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Grief In Farm Families

Farming is risky. Losing the cows, a crop, the farm, or a person in the family is too often a reality in this lifestyle. When the unthinkable happens, it brings on many sharp emotions that we call grief. It should not be ignored or rushed through.

Larry Tranel is an extension dairy field specialist with Iowa State University and also works in bereavement ministry. He says grief is a unique healing process. Everyone needs their own coping mechanisms and time to work through it.

"There might kind of a prayer corner in the house or pictures of a lost loved one, or the cows, or whatever it is that we lose. We realize that grief tends to be pretty messy and so we need to let the body and the mind cry especially if it’s grief that just happened in an instant, we weren’t expecting it," says Tranel. "We realize that grief is extreme stress and so we need to practice safety during those times because when people are under a lot of stress, sometimes they don’t take care of themselves."

The world moves on even though the grief is still there. They want to know that the people they love and respect haven’t forgotten them. Over time, ask the family what else you can do. Empathy is important.

"Grief needs exercise so how do you help people move the spirit, just get them out of the house, get them going for a walk, a bike ride, something like that because exercise tends to be quite a natural healer. Grief needs hope, and how do you help people try to tend to those feelings of despair but realize there’s a return to meaningful life over time," he says. "And, we also realize that grief needs a smile because it’s so hard for people that are grieving to actually smile sometimes."

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