Death in Family: Understanding How Death Changes a Family

Death is complex, and understanding how death affects us is a large part of life’s journey. From the moment we’re introduced to the concept of mortality to the day we pass on, our reality is shaped by the ever-present truth that life is temporary.

When a member of your immediate family passes, it can have a devastating effect on not you and your family dynamics. Each family processes death differently. In some situations, families are pulled together as death strengthens family bonds. However, sometimes the grief and adversity brought on by death can push families apart. 

Many of us avoid thinking about death. The people in our lives are truly remarkable, and thinking of traveling through life without them is heartbreaking. Still, there will come a time when we have to consider how death will shape our families and prepare for the possibility of our loved ones passing. 

Today, we’re discussing how death can change a family and ways to process shared grief with the incredible people you love.

Never Compare Families

No family is the same. Just like each individual experiences grief differently, each family unit will have unique ways of coping and processing this challenging time. While there may be many similarities between families, it’s normal for one family’s emotional responses to look different from another’s.

Above all else, never compare your family’s experiences to any other family. Until we experience a death in the family, we cannot predict how our families’ will respond, nor will we know how it can affect the people we love most. A death in the family is a very personal experience, and some families may not show its impact externally. 

When your family faces this kind of challenge, be aware of how much grace you give to yourself and those closest to you. Losing a brother, sister, mother, or father will be difficult to understand. Give your family the grace to process their grief and respond uniquely. 

Losing Someone Who Taught You How To Live

Death is never easy. While some deaths may not impact us as directly as others, the passing of a loved one can be a disorienting experience. 

For many people, most of what we know about life is shaped by members of our families. This precious relationship we share with our loved ones is singularly important to our development as individuals and communities. 

We learn about love, character, and right from wrong through the exceptional individuals in our families. When one of our beloved family members passes, it can be common to feel lost without them. As the rest of the world continues turning, trying to keep up while processing the passing of a mentor or companion can seem overwhelming. 

Life Often Changes Before Death

For many families who experience the death of a loved one, this loss is not sudden. Their daily lives may have already been altered by illness, old age, or other factors leading to their loved one’s passing.

Depending on the situation, some families haven’t experienced normalcy in quite some time. Months or even years may go by during which a family stands together with their loved one fighting a terminal disease. This is something to consider when re-discovering what life is like after a loved one has passed away. 

Parts of our daily routines that involved caring for a sick or elderly family member will now become free time. This can be an unexpected challenge during the healing process, as this change in your schedule becomes a daily reminder of your loss. Trying to remember what life was like before may be a challenge, and getting back to weekly rhythms may have to be something that takes time to learn. 

Giving yourself and your family time to readjust to life after a loved one passes can be difficult, and each family member will heal in their own time. Some family members may seem to acclimate back into regular life quickly, while others will struggle to regain some semblance of normality.

Make sure that you are giving yourself the freedom to find out what life looks like after a death in the family for yourself and your loved ones. Don’t hold yourself to a standard you can’t maintain and don’t expect your loved ones to heal at your pace.  

Ways To Help Heal Your Family

Grief is unique to every single person. In a family, multiple individuals will be simultaneously going through grief in their own way once a loved one passes away. Helping steer your family towards health and healing during this experience can be a challenge. 

It’s never easy to understand grief. It is even harder to experience it personally while trying to help others along their journey. Here are some things to consider when trying to understand how to help your family through the grief process. 

Reach Out for Help

A death in the family can have a deep impact. This kind of emotional undertaking is not insignificant. While you try to help your family move through grief, remember that you don’t have to shoulder this responsibility alone. 

Professional grief counseling is available if the need arises, and each family member has a support system within their community to help them through this time. 

Give Each Person Time and Space

We all respond to death differently, and our relationship with death evolves as we grow. 

While a child may grieve deeply for the loss of a parent, they may also cope quickly as well. Children, in general, have an incredible capacity to deal with heartbreak that allows them to move on and grow. Whether the little ones in your family understand what has actually happened, they may be some of the first to seemingly ‘move on’ the fastest. 

Older generations may struggle through their healing journey more visibly. For instance, if one of your grandparents passes away, your mother or father may carry the brunt of this grief longer than you or your siblings. Giving each family member the freedom and support to process grief in their own time is an incredibly important part of the healing process.


While it may be heartbreaking to think of your loved one after they’ve passed, trying to avoid their memory can delay the healing process. Instead, work to find ways to celebrate their remarkable life and honor their impact and legacy. 

There are many ways family members can remember their loved ones through memorials, rituals, and storytelling.

If your loved one chooses to be buried, you can regularly visit their graveside and bring fresh flowers. Writing letters explaining your feelings to your loved ones who have passed can also help you understand this season of grief. 

If your family member decided to be cremated, placing their ashes in a commemorative urn can be a powerful way to remember them. Another beautiful option is to create a memorial diamond from the carbon in their ashes. 

This process takes your loved one’s cremated ashes and purifies them down to their carbonic elements. By placing that carbon in specific conditions in cutting-edge labs, a real diamond can be grown from the carbon in your loved’s ones’ cremated ashes. 

This memorial diamond can stay in your family for generations as an eternal commemoration of your loved ones’ memory. You can even carry this diamond with you as a physical reminder of the love that you share.

No matter how your family experiences grief, the process will end in healing. While your family dynamics may change as each member goes down their own path, allowing your loved ones the space and time to heal can ultimately bring you closer together in honor of the love you all share.


Coping with Grief and Loss | Help Guide 

Healthy grieving | University of Washington Counseling Center 

What is grief? | Mayo Clinic


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