Simple Direct Funerals

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What do you do when….

5. Family Members Don’t Get On?


How to survive family relationships when dealing with death.

So there is a death in the family, but some family members aren’t talking to each other.  Tricky !!  More than tricky, it can be awful.


How can you cope?  How can you focus on what is important?  Perhaps most importantly, how can you, as a family, work together?  Or if you can’t what are your options?

The following is a VERY brief outline of some things to consider.  Keeping in mind that there are so many contexts behind family relationships – history, hurt, humiliation to name a few. 

And when these dynamics are added to a family dealing with death it can be more than challenging.  You might even need to face the fact that the family will not be able to do this together.  However perhaps a short truce could be called.

So is there any hope?  Yes – there is hope.

Here are three things to keep in mind if there is tension within the family:  Communication, Compromise and Honesty.  

If you are able to talk with others – it is a huge step.  If you can’t talk to each other without fighting – then perhaps a mediator like a family friend would help.  Sometimes the Funeral Director can help here.  But remember they are not judge and jury over the past, they are there to help you organise a funeral for your family.  Remember communication is two way so listening can be even more important.

Talk to each other about what is important for you and hear what is important for them.  Focus on what you would like to happen with the funeral.  And this is where compromise may come in.  “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Remember everyone will be going through grief so there could be denial, anger, bargaining, depression… that you are all dealing with.  Try to be kind.

This could be the hardest one because honesty also means being vulnerable to a degree.  Perhaps openness is another way of looking at it.  

If the family members just cannot work or be together, then you need to be honest about that and see how you can work through this.  You may have to think outside the box.  For example: two different services, hand it over to a neutral party to organise, etc. 

The truth could be that the fighting is about the inheritance or something regarding the death. So decide to put all those things on hold until after the funeral.  Agree that no one is going to raise issues that will cause problems and aren’t directly relevant to the funeral.

I know without a doubt this is an incredibly difficult subject and it is so easy to type away ideas.  Ultimately it is you all that will decide how things will go.  There may even be a chance of reconciliation.  But think of that as a great by-product rather than the goal.  Focus on how you can all work together to make the funeral a good memory and farewell.

At the end of the day when we say farewell to our loved one, it is relationships that are remembered more than anything else.  So it is worth looking at ways, even if it is just for the funeral or the end stages of life, you can work together or choose to stay apart to keep the peace.

Family relationships can be one of the toughest things in life to deal with and it takes courage to take steps of reconciliation or at least agreeing to work together at an already stressful time.  There is added stress, hurt and loss added to the mix.  Be kind to each other.

Do not be hesitant to ask for help.