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How to help family member dealing with double loss


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Dear all,

I am at a loss as to what to do and am seeking advice from this group.

A few months ago my uncle, to whom I was rather close, passed away. I recently moved far away from my family and as such did not attend the funeral. I wrote a long letter to my aunt and we decided we would get together when I visited over the holidays. However, just last week, my aunt's mother passed away as well. A few days ago I contacted my aunt to see if she wanted to get together while I was home. She said she didn't know yet, as she was in a bad place and I remind her too vividly of my uncle.

I want to do the right thing and show my aunt as much love, support and understanding as possible without being invasive. Although seeing her would allow me to move toward closure with my uncle's death, I am more concerned about her well-being, and letting her know how much I care. I know that sometimes those who are grieving want others to step in, but I don't want to overstep either. Should I insist about getting together? Let it go? Drop off groceries with or without asking if I can stop by?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Many, many thanks in advance.

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I definitely wouldn't suggest that you insist that you get together. As someone who lost my husband only two months ago, I can tell that it is very difficult to know what you need from one moment to the next. Therefore, it is probably very hard for her to know whether she will want to see you in a week or even in a day. Her moods probably fluxuate from day to day. Please, please, please don't expect her to help you with your closure right now. If you are going to be near where she lives anyway, my suggestion is just to call her when you are there and see how she is feeling that day. And if you do get together, let her lead the conversation. Or, don't even talk at all. Just tell her that you are there to offer hugs and an ear if she wants to talk.

I know it probably sounds selfish to someone who isn't going through it, but at this point in your aunt's life, she has to do what is right for her and can't really be concerned about what is right for everyone else.

When I was at the height of my grief, all I wanted was for someone to allow me to grieve. To just be there while I said what was flowing from my heart and to hold me while I cried. But most people can't handle that so when people are around, we have a tendency to stuff our feelings down and I really don't think that is healthy.

Anyway, that is just my two cents worth.

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