loss, but loss is considered a life-changing experience for a reason – because it will most probably change your life. You probably even want it to – out of respect and love for the person you have lost, and so that you can honour and remember them. Don’t fight how it might change you; go with it and allow yourself to process however you want to. You’re in charge of how you want this to be a life-changing experience for you.
Hope this helps, and please contact us at SKATTLE if you would like to talk about this more.