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Grief and My Dysfunctional Family

Insights on Grief

A griever’s family dynamic can encompass a wide range of feelings, topics, emotions and actions.  The basis of the family dynamic depends on who passed away and possibly how they passed away.  Who was the person that died and what was their role in the family hierarchy?  Was the person:  Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, Mother, Brother, Sister or a Child?

The basis for the grief can also depend on the relationship with the deceased.  The process of grief can depend on a lot of other things such as:   culture, race, religion, background, life experience, economic status, support and relationships with other family members.  The grief can also trigger normal behaviors such as: anxiety, shock, numbness, relief, emancipation, guilt, abandonment, fear, sadness and many more.

A griever’s family dynamic can also depend greatly on who controls the money.  I will utilize the example of a family in which the husband controls the money and suddenly passes away suddenly.  The husband has left a widow to now take on finances and continue raising the family alone(while grieving)  is a cross no one should bear.  In this age of technology, the process of engaging both husband and wife has been far easier.  No matter who controls the money or who engages in the “money talks” conversations, there should be a system in place as to which the non-engaged spouse, child, friend or other family member can get up to speed in a hurry so they can completely concentrate on picking up the pieces and regaining joy in life again.  

I was very fortunate that my parents allowed me to participate in their “money talks” as they were declining in health.  They also told me their final wishes.  This made my path to Life After Grief a lot easier because I did not have to completely pick up the pieces.  This also alleviated any guilt I may have felt based on decisions I may have questioned later.  The roadmap was in place and I just had to follow it.  This experience coupled with professional wisdom inadvertently provided me with tools  I use today with grieving families. 

Here a few useful tools to help put systems in place where no one is left hanging when a sudden tragedy strikes.

  • Utilize a virtual vault to store important documents
  • Make your final wishes known
  • Introduce family members to advisers
  • Have written instructions for family members and make sure they know where those instructions are
  • Practice and use the words “I Am Sorry” early and often
  • Utilize a formal estate plan through an attorney

There were several other important aspects of my parents’ death which I was ill-equipped to deal with.  The first aspect was the resentment I felt for certain family members due to their lack of support for whatever reason.  Even though this emotion was both strong and raw, there was nothing I could do about it. The second aspect was deep seeded anger for those same family members.  The third aspect was the fact that strained family relationships have a way of exacerbating themselves during a family crisis.  I have come to learn that everyone deals with grief very differently.  Many of my family members were very uncomfortable and were in  denial about the fact that their loved one was going to die or another to suddenly follow.  They also did not know how to provide support.  I have also come to realize that it was unfair of me to expect anyone to perform super human feats during this difficult process.  I have also come to peace with the events surrounding the death of my parents.  The best advice and counseling I received was to focus on what I could control and forgive those whom I felt slighted me.  I was also told to expect the worst and hope for the best.  Once I truly followed this advice, I was finally able to begin the process of  self healing.  This process also involved me going to each one of those family members and apologizing for anger I displayed toward them.  This aspect was very humbling as well as very therapeutic.      

Deep dark secrets also delayed my transition to Life After Grief.  I have come to learn that every adult has  free will to make their own decisions whether good, bad or indifferent.  I cannot change the past, so there was no use dwelling on decisions others have made.  The process of grief is a journey of self-awareness, humility, acceptance and atonement.  The best advice I can give is to let go of those things that are holding you back from grieving properly.  Every family has its difficulties, but I do know that forgiveness is a positive attribute that will surely help you through the process of grief no matter what family dynamic or dysfunction you face.