Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Support is something that you all know I is vital to you while you navigate your grief. Where does that support come from? Most of us turn to family for our main source of support. I will caution you that this may not always the best avenue for us. You need to ask yourself if they are equipped to give us the kind of support we need. This can be a hard question to answer because to a lot of us family is the most important group of people in our lives, not matter what! But that doesn’t mean they can give what we need and in some cases they do just the opposite.
I may irritate people with what I am about to say, that is a risk I am willing to take to share with you something I think everyone needs to hear. Just because someone is blood relation or related by marriage does not mean they are “family” My definition of “family” is a person or persons who have my best interests in mind. Someone who will lift me up when I need it and not judge what I do or say when I am struggling to find my way. Someone who will love me and give of themselves even when I am not easy to be around. Someone who will cheer me on and help me navigate my grief with words of love and encouragement. Those who can do all of this for you and remain at your side until you are able to stand on your own are what I consider “family”.
The adage that you can’t pick your family isn’t necessarily true. When it comes to your emotional and mental health while you are grieving you need to pick those that are best for you. That’s not saying you need to ice out your family completely just that you may not want to rely on them as your main source of support. One thing we need to remember is that members of your family may also be grieving the loss of your person and need support of their own. Leaning on each other may or may not work, depends on your situation. I know I kept a lot of my deep heavy grief from my daughter, as she did from me. We were both so burdened with our own pain that we couldn’t give each other the support we needed. We still leaned on each other emotionally, but I couldn’t expect her to help pull me up and still be able to pull herself up as well.
Your relationship with your family, prior to the loss of your person, will also tell you if you need to look outside the family unit for support. Let’s face it, not all families function in a way that is healthy and loving for everyone involved. If your family dynamic wasn’t nurturing and loving before, they will probably not make changes and become part of your support staff. If they are unable or unwilling to give you what you need, look beyond them for help. When your emotional well-being is at stake you may need to make some tough decisions. Maybe you need to put some space between you and them and not see them as often as you normally would have. Or, you may need to a take a break from them for as long as you necessary. If their words and actions are causing additional stress to your life, do you really think it’s a good idea to stay on that path? Do what you know in your heart and soul is best for you right now. If you need to repair your family relationships down the road, you can do that when you are closer to whole than you may be right now.
This is a harsh reality that a lot of people I know have had to face. If there was ever a time to be selfish and do what you need to for your emotional survival, now would be the time.
The most important thing is that you find your “family”. This may be a combination of traditional family members and friends, no matter who they are as long as they are supporting you in ways you need they will be your “family”. Don’t be surprised if your “family” becomes much larger than you ever thought possible with people you would have never expected to be members. You can never have too many “family” members!