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How Relationships Change After Loss- an upcoming workshop

Mar 11, 2024

How Relationships Change After Loss

By Amanda McKoy Flanagan, LMSW

Everything changes when a loved one dies, especially relationships. The dynamics of a family change incredibly, even more so when the person who passed was the matriarch or patriarch. Underlying issues within certain relationships may surface, some quite unsettling.

Roles may change and this can affect not only relationships with others, but also with ourselves. We may think that our role as a mother, daughter, son, friend, etc. is now obsolete since our loved one is not present. Although this is not true, it can create a very real loss of identity.

The pain of loss may bring fear of future loss (usually unconsciously). This is especially true if we have experienced trauma in our past because the uncertainty created by the trauma gets kicked up. If your person died suddenly or unexpectedly, this feeling could present even more strongly. These feelings will affect your relationships and you may begin to withdraw. Alternatively, fear of future loss may force you to feel like you need to be with certain people all the time.

These changes are another kind of loss and can be categorized as secondary losses, or sometimes ambiguous grief (grief of the living) and they can compound the grief journey. Like all loss, this brings many feelings.

Normal feelings and actions which accompany this type of grief include:

  • Feeling unsettled, disoriented, and forgetful
  • A sense of not belonging
  • Loneliness
  • A desire to withdraw or isolate
  • Anger
  • Fear of loss
  • Feelings of abandonment
  • Frustration with yourself and others
  • Being short or curt with someone while speaking to them
  • Confusion about why you or someone else is acting a certain way
  • Sadness due to the fact that things will never be the same
  • Not knowing who you are; loss of identity

Tips to navigate this time of emotional upheaval:

  • Remember that this is a sensitive time and things will not be this way forever; you will not feel this way forever.
  • Remain hopeful that even though things have changed, something new can be built.
  • Acknowledge, accept, and embrace your emotions without judgment; whatever you feel is okay.
  • Practice self-compassion and self-acceptance.
  • Accept that you cannot change another person.
  • Know that you are still a father, daughter, sister, friend, etc. even though your person is not here.
  • Uncover underlying issues in the relationship(s) that are causing you trouble; reframe thought patterns surrounding these relationships if necessary.
  • Remember that everyone is grieving, and pain comes out in strange ways; find compassion for others when possible.
  • Set boundaries when another person’s behavior is hurtful.
  • Find people who understand and can support you. This can be family, chosen family, friends or a community of people outside of your biological family.
  • Address your anger/resentments honestly with prayer and/or meditation, journaling, and talking with trusted friends.
  • Speak calmy to the person who has pulled away or is acting out and express your desire to either have a loving relationship or to take some space.
  • Remember who you are (or create someone new) and show up in these relationships as the person you want to be.
  • Seek counseling to process this particular kind of grief.
  • Join a support group of people who feel the same way.

Change is a natural and unavoidable part of life, and you have the power to use this challenging time to help you grow. The suggestions above may help you to move through this difficult part of your journey more easily. Remember to always treat yourself with lots of self-care, self-love, and self-compassion as you travel through your healing process.

About the Facilitator, Amanda McKoy Flanagan, LMSW :

Author, podcaster, and motivational speaker, Amanda, recently released her award-winning inspirational memoir, Trust Yourself to Be All In: Safe to Love and Let Go and is the co-host of the Sol Rising Podcast. Her new book is a pragmatic yet soulful inspirational memoir delivering uncompromising self-love that heals deep wounds. Amanda’s revealing, thought-provoking narrative will guide you to find comfort in your emotions and meaning in your suffering, while organically bridging an inseverable, trustworthy connection with self, others, and the universe.

Join us for the workshop Relationships And Grief: Tuesdays. April 2, 9, 16 & 23 10am-11:30am at HeartLight Center. Click here to learn more and register