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Tips and Tools for Navigating Relationships as You Grieve

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The death of a loved one can leave survivors feeling uncertain about what lies ahead and where to begin their path forward. Relationships can also feel different and strained compared to what they were before, and you may be in need of some tender loving care.

In the aftermath, you may notice that:

  • Family members and friends get quiet when you’re in the room, perhaps fearing that they might say the wrong thing.
  • You feel alone.
  • Things that formerly brought you joy no longer do.
  • You have mixed feelings when you see couples laughing and having a good time.

Relationship with yourself

Taking care of yourself and watching out for your overall well-being might feel more difficult when you’re grieving. But it is also a necessary part of the healing process and can have a positive effect on your other relationships as well. Here are some resources that can help:

Relationships with family

Family can be a place people turn to when they’re in a crisis. But when it comes to these connections, things may be awkward at first.

The following resources can help maintain these relationships:

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Listen to this podcast episode for survivors.

The Military OneSource podcast episode Surviving Milestones as a Survivor offers help with understanding and working through the range of emotions associated with grieving, as well as outlining how good communication between family members can ease some of the potential strain on these relationships.

For example, there may be some family members who want to maintain a wall of photos and a collection of memories, while others may prefer not to.

Also you can find help at Sesame Street for Military Families, which is a free, bilingual (English and Spanish) website where families can find grief support services, including Little Children, Big Challenges.

Relationships with a spouse or partner

Perhaps the most important connection is with a spouse or partner. There are many variables that can put a strain on this relationship, including the death of someone close to one or both of the spouses.

But here are some resources that can help:

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Get relationship support.

Military OneSource’s relationship support program provides military couples with free access to OurRelationship, an online, evidence-based tool for addressing relationship issues.

You can also reinforce your relationship by utilizing these resources and tools from the Better Relationships Within Your Reach page:

  • “Love Every Day” Texts to Rekindle Romance
  • Quick Checkup With a Relationship Pro
  • Personalized Coaching for Healthy Relationships
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Access Military OneSource’s Relationship Resource Tool.

Every military couple has different strengths and areas in need of improvement when it comes to their relationship. Answer a few questions to get a list of recommended resources for your relationship needs.

Relationships with children

Another vital relationship for survivors is with their children. It can be difficult to know what your child is thinking or how your grief might complicate things and close the lines of communication. They may be sensitive to what you’re experiencing and be afraid to discuss their feelings.

This article about bereavement camps provides information on camps for children working through their grief. The following resources can also help during these difficult times:

Relationships with friends

Friends are sometimes the most vital source of support. But these relationships can become strained as well, especially since emotions can be more one-sided.

For example, a friend may care deeply for you but also be afraid of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time so as not to hurt your feelings, which might make them seem unsupportive.

One way you can help is by sharing this handout Tenets of Companioning the Bereaved with a friend to give them a better understanding of how to be there for you.

Image of Podcast Headset

Listen to this podcast episode about approaching milestones.

One suggestion offered in the survivor milestone podcast episode is how survivors can put others at ease about how to approach them as they grieve. It also emphasizes the importance of survivors knowing their own state of mind, and discusses how that can help them plan for potentially triggering events, such as birthdays and anniversaries, as well as being prepared for milestones that may surface unexpectedly.

This Military OneSource article titled Tools and Tips for Navigating the Holidays as a Survivor also provides guidance, such as asking a friend for help when holidays and memories become too overwhelming.

Future romantic relationships

There may come a time following the death of a spouse or partner when you’re ready to explore new romantic relationships. But this can be a difficult transition, not only for a parent, but for the children as well.

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Read this article about surviving loss and finding love again.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors article titled Loving Again After the Loss of an Intimate Partner can help. It’s just one of many tools and resources the site offers.

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