When a loved one dies, life changes for family members.

That is an understatement in many families where bereavement can affect relationships and create difficult-to-adapt-to changes.

“Bereavement affects individuals as a deeply personal experience,” said Thomas Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. and an advanced grief counselor. “When people are in relationship with one another, it’s natural for the other persons in the family to also be affected.”

Bereavement, he said, is linked to the meaning of “shorn off or torn up” and conveys a sense of being deprived of something vitally important. “It’s a normal human experience,” he said.

No one goes through the grief process exactly like another. “Given that grief is an intensely personal experience, people need to process the loss and come to terms with it in their own time. It shouldn’t ever be rushed or forced,” Mott said.

Discussing how bereavement can affect a family unit, he said if a family member seems to ignore the loss it might be a coping strategy that is necessary at the time. “Helpful people offer support and their presence of caring,” he said. “Parents should be sensitive to the feelings of everyone in the family and understand that patience with one another’s suffering is necessary.”

A family can grieve as a unit; this is common at wakes and funerals, but Mott encourages families not to insulate themselves from receiving the care and love offered by others. “People outside the family can show their concern by being good listeners and being present with the grieving person. I find it’s best when outsiders just ask, ‘What do you need?’” and then respond.

Faith can be helpful in the grief process. “Asking our Lord for His everlasting love and guidance has helped countless people endure and come to accept the loss,” Mott said.

Vermont Catholic Charities has trained counselors to help persons cope with loss. For more information, call 802-658-6111.

Originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.