The Rebalancing Of A Family After Child Loss
April 14, 2010 in Acceptance, Balance, Communication, Compassion, Grief, Healing, Intuition, Knowledge, Love, Purpose, Rainbow Bridge Coaching and Healing, Relationships, success, Thought, Understanding, Wisdom
When my son was found murdered, indeed even after he went missing I found that my family and myself instinctively knew that we needed to get itself back into the rhythm and balance that was lost when our Josh was gone. This feeling seemed to grow out of a necessity to not replace but to reorganize roles. I found that when your child dies there is a definite shift in the balance of the family and it helped for me to understand what needed to happen to again find that equilibrium.
It seems that the role of your child which held parental hopes and expectations, and was as well the object of love and focus of your family’s attention, is an important one, and its absence is felt keenly by everyone.
I observed families are a lot like an organization. They take on their own identity with their own characteristics and are more than the sum of their parts or in this case family members. They do not merely reflect the individuals that are in it.
In families it seems that when something happens to an individual it has an affect on the family and conversely if something happens to the family it has an affect on the individuals in that family. So for example when my son died I was preoccupied and withdrawn as I grieved at work and everywhere else for that matter which took my focus away from where it was usually therefore having an affect on others in the family. And because my focus was drawn away our loss not only was felt by each one of us but in addition it was as if my family lost me as well as Josh.
I have learned that families which have experienced child loss also work hard at regaining the balance in the family they had before the loss and may not even be aware of the fact that they are making changes to accomplish this. They may shift or change roles, rules, communication, expectations and behaviors to regain the equilibrium that stabilizes the family so it again operates consistently. There is no right way to achieve this as each family differs due to the uniqueness of its individuals.
My older girls each pitched in and spent more time with their little sister after losing their brother. They seemed to know instinctively that she would need that as he and she had been very close and spent a lot of time together. My oldest started calling me daily which she still does after 5 years as she knew her brother had regularly called me or visited on weekends and summers while in college. My youngest started turning into the family clown always trying to lighten things up when needed, which is the role her brother had filled in the family until he went missing. These are just a few examples of reassigned roles and obligations in our own family as we tried to reestablish a balance in our family again.
This happened entirely of its own accord in our family as water will move to fill a void when it’s there. Regardless of whether family balance is resolved healthily or successfully, the period of reorganization following a family’s loss I can say firsthand is very stressful.
I did find with other parents I have coached through grief that one must be careful of not doubling the grief for your surviving children by stealing their own unique identity by placing demands on them to take on the role of their deceased sibling. (Your brother was an accomplished basketball player and you should be too now) when they have no interest in basketball.
On the other hand sometimes if a surviving child has been in the shadow of his sibling (an accomplished basketball player for instance) he may be able to step into the limelight and shine now.
Remember that this is such an explosive time for each member of the family and one member’s grief can trigger another.
An accumulation of grief and pain in an individual or even in the family as a whole can trigger blowups. On the other hand at times the family can draw strength from each other and gain support and solace.
Recognize the need to look at each family members needs and weigh them against that of the family at times. An example would be everyone wanted to celebrate Christmas traditionally at home and I wanted to get away instead and so we celebrated out of town at my oldest daughters. It is important to strike a delicate balance so as to encourage healthy grieving and communication and unity rather than the opposite. Compromise seems to be in order here as each person finds that the health of the whole family is the goal and that each family member will have situations come up that will take precedence.
Remember that each family member does not have the same needs, grieve the same nor have the same relationship with the deceased individual. There are personal differences which must be taken into account. Individual factors are responsible for how each person will react to grief rather than similarity to others in the family or the fact that they all lost the same person in the family.
Lastly the very thing that helps which is the closeness of the remaining members of the family also can be the very thing that threatens to destroy the family. It is easy when we are hurting to place blame, be angry, make false accusations, and place unfair expectations on those we need the most due to irrational demands or fear of upsetting another in the family.
Although a huge undertaking the surviving family needs to reorganize itself to survive and must cope with the stresses of containing different grievers, each with different, unique needs. It is indeed a huge job and what is needed is patience, love, compassion and understanding.
Peace & Light,
Certified From Heartbreak to Happiness Coach
“Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself?”