Chapter 4: Impact on family and friends

Family differences in grieving

I've been there
Heather talks about speaking honestly of the person who died and how other people can find this difficult.(3:22)Video transcript

After my brother died, our family was a bit in chaos. Everyone was grieving, but not in the same way. It took time for us to figure out how to talk to one another about it.

My younger brother and I are talkers, and so we’ve gravitated to each other to grieve and share stories. My sister and mother, on the other hand, won’t talk about it because it feels too hard. They are both “doers” though. My sister is planting her heartbreak in her garden and my mother is baking non-stop and sharing with all of the neighbours. They are grieving in their own ways.

Each family and each person within it will have their own way of grieving. You or others in your family may be upset or disappointed to discover that you don’t all grieve in the same way. You may find that you are feeling more distant or more upset with each other than you ever thought possible, or you might find that you feel closer than you have in a long time, or even for the first time. For many, it is a combination of both.

A family death does not erase all the complexities of relationships, and sometimes it adds to them. Click on each box below for examples of common situations that families encounter when grieving.

Any differences that arise will likely be added to other differences that may have existed before your sibling’s death, but it is also possible that you will be able to rely on positive connections you had.


Tolerance, understanding, and good communication can help in moving forward with your own grief and allowing others to do so as well. You may need to find a way to give each other some “slack” while you are struggling in different ways.

What may help

Remember that one style is not necessarily better than another. Open communication can help everyone to understand or accept differences in grieving.

While seeing someone cry can trigger tears and feelings in others, it is not true that this causes the other more pain; rather, it is revealing pain that is already there.

Sharing experiences and feelings about what it was like to be present at the death, and what it was like not to be there can help to eliminate assumptions and misunderstandings, and can ease feelings of resentment or regret.

Managing family conflict after a death is usually challenging, but sometimes difficult situations can bring people together in new ways. If tensions become unmanageable, a professional grief counsellor can be helpful by offering insights and suggestions.