As sad as it is, it's remarkable How personal loss can bring a family together
Photo by CC user 59632563@N04 on Flickr

The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult times within the family circle. Bereavement is known to cause high levels of stress and trauma, not least to those who are closest to the deceased person. In addition, there can be a ripple effect that passes through members of close-knit families a bit like a shockwave. When someone dearly loved is gone, individual, joint, and collective relationships are shattered, plus memories crowd the minds of those left behind, triggering grief and pain.

There are recognized stages of bereavement through which most of us travel, including disbelief, anger, guilt, fear, and finally acceptance. However, in the midst of all the sorrow and the acute sense of loss, there is often a coming together of family members – a natural sense of unity that engenders comfort, support, and courage.

Scattered far and wide

In today’s mobile society, it’s much more common for people to live far from where they were born, where they grew up, or where their parents live. Maybe you and other family members live in the same state but hundreds of miles apart. Perhaps some family members live in other states or even other parts of the world. Leading busy lives often means that families stay in touch mainly by remote means. Irregular telephone calls, occasional online video chats, and rare personal visits are not uncommon among families today.

When a death occurs, it can act like a trigger that galvanizes children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and others into action. Often, there is a sudden compulsion to come together to remember a loved one, and indeed to celebrate the wonderful, shared memories of their life. This is a healthy response and one that you should understand as regenerating a powerful bonding process so that you and others can renew old ties and rejuvenate your precious relationships.

Mending and building bridges

Celebrated American author Harper Lee said that “you can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” This being the case, it’s inevitable that families are unlikely to be entirely unified all of the time. Family squabbles, differences of opinion, opposing views, and lack of regular contact can all take their toll on family harmony. With this as a background, it’s perhaps a little strange to think that a bereavement can have a positive impact on such situations. Yet when family members gather together to reunite and reaffirm their comradeship, old arguments may well be forgotten or overlooked, while previously shaky relationships may be restored to good health.

When a deceased person leaves behind a life partner, spouse, or other significant next of kin, it can be a particularly difficult time. There are a number of practical steps to take following a death, and the surviving partner is often consumed with grief, so focusing on practical tasks becomes very difficult. In particular, if this individual has no additional support, this can be an overwhelming challenge. Better by far that the family comes together to support those closest to the deceased person, and each other.

Taking the next steps

Among the things that you will have to deal with immediately following a death are contacting the authorities, according to where the death took place. If this was at home, you must let the police know. If, however, the deceased was under hospice or hospital care at home, you should let the relevant care agency know as soon as possible. Next, it is important to determine if the deceased was an organ donor as, if so, these must be collected promptly after death. Finally, at this point, you should confer with family members about what funeral services will be required.

This is one area where a reunited family group can have a major impact. By sharing responsibility for how the deceased person is remembered, perhaps by collaborating on important touches such as which suitable readings will be chosen or which stories will be recounted at a service, every individual family member can feel that they have truly participated in remembering their departed loved one.

Letting other people know

Finally, others who are connected to the family need to be informed of the death and can be enlisted to reach the wider circles of friends and colleagues that surround a bereaved family. Important legal documents will need to be found and made ready for any legal proceedings that follow. This may include some or all of a legal will, healthcare directive, and any relevant social security or military papers.