When you lose a parent or partner, their loss is felt more than just on a personal level. Like a web, they are the common thread holding things together. Take that thread away, then the structure and support can collapse.
The grieving process is different for everybody.
Some get on and do what has to be done, grieving privately alone so as not to let anyone down.
Some ‘go with the flow’, doing either what they are told or what is expected of them.
Others go completely to pieces, and depend entirely on whoever is prepared to take over the reins.
In short, they can lose their way, lose the plot, and although they go through the motions of life, get absolutely nowhere. Things start to slide, but because they are grieving, they don’t notice. Then when the grief period is over, no matter how long that is, the mess they have slipped into is now the norm. There is no structure, things don’t get done, and everything slips into decline.
It’s not just death that can bring these things about. Divorce, separation, retirement or a change of circumstances such as job loss can all have an effect on the daily running of any family life.
As a group of people, we consist of Those that do, Those that don’t, Those that can’t and Those that won’t. Be it a child who can never let go of the apron strings, a parent forever feeling the need to coddle their offspring (even in adulthood), or a sibling who becomes independent at an early age because parents have no interest or time for them, the attitudes we grow up with determine how we react and inter-react in later relationships.
“Those that do” aren’t afraid to go after what they want. They plan each stage and are prepared to work towards their ultimate goal. They are totally focused and won’t let anything or anyone get in their way.
“Those that don’t” want what everyone else has, but put in little, if any effort, and usually get nothing or nowhere, then moan because they haven’t got it.
“Those that can’t” are totally incapable of any forward planning or organisation, relying completely on other people and their efforts to basically get anywhere or anything.
“Those that won’t” refuse to do anything to help themselves, see no point in putting themselves out and expect everything to be done for them.
Of course, this is an extremely simplistic generalisation.
Traditionally, women have always looked to their menfolk to look after them, and not just for financial support. We rely on them to keep up with the house repairs from a leaking window to a broken fence, decorating or looking after the family car. In turn, they look to us for raising the children, meals, a comfortable, clean and warm home, and that little bit of TLC that they so rightly deserve. However, most men today can cook, some better than their female counterparts, but how many women can take on the traditional man’s role? In these days of equality, it is unfair to say what men should do, same as what is expected of women. Women who are the major wage earner and house husbands raising the family is a perfect example. Throw into the mix same-sex relationships, and although the same traditional roles occur, that is what they are, a ‘role’, not a particular gender’s responsibility.
Some people see problems as Challenges, others see them as Insurmountable Barriers, but take away a key element (like a father, partner or major income) and things start to crumble. Loss of income can mean a drastic change in living standards. Budgets and priorities, possibly never needed before, now have to be considered and calculated. Bereavement has the added sorrow of losing a loved one, someone with whom you could share the load. In some instances, apathy sets in and standards slide to the extent that it is just too much of an effort to do the simplest thing like clean the toilet. If there is someone else in the household, hopefully they’ll do it anyway. It doesn’t matter that they too are trying to come to terms with their loss.
Separation or divorce leads to divided loyalties, bitter arguments, money issues and with it possible depression. If there are children involved, add to that their anxieties, bewilderment and lack of understanding. If they believe it’s their fault, reassurance is paramount.
There are many who allow themselves time to grieve, for whatever reason, and for however long it takes. Then suddenly, they get their acts together, become a whirlwind of activity and actually become stronger in character than perhaps they had been before tragedy struck.
We are all individuals. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. How we react to loss will be different to other members of our family or friends. How people react to us in such circumstances will be different again. It’s a difficult balancing act, offering help and support without sounding trite or insincere.
It doesn’t matter who, what or how old we are. We all need structure. It’s what holds things together. I suppose the secret is to be able to adapt when one aspect changes, is withdrawn, or ceases to be.
As Clint Eastwood says in Heartbreak Ridge
‘Improvise, Adapt and Overcome’