Changes in relationships after loss

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Family relationships

All of your relationships are going to be affected by the death of your mum or dad or sister or brother, but especially the relationships with and between your family members.

You’re all grieving, and that can put a strain on all your interactions with each other. Everyone grieves in different ways and this can cause conflict.

It’s really important to respect each other and allow others to do whatever helps them to deal with their grief. If you’re worried that someone isn’t coping, reach out someone like a family friend or a Canteen counsellor.


If family members are questioning the way you’re handling it, try not to get angry or defensive. Let them know, somehow, that the death of your mum or dad or sister or brother is having a huge impact on you.


It might seem that other family members (or even friends) are trying to replace the connection you had with the person you lost. This may make you angry – no one can replace them.

But remember that they may just be trying to make sure that you have support when you need it. Just let them know when you think they have over-stepped the mark.

New partners, new families

If your Mum or Dad has died, at some stage in the future you may have to deal with your other parent thinking about, or in fact doing something about, finding a new partner.

This may cause all sorts of conflicting emotions and challenges. While you may understand, in your head, their right to do this, in your heart it might be a whole different story.

You can read more about issues with new partners and blended families, and tips for negotiating all the changes, in Canteen’s free book Now what? Living with the death of your parent or sibling which you can download or order here. Or log in to the Canteen Community and read other young people’s stories and forums about their experiences.

Relationships with your friends

When someone in your family dies, you may find that even your closest friends have no idea what to say or do. They may even avoid you as they are scared of saying the wrong thing.


Things to remember

  • You may have to make the first move. As unfair as it may seem, you may have to help your friends understand what you’re going through. Let them know that you are okay to talk about your situation (or that you’re not yet).

  • You may have to tell them how they can help and be there for you.

  • They don’t mean to upset you. If they say stuff that really annoys you or makes you angry keep in mind they aren’t doing it on purpose; it’s just that they don’t understand.

  • Your friends have their own lives. It may seem that your friends are just getting on with their lives without you and you feel a little left out. They may not understand that you can’t ‘just get over it’. Because you often grieve in private, your friends may forget that you are in fact grieving.

Changing friendships

You may lose some friends along the way. You have been through some massive changes in your life and might find you are not as interested in what your friends talk about anymore. But this may have happened anyway, cancer or no cancer.

You may want to connect with other young people who have experienced the death of a parent or brother or sister. It may be easier to talk to them about what is happening to you because they understand. Having supportive people in your life is important when you are grieving.

Read other young people’s stories and connect with them online by joining the Canteen Community, or talk to a Canteen counsellor.


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