How to 'Be There' When Grief and Loss Overcome the Farm


How to ‘Be There’ When Grief and Loss Overcome the Farm

by | Mar 7, 2017 | Uncategorized

How to 'Be There' When Grief and Loss Overcome the FarmA young professor Marsha Harris from Brandon University speaks softly to a group of mostly over 60 women explaining the keys to a truly lasting relationship. She tells us that most people just want their lovers to answer one question:

Are You Really There for Me?

Let that one sit for a moment.

In what ways does your spouse or partner show you practically that they are with you in good times and in bad?

Recently I presented a new seminar called “Planting Hope Amidst Grief and Loss on the Farm.” A young dairy farmer daughter-in-law who was grieving the losses of her father-in-law’s death wrote me a very long email describing her journey of thankfulness and tears. She was definitely thankful that the succession plan was well in place before cancer consumed the founder of the farm. Her father-in-law was truly there for his spouse and family as he collaborated with his daughter-in-law and his children to have his affairs in order before he knew he had health issues.

This season of love messages and romantic sentiments can be brutal for new widows and widowers.  This was the first Valentines “alone” for young farm widows who wish they had more time to plan before the goodbye.

Wow, Elaine, you sure aren’t very cheery in this message! My message is that sometimes love means doing the tough things right before you die.

Maggie Van Camp, Associate Editor of Country Guide, lost her husband Brian at age 47 three years ago. The experience prompted her to create the “Because I love u list” and you can request it HERE. Maggie lists the computer passwords, key locations, suppliers, trades people, mentors, advisors, standard operating procedures, and a whole host of other things to help us be ready to transition with tears when our beloved spouses are not there for us.

I also found a treasure in my files from 1998, which proves that hanging on to paper can be delightful when you need more tools for life.

What follows are questions that I answered in January 1998 at a grief seminar when I was exploring working with palliative care as a volunteer. What I did not know that in 8 short months that year, my mom would leave this world to meet her maker, just 6 weeks after our family meeting for succession. I still miss her.

Reflect on how you would answer these grief questions, then make plans to have tea or coffee with someone who comes to mind that needs you to be a visiting angel of love this year.

1. Consider a loss experienced by you or your family.

  • How did you react?
  • What did you hate to lose the most?

2. Grief and mourning involve a “permanent absence.”

  • How do we grieve?
  • Is the ability to grieve a gift of God’s mercy?

3.Are there positive avenues of venting sorrow which are helpful?

  • E.g. Going to a movie, having coffee with a friend, or going out for supper?

4. Has life taken on new meaning as a result of your loss?

5. Do families go through the same grieving process when a member is killed or dies unexpectedly?

  • What emotional support can we give to the families of someone who has died suddenly?

6. Tell about your experience of coping with sudden death: numbness, shock, denial.

  • What kind of approaches for dealing with your grief are most helpful?

7. Have you suffered from guilty feelings?

  • E.g. “unfinished business” in your loss?

8. How has the grieving process affected your self-worth?

9. What factors or relationships help to give you a sense of dignity?

10. How long a period of time is needed to grieve?

  • We sometimes hear comments like “it’s time they snap out of it and go on with life.”

11. What methods of consolation did you find most helpful?

12 Do the tears of others increase your sense of grief, or do they assure you of genuine concern?

13. How does judgment differ from understanding?

  • How can we avoid judging a reaction to grief and loss?

14. What is the meaning of compassion to you

15. What has been your greatest source of strength and comfort?

16. Can separation or loss ever bring triumph?

  • Consider the types of losses you are facing on your farm:

[Tweet “How #farmers can ‘be there’ for loved one during times of #loss or #grieving.”]

Many Types of Losses

  • Business loss and changes create trauma (e.g. selling dairy cows).
  • Death: loss of intimacy and stability
  • Divorce: loss of family and status
  • Disability: loss of independence
  • Mental illness: loss of dreams for a better future
  • Failure: guilty psychological losses
  • Identity crisis: loss of purpose and direction with retiring farmers

Now consider what stage of loss you are in and what could help you


Loss has Many Stages:

  • Denial, isolation, and shock
  • Anger, confusion, and strong emotion
  • Bargaining and begging for more time
  • Depression and guilt
  • Acceptance of reality and pain
  • Hope and recovery


This Helps:

  • Physical presence
  • Decision making
  • Express emotions and feelings
  • Listen and get help if suicidal
  • Be patient with your friendship
  • Encourage dreaming and planning


Ask for Help

It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help and receive it. Financial transparency with family and creditors is important to deal with money losses. Let go of pride and stubbornness. Share your feelings and ask for help. Educate others, e.g. suicide prevention awareness. I know a farm woman whose son committed suicide and she transfers her pain of loss to educational efforts for suicide prevention with emergency response teams. Have a learner mindset, not judger attitude. Use positive attitude to listen patiently to those who are grieving. Learn from their situations and experiences.

When your spouse asks “Are you really there for me?” What will your answer be?

Follow Elaine on Social for More Helpful Farm Family Advice!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts


To Our Blog & Podcast

Join our mailing list to receive our latest blog post and podcast episodes
to your inbox.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy.