Role Changes

Upon the death of someone in the family, the family as it was will be forever changed. The spouse who remains in the family must take on the roles of the deceased as well as maintain the roles previously performed. The transition of taking on new roles can be uncomfortable and painful. Yet, it can also be a time of new growth.

Families are composed of different members, all of whom have different specific roles. In a traditional family with a husband, wife, and children, often the husband is the breadwinner, the wife is the homemaker, and the children at home are students with many activities planned with their peers. The father may also be the disciplinarian, billpayer, authority on investments, and the decision maker on major financial outlays. The wife may be the cook, housekeeper, chauffer, appointment scheduler, and emotional mainstay of the family.

People expect the bereaved to continue on with their routine activities and take on new ones as well. It may not make emotional sense, but it does make practical sense. There are benefits to living in a world where people expect certain things of us. Activity is a crucial ingredient of the healing process. "Keeping busy" is both difficult and therapeutic. Initially, getting up and continuing with normal routine can be a major accomplishment. Tackling new roles will take energy and time. People need routine and stability. Perhaps one planned activity per day with a weekly schedule of what needs to be done can assist one in tackling those many tasks and roles which need to be managed.

There are agencies, organizations, and schools that provide classes which may be helpful to persons facing role changes. Banks and other institutions offer courses in investment and financial planning, community colleges offer classes and counseling designed to prepare one to enter the job market. The home extension program offers classes in cooking, nutrition, and meal preparation and support groups are available to offer "single again" persons a supportive environment to explore their new life and options.

Common Changes After A Loss

  • Now a single parent
  • No one to share decisions
  • Finances reduced
  • Learn to  maintain car
  • Living alone in house
  • Retirement plans change
  • Have to go back to work
  • Can't get back to church
  • Learn to cook, do housework
  • Responsible for everything
  • Some friends have dropped me
  • Don't drive and need to learn
  • Loss of physical contact
  • No one to talk to at end of day
  • Kids trying to run my life
  • Can't get excited by anything