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I am in such need of advice that I searched and round this forum. I have been reading and searching for answers on here but I want someone to personally help me. My 21 year old nephew died in an accident in November. Since that time, his mother, my sister-in-law, will not speak or even look at my family or parents. We are at a total loss at what to do. We have been grieving too and have tried to understand. My brother has been so caring to us and he seems embarassed at her behavior towards all of us. We just act like everything is fine but it is killing my parents. We don't want to ask or say anything because everything is still so fresh with all of us. We have been nothing but supportive and we all were very close to my nephew. She is even ignoring and not speaking to my children. I have noticed that she acts normal around others. Please give me some insight. My heart breaks for them but I don't understand what is going on.

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You don't say but was your nephew going to see anyone in your family when the accident happened? Do you have children about the same age and are they they only other grandchildren?

Grief is a terrible journey and it is good that you are trying to be supportive. Can you approach your sister in law or brother and just be straight forward? Tell them you are trying to be supportive but notice there is a strain. Ask them if they can tell you why and if they can't give you an answer just try to give her some space and be there for both of them.

There is an organization called compassionate friends that may help them also.

It has to be one of the worst things in the world to lose a child. A friend or ours 34 y/o daughter was just killed in a wreck last Thurs and I am at a loss as to what to do for them because they live quite a distance away and I can't be there. I can only imagine if it were family.

Good luck and know that you are doing your part while you grieve also

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My nephew was going to work. Yes I do have sons that are close to his age and there are other grandchildren. My sons were very close to my nephew and there are other grandchildren in the family. At this point my sister in law is unapproachable and I am afraid to say anything to her. The last thing I said to her, weeks ago, was I hugged her and told her I loved her and she just responded "O.K." I talk to my brother every week and I just feel so, so sorry because he is in the middle and I know he knows how she is treating all of us and he just tries to keep everything going. I am so at a loss because my parents are so hurt, both by my nephew's loss and the way she is treating them. My sister in law has always been kinda stand offish but this is so different. Recently we had a loss in my fathers family and she wouldn't even sit with the family. Again, she seems to be teating eveyone else normal but all of us. We miss him terribly and there has never been any 'feud' between any of us. I just don't understand.

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Dear Emalin,

I'm so sorry for your loss, and you have my deepest sympathy. With sons of your own so close in age to your nephew, I cannot imagine how awful this must be for you and the rest of your family.

I don’t know your sister-in-law, but since you say she’s “always been kinda stand offish,” I suspect that whatever her reactions are to this tragic, life-altering event, what you're seeing would be an exaggeration of her normal behavior patterns. Barely five months into her grief, she may be just now facing the full force of this reality that her son has died. Unfortunately we can only guess what may be going on with her right now, but educating yourself about what is normal in grief can be very helpful in evaluating the reactions you’re seeing in another person. I think you may find these earlier posts informative and helpful:

How To Help Someone Who Doesn't Want Help?

How Can I Help? When Someone You Love Loses Someone

See also some of the articles and resources listed on this page on my Grief Healing Web site: Traumatic Loss

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I don't think you should take your sister-in-laws rection as something personal against you or your family. My 22 year old nephew died just before Christmas and we are sort of going through the same thing. My sister-in-law was probably the world's greatest mother and the depth of her pain is really unimaginable to the rest of us. We can assume, being parents, how horrific it is, but until it is your child, the trauma is virtually unknown. She avoided us in the beginning, but I didn't press. It was just too overwhelming. And now, while I talk with my brother quite a bit, I have yet to have a conversation with her unless we are at a family gathering. I think what is more important than her reaching out to us, is that she is reaching out, and has found several grief groups that she attends regularly with her mom, my brother and their daughter.

Having gone through this with my own husband's death, it was good to have support of family and know that they kept us in prayers, but I relied more on others going through the same thing. It was nothing personal. It was just my new reality. I hope your sister-in-law is finding new friends among the tragedy. It is a difficult journey, extremely self-absorbing, and I think she may be just trying to cope rather than worry about offending the people closest to her. You will always be on her side and even if she is unable to show it, that support is immeasurable.

I am very sorry for all of you. The death of someone so young shakes our souls. I hope you, too, are finding people to talk with and express the sadness of such a great loss.

Take good care,


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