When a husband (or partner) and father dies unexpectedly the loss can be profound. The world as we knew it has ended without warning and everything about our lives is suddenly plunged into chaos.
Amongst this, family relationships are thrown into turmoil. Where there were four people there are now three. Like everything else, suddenly the relationships between the survivors are all over the place and powerful emotions are unleashed by grief. There is the love and loss for the father and partner, as well as difficult angry feelings too, anger with him for dying suddenly is mixed in with the grief for him. It is a profoundly difficult time.
It can be hard to feel comfortable with one’s own anger, and there is little comforting about a situation like this in the first place, but anger is a natural part of the grief process. It is powerful energy being released in the process of mourning. It is part of the new adjustment that is taking place.
The loss cannot be undone, but life does go on. Like a bloom suddenly being ripped from a rose tree the rest of the plant goes into shock. Energy withdraws and shrinks inwards and as it does so the exterior suffers.
The bereaved family does something similar. It shrinks and withdraws and goes into a kind of emotional winter. This is a natural process, horribly painful, but natural. It is natural that we might stop being the person that we were before the death. Before the death a child might have been a talented and enthusiastic piano player, or footballer, the death affects people differently but it is natural that energy is withdrawn from the areas in which it was previously present. It is natural that our enthusiasm for our previous interest is reduced.
Our energies have to be withdrawn so that a new aspect of our selves can develop. Out of the death comes something new, and this takes time and energy. This is why energy has had to be withdrawn from previous places. The work that goes on is exhausting, and is largely unseen work that takes place, deep inside each of the survivors as new developments and adaptations are underway. All of the survivors are involved and each of them are pulled in different directions. The mother and children slowly become recast as they survive and continue to develop.
Simply being aware of these processes is probably the best that you can do. A mother might have more chance for greater awareness than young children, but the healing and development of the new family unit involves all of its members.
It feels like a difficult and very dark time because it is, but that it is entirely normal. Great loss has occurred, and great suffering is part of the mourning and the healing process. Slowly new growth and adaptations emerge out of the suffering and dark withdrawal.
In time each person learns to live with the loss, in time a new perspective is developed about what has gone. That is all part of the new identity that emerges. The lost loved one is always lost, but the living go on living and learn to live with that loss in new ways.
Psychotherapist and Counsellor