Life Style

How to deal with grief as a family?

Death is a family affair. Because its members often constitute the first circle of the deceased, because they are the ones who organize the funeral since the dawn of time. However, coping with death as a family remains difficult because each person’s grief is unique and intimate, often silent. At least that’s the observation made by Marie Tournigand, General Delegate of Empreintes, an association supporting bereaved people.

→ READ. Some tips for recovering from bereavement

“Death affects all members of the same family. But despite the warmth of the group, which is there to stick together, very often everyone feels alone and misunderstood, she testifies. We are taken by the preparations for the funeral, the thousand things to do and we hide our emotions. Often, even, each one seeks above all not to weigh, to protect the others from his own pain. And so, everyone is silent. How many parents say “at least I didn’t cry in front of the children”, as if that would have been damaging? Likewise, children seek to protect their parents, elders, juniors, etc. Finally, no one really expresses their needs. “

Feeling of loneliness

Isabelle remembers the feeling of loneliness she experienced within her couple, after the successive deaths of her in-laws. “I remember a time when I couldn’t understand my husband. I wanted to help him but he didn’t want to. I was a little hurt. “

Marine, on the other hand, regrets the too many and awkward words of her mother on the death of her companion: “She kept calling me to check on me. It was nice but by the way, she spent her time telling me that she was worried about my father. One day, I ended up hanging up on him by reminding him that I no longer had a husband at all. “

→ READ. When mourning is lasting

How far to help? How to support without invading? The answer is never easy. Because the isolated mourning “, suggests Catherine Pernet, head of the crisis line of the European Federation Vivre son mourning, where she is in charge of the system intended for the bereaved. Over the course of the calls, she notices both the irreplaceable role of loved ones and the difficulty of talking to each other in the face of death. “The bereaved are self-centered. But when we do not speak, we have difficulty understanding each other. ” Hence the importance, she warns, of quickly sharing essential information on the end of life or the last wishes of the deceased. “We absolutely have to make sure that everyone knows the same thing, that no one has the feeling of being left out. Otherwise, it is the door open to violent conflicts ”, she warns.

“Everyone approaches the stages of mourning at their own pace”

“Grieving is always a unique process because it involves going through a very diverse range of emotions: from astonishment to appeasement, through sadness, anger, explains, for his part, Doctor Guy Cordier, child psychiatrist. The problem is that everyone approaches these different phases at their own pace. Also, one will saturate to see the photos of the deceased relative, while the other will need them. “ The subjects of resentment can therefore accumulate between the one who will pass for insensitive and the other perceived as too intrusive.

Yet despite the pitfalls, the family consoles like no other. “She keeps the memory of people since their birth, resumes Catherine Pernet. We can therefore exchange a thousand irreplaceable anecdotes: “Hey, you remember that day, he made us laugh” or “at the table, she always took this or that”. “

A reunion on a fixed date

Moreover, one way of respecting the mourning of each one while sharing it consists in proposing to meet again on a fixed date, suggests the listener, for example on the day of the birthday of the deceased person, to take a hike together. in a place she liked. Or, to think that that day, we light a candle in front of the photo of the deceased and we think of him at the same time.

→ MAINTENANCE. “You have to be very gentle with people in mourning”

There remains the paradoxical situation of the youngest. While parents today place the happiness of the little ones in absolute priority, evoking death, causing pain, frightening. “Children thus become the great forgotten ones of mourning, regrets Guy Cordier. It is astonishing to note how much the adults prefer to keep them away by thinking of preserving them from suffering, when it is not. The child who is not spoken to has to fend for himself to understand what is going on, without the comfort of the group. Conversely, we must always suggest, including from an early age, to see the body of the deceased grandfather for example or to attend the funeral. “

Yet many little ones still learn of death when they find they have been left outside the kitchen where everyone is gathered. Many hear that their father or grandfather is “Gone on a trip” or ” to the sky “, without ever saying “Dead” be pronounced. “In doing so, we make it difficult for them. Because we have to admit the reality of death to enter into a process of mourning ”, warns the child psychiatrist.


Support associations

♦ European Federation Living in mourning.

This network of associations offers a variety of activities (workshops, bereavement café, etc.), as well as a helpline on and a site:

♦ Footprints

For 20 years, the association has been listening to bereaved adults, children and adolescents through its network present throughout France and through its help line at Site:, brochure “Mourning, a life story”, in free access.

♦ Jonathan Living stones

This Christian-inspired association is open to all, believers or not. Originally founded for parents who have lost a child, today it supports all bereavements. Christian members can benefit from the support of spiritual advisers. Listening hotlines, letters, telephone conversations.
Phone. :

To read

For adults
The Mourning Children, by Michel Hanus and Barbara Sourkes, Frison-Roche, 1997, 459 pages.

For children
The Little Book of Death and Life, by Delphine Saulière and Rémi Saillard, Bayard Jeunesse, 2018, 40 p. € 9.90.


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