Supporting your family through loss

February 5, 2020

Supporting your family through the loss of a loved one is difficult.

It can often cause anxiety to the one who takes on the “grief support role” as the family goes through a loss. Here are some helpful tips from our team of clinicians to help support your family through a loss.

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling:

Elisabeth Kubler Ross first identified the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) in her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying in 1969. Since then, theories have emerged that transition from “stages” to “tasks”. The word stage suggests that there are specific steps in the process of grieving and one stage must be completed prior to moving on. 

A task, however, is something to be worked on. For example, when you have a “To Do List” you write down all of your tasks. Your list will not be identical to someone else’s list. There does not have to be a particular order when working on these tasks. Just because it is the first one listed does not mean you must tackle it first. Also, you may start a task, walk away from it for something else, and then revisit when ready or needed.

Grieving is more like a series of tasks. It is unique to each individual. There is no specific order or formula to complete the grieving process. A person may reach a “new normal” after a loss but then have an overwhelming feeling of loss again during a special event or anniversary, therefore revisiting the grief. It is a cyclical process that has no one right way.

The key is to treat yourself and others with empathy and grace. Sometimes the most powerful words a grieving person can hear when working on any of their tasks are “I’m here for you” and/or  “How can I help?”


Amanda Beyland, LCSW: 

The death of a loved one is difficult for anyone. Death is often difficult to understand, especially for children and adolescents. The grief that comes with the loss can be felt and shown in different ways as they are dealing with intense feelings that may be difficult for them to understand.

Some children may want to talk, be around others, or stay busy. Others may not feel like talking, want to be left alone and withdraw from their usual activities.

Allow children to grieve, regardless of their process, and listen when they share their feelings.


Photo by Toimetaja tõlkebüroo on Unsplash


Dr. Dominique Adkins, ED.D, LPC, NCC, ACS 

Loss is a universal experience that each person reacts to differently. The grieving process is an on going experience that can seem in a variety of ways. It is important to empower teens to mindfully be aware of their process of grief. They must stay in tune with themselves and take time for self care and reflection.

There is potential for a positive change and healing after experiencing the loss when coupled with family support and professional help. Tedeschi and Calhoun (1996) revealed there is a potential for the following changes;

  1. Improved relationships with others
  2. Greater appreciation for life
  3. New possibilities for one’s life
  4. Greater awareness of personal strengths
  5. Changes in spirituality

These changes for a teen can be beneficial during this stage of identity development. The key is to allow a safe space for exploration and discussion.


Rebecca Staines, LPC:

Grief can come in waves. There are some days where it may hit you harder than others, and that is okay. It is also important to remember that everyone grieves differently. While some may need time and space away, others may want company, and while some may want to stay busy and distracted, others may want to take time to pause and reflect.

Whatever the case may be, make sure to find ways to grieve that work for you. Maybe your grief is expressed by writing down memories, creating a scrapbook, getting involved in a grief and loss group, or even becoming an activist in some way on behalf of your lost loved one.

Grief is a journey that doesn’t have an end destination, and may never fully go away, but as it has been said, grief is the price of love.


Vanessa Mackall Lal, Resident in Counseling:

The death of a loved one is often a very difficult concept for most kids and teens to understand and accept. Understanding that children grieve differently than adults can help adults support children as they experience emotions they may not fully understand.

Throughout the grieving process, children may experience sudden mood swings, often transitioning between crying and playing shortly after. Providing a safe and supportive space for children and teens to express their thoughts and feelings while grieving can help them develop healthy coping and communication skills throughout their grieving process.

It is common to be at a loss of finding the right words while someone is going through the grieving process. You question whether you are saying the right thing or offering enough support. Just remember that “being present” during this difficult time is the best way to support your family. You don’t even have to say anything. Just offer a hug, or a hanky if you sense sadness in your loved one.

Until next week, Be Wise!






Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9(3), 455–472.