4 tips for coping with family bickering after a death

Grief affects everyone differently. It's normal for people to feel irritable, anxious, or restless.

Know when to hold on and when to let go.

Drama has tormented my family these past few months following my grandparents' deaths. Arguing about Snow Babies and China plates and oil-well investments and sewing machines and Christmas decorations and the car and the house and the inheritance and—oh good lord, I hope I never experience this with my siblings.

Fortunately for me, I'm watching from the sidelines. But I don't want to watch at all. Struggling with my own grief was challenging enough, but I didn't have the added burden of inheriting anything. Seeing my loved ones glossed over with greed and misplaced sentimentality, quabbling over trinkets and gadgets that were never theirs is quite frankly, irritating me.

1. Get your priorities straight.

Bickering frays the bonds holding you together, until the strain eventually snaps and you drift apart. Remember the cost of these items coming into your possession and imagine having these flippant feuds with that family member in the room. How would they feel, knowing you're ready to tear each other apart over gardening tools? What's really important here?

2. Listen with kindness, but stay detached.

If you're in the support system—indirectly involved in the squall, but still subject to hearing about it—do your best to listen empathically. Then, take an enormous step back. As much as you'd like to swoop in and wizard away all your loved ones' problems, you can't—and it's not your place anyways. Don't let their problems fester with you.

3. Start new traditions.

With the division of belongings comes the division of traditions—holiday gatherings shattering like Humpty Dumpty, waiting for someone to pick them up and put them back together again.

If your family let an old car distract them from their love for each other, bring their focus back. Start a new tradition—maybe a cookout or a Thanksgiving party— and invite them. If they still care about maintaining a relationship, they will come. If not, make peace with it. It's a sad situation, but what can you do? You can't force your relatives to spend time with you. Keep extending that olive branch until they're ready to take it.

4. Be patient. 

A death in the family will shake everyone and different people experience grief differently. Take their bizarre behavior in stride, understanding it's a result of the loss—it's normal, it's expected, and it's okay. If it's too painful to be around your loved ones, give them some space. It'll take time but eventually they'll come around.

 How is your family coping with the aftermath of death? 


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