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How Do I Help Family Member Whose Brother Was Murd

Guest Guest_Jeanne

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Guest Guest_Jeanne

There is so much to this story that I could write a book on this but I will try to make it brief...last November 20th, my husband and I were awakened at 6 in the morning ...my husbands younger brother Jimmy was murdered by an employee of his in his NY bar...we are all in WV...their father died 10 yrs ago of cancer...there are 7 brothers and sisters in this family besides their mother...Jim was the only one who lived far from home and had been with his girlfriend for 15 years and has a 2 yr old son...he was 34...needless to say the shock ,anger, denial and a range of emotions all set it...no two of them reacted the same...Jims girlfriend and son have been down here for numerous visits in the past several months...my husbands younger brother and Jims girlfriend have shocked all the family by starting a relationaship...it has set off a new depression among several of the family members...I think Sandy and Steve are still grieving and this happens to be part of it but no one else seems to be able to see that...I would really love some insight into what is going on and if there is any way to help ALL of them in this situation....there is no communication going on but they all talk to me about it...I am overwhelmed...HELP ...My email is Jaebright@netscape.net and my name is Jeanne

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Dear Jeanne,

I’m so very sorry to learn of the death of your brother-in-law last November, and I can only imagine what this tragic event has done to your family. (If you haven’t already done so, you may be interested in another post that appears in this same forum: Very Tough to Move On: Homicide of a Brother.)

As I understand it, your primary concern centers around the family’s negative reaction to the developing relationship between Jim’s bereaved girlfriend Sandy and your husband’s younger brother Steve – a relationship which you may be more willing to recognize and accept as their way of coping with this loss.

The family’s conflicted feelings about this are understandable. When a sibling dies and one of his brothers begins dating the deceased brother’s girlfriend, it can be very hard for his mother and the remaining siblings to accept, no matter how soon after the death it occurs. Partly that is because they may be feeling a need to remain loyal to their son and brother and respectful of his memory, and they may be worried that these two people will cease to remember and love this irreplaceable person they all have lost.

You say that in this family “there is no communication going on” but they all talk to you about it, which leaves you feeling overwhelmed and at a loss as to how to “help ALL of them in this situation.”

It may be helpful for you to keep in mind that every person in this family is grieving a different loss, and the relationship each one had with the person who died is very different too. Your husband and his siblings have lost their brother, your mother-in-law has lost a son, and Jim’s girlfriend has lost her partner and the father of her child. (See my article, Understanding Different Grieving Patterns in Your Family.)

You say that although they were not married, Sandy and Jim were together for 15 years and had a two-year-old son. I don’t know how close these two were to each other, or anything else about their relationship, but I do know that however Sandy reacts to Jim’s death depends on many, many different factors. To gain a clearer understanding of what Sandy may be experiencing, it may help you to read what newly widowed women have to say about dating and remarriage. (See the article I’ve attached below, How Long Is Long Enough, by Julie Donner Andersen.) Once you’ve read the article, you might even share it with Sandy and ask if any of it rings true to her. If you think they would be open to it, you may want to share the article with other family members as well. This might open up some meaningful dialogue with all concerned.

In any event, it may be unrealistic to expect that you must be the one who can help everyone in this family deal with all of this, my friend. As you say, "there is so much to this story that I could write a book on this." What you can do, however, is encourage individuals in this family to get some help by talking to a therapist or professional bereavement counselor, so that their feelings about losing their son and brother and their current difficulties with Sandy and Steve's relationship can be expressed, worked through and resolved. They may have no control over how these two choose to live their lives in the wake of Jimmy’s death, but with help they can find more effective ways to manage their own reactions, get on with their own lives and keep this family together.

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T


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