Sunday dinner will be different this week.
And every other week after that.
After a death, family gatherings change. The big dinners and get togethers aren’t the same without a missing loved one.
So what could possibly go wrong?
- Everyone avoids talking about the person.
- Everyone can’t stop talking about the person and you all end up crying the whole time.
- Someone sits in your loved one’s place at the table and it causes chaos in the family.
These are just a few of the triggers that can make family gatherings hard to be at especially when the loss is new.
So how do we prepare for these get togethers?
Surviving Family Gatherings without Loved Ones
1 - You have to have a plan.
I know this sounds crazy for a family get together but you need to be prepared for what is going to happen.
Being ready for the emotions and thinking about what the potential triggers are before the actual time will help combat some of the hard things that will be there.
Once you have an idea of the potential upsets, you personally can think about how you will handle them.
2 - Talk about the triggers with your family before the gathering.
If you know something is going to bother you, address it with the family before you actually meet so that they are aware of how you are feeling.
Talk through their concerns and let them have a chance to think about what would trigger them.
Come up with a plan of attack if needed.
Planning what to do or say can help you feel more in control and lessen the emotions in the moment.
3 - Remember that everyone there is in pain.
Things will be hard the first couple times getting together. It may feel awkward without your loved one.
You may feel conflicted in moving on and living life when they aren’t there.
Some family members may feel guilt.
Grief and families are hard. Let each person grieve the way they need to grieve. And remember that everyone is on their own grief schedule.
One thing you do have in common: you all miss your loved one very much.
4 - Let routine guide you but not force you.
If you have a routine where you do specific things with your family, let the tradition guide your time.
We all feel more comfortable with the familiar and that may be just what everyone needs to get through this hard time.
But if the routine is what is causing pain, talk it out and find a solution for change that works for your family.
For example if your mother-in-law made roast beef every Sunday for family dinner and she passed away, decide if someone else wants to take over that role in the family.
Or you may decide to change up the menu and give each family an opportunity to contribute to the dinner. Roast beef may not taste the same without the love from your mother-in-law.
Whatever you do, just make sure the family is all on board with it.
5 - Don’t avoid the topic but embrace it.
Talk about your loved one and let them stay a part of the family.
Make it comfortable for other family members to bring them up, ask questions, or talk about how they feeling through it all.
It may be emotional at first but with time, it will settle to a comfortable place where your loved one will be a beautiful part of your family gatherings.
6 - Remember why you are there.
You are a family. You need each other especially now.
Try to keep the relationships close and lean on each other as much as you can.
During times of grief emotions are high and people sometimes act differently. Try to give family members the benefit of the doubt especially while they are grieving.
Family gatherings are important and can be a great source of strength for everyone as you work to bring your family together again after a loss.