After the Funeral: When Your Community Disappears
Immediately after a death in the family, there’s often an outpouring of support. Friends, family, neighbors and coworkers bring casseroles and offer to take out the trash. In the immediate aftermath of a death, our communities generally step up to surround us with love and take care of the mundane tasks needed to sustain our physical health and that of our dependents.
Sadly, it doesn’t usually last.
Once the funeral is over and a couple weeks have passed, most people find that the help starts to evaporate. The dinner invitations dwindle, the offers to take care of the kids while you get a massage aren’t as frequent.
For most people in our community, for whom the loss wasn’t as close or as life-shattering, life goes on. This isn’t because our friends or family are inconsiderate, it’s simply because they don’t understand that debilitating grief doesn’t go away in a month or two. Their life wasn’t as effected by the loss, and they start to give priority to other responsibilities, like PTA meetings or having dinner with their own parents. In addition, people who haven’t experienced loss themselves sometimes don’t know how to help or what to say and find avoiding people with a recent loss easier than facing their own discomfort with death.
This gradual disappearance of community support can make you even more lonely in the face of shattering loss. It can also poison relationships with friends and family and lead to additional, secondary losses.
If you’re starting to feel like people aren’t around like they used to be, here are some thoughts on managing the loneliness after the funeral—and even preventing it from happening.
In an ideal world, our community would stick around as long as needed, helping with chores and inviting us to dinner indefinitely. That’s not usually what happens in reality. If you feel like your support is fading, taking the initiative can help make sure you’re still getting what you need. In our culture, asking for help of any kind can be difficult, but finding the humility to make specific requests can help you get through the time when your grief is still sharp and debilitating but your support system is feeling threadbare.
This also helps your friends and family know how to help. That’s important, because every griever will have different needs. Even someone who has experienced a very similar loss will not necessarily know what kind of emotional and/or practical help you need and what types of offers are counterproductive.
Seek Out Other Grievers
Support from other people experiencing a similar loss can be especially important in the weeks and months after the funeral, when your grief is still sharp and there’s no sense of normalcy in your life. Spending time with other people who have experienced a similar loss can be about more than just talking about your loss—it’s also an opportunity for social interaction with people who understand that you might tear up at one moment and laugh at the next. Support groups are a good way to meet other people who’ve experienced similar losses, but it’s not the only way. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your community and ask to be connected to people who’ve experienced a loss similar to yours—perhaps a friends’ mom who was widowed young or a coworker’s friend who lost a sibling.
Many people find that the weeks and months immediately following the funeral are the hardest, as support dwindles but life is far from back to normal. Rest assured that things can and usually do get better. Both support groups and individual counseling can help you through this difficult time towards a better future.
Photo credit: Pixabay, Couleur