When Death Brings Out the Worst: family fighting after a death

“Death brings out the best and the worst in families.”

This is a phrase you have probably heard or used time and again if you work in the world of end-of-life/grief and loss.  If you have been through a personal loss you’ve probably experienced it first hand.  Working with patients and families at the end of life you do see the good – reconciliation of relationships that were on the outs, friends and extended family supporting each other in unimaginably selfless ways, and sharing memories at the darkest hours.  Though I could write a really inspiring post about the incredible ways I have seen “the best” play out, it is far more likely you found your way here because you are a member of one of those families in which “the worst” has emerged.  You are probably wondering if this is normal and what you can do about it.

So today we’re talking about the worst.  When sweet little Aunt Suzie suddenly becomes a crazy person and your brother, who was your bestie, is suddenly fighting you about everything, it can feel like your world is crumbling. Suddenly you’re trying to cope with the death and your support system is no longer support, but a source of additional stress.  You are grieving the death, while feeling like you are losing your family as well.

First let me be clear about one thing—you are not alone.  Not even close!  So many people can relate to family fighting after a death.  What’s the number one source of conflict?  Anyone want to take a guess?  Belongings and money.  As hard as it is for many of us to admit, countless families who never imagine there would be conflict over material things are suddenly overwhelmed by disagreement and power struggles. Though this can take countless forms, some of the common material conflicts are:

  1. When to begin sorting through belongings.  Some people are ready right away, some people want more time before sorting through items.
  2. Who gets what.  Even with a will, there are often many household items or sentimental object that are not accounted for. Not to mention the many people who die without a will.  In these cases there can be much conflict around which relative will get which belongings.
  3. What to keep and what to give away.  Attachment to objects can vary greatly from person to person.  While one person may want to save every Tupperware container and tube of chapstick that mom ever owned, other family may be quick to toss those items in the trash.
  4. Whether to keep or sell a house.  Houses can have tremendous sentimental value, making them something many family members don’t want to part with.  Houses can also hold tremendous value, making them something many family members may want to sell right away.
  5. Money money money.  Whether it is scraping together money to pay for a funeral, or dividing up bank accounts and investments without a will for clear guidance, money can quickly become a sore spot.

There are many other sources of strain and conflict that can arise for families.  There is no way I could cover them all here, but some family fighting after a death textother common conflict that arise are:

  1. Treatment at the end of life.  Conflict can begin even before a death, when families disagree about goals of care, withdrawing support at the hospital, and caregiving responsibilities.
  2. Arrangements.  Questions like whether someone will be buried or cremated, where will the service be held, where will they be buried, etc. can bring surprising strife between family members.
  3. Relocating.  After a death it is not uncommon that people may move, either by choice or out of necessity.  This can split a family geographically and be devastating for those who feel left behind.
  4. Custody.  When a death results in children who must be cared for, conflict can arise around who will get custody of the children if this was not predetermined.
  5. Grieving differently.  We all grieve in different ways and on different timelines.  When people are grieving differently this can be a major source of conflict within families.  This is especially common if one family member thinks another is not as impacted by the death or they are ‘moving on’ too quickly.

I am sure some of you are screaming, “Yes! Exactly! Now what do I do to fix it?!?”.  I wish we had an easy answer for that, but if we did we would probably be busy making the rounds on Oprah and Dr. Phil.  There is no magic pill.  What we can do is provide a little insight into why these conflicts may arise and a few suggestions to cope.

The Brain
There are many reasons that death can bring out the worst in people.  But one important thing to know is that when we are under the stress and crisis of a death, our brains actually work differently.  For real.  I am not going to get us bogged down in the neuroscience.  All you really need to know is this: there are parts of our brain that think rationally and there are parts of our brain that think more on impulse and emotion.  When we are in a heightened state due to a death it is harder to think with that rational part of the brain. We default to using the emotional parts of our brains – parts of our brain that struggle with reasoning, memory, and long-term thinking. When we have multiple people all acting from a place of emotion, it is no surprise that conflict can arise.

One thing that is important to remember about death and grief is that it typically means a total loss of control.  We all want so desperately to be able to control and change what has happened, but with death control is lost.  As CS Lewis said, “No one ever told me grief felt so like fear”.  This change, loss of control, and loss of stability can be terrifying.  During this time certain family members will be seeking any way they can to regain a sense of control.  This may take shape in immediately trying to plan the funeral without getting anyone else’s input.  It may mean immediately sorting through belongings or trying to take charge of finances.  Understanding if desire for control is a factor in behavior can be important in how others in the family respond.  Helping another family member to have a sense of control, while communicating how their actions are making others feel, can be helpful.  If control seems to be a driving factor, other family members may be able to help guide this person’s energy into things that would be useful and that may cause less family strife.

Communication (or lack thereof) can be a key issue that leads to conflict.  If a plan isn’t made for who, when, and how certain things will be handled, it is not uncommon for one person to go rogue.  Communicating isn’t always easy, but it is crucial to reducing conflict.  If at all possible, make a plan right away for how and when things will be handled.  Agree on a time frame to all sit down together to go over the will, discuss next steps, and ensure everyone is on the same page.  Make a plan for regular updates and communication between family members.

If it is too late for that, focus on giving feedback to get back on track. Keep in mind that emotions are running high, so it is especially important to communicate effectively.  Try to avoid accusatory statements.  Instead, focus on expressing your own experience.  This is the old “use I statements” instead of “you statements”.  So, for example, instead of saying, “I can’t believe you threw away mom’s clothes without talking to me first.  You are so self-centered and thoughtless”.  Instead you could say, “I was really hurt when you threw away mom’s clothes without talking to me first.  It made me feel like you didn’t care about my grief or my attachment to those things.  There were some items in there I really wanted to keep that are now gone”.  By focusing on the behavior, how it made you feel, and the impact you can hopefully open a dialogue without making the other person defensive.  Also, be open to their feedback.  You probably haven’t been perfect either, so try to openly listen to what they need from you.

Generalizing the Negative
This brings me to a final consideration – extending behaviors of a griever to represent who they are as a person.  For example, you and cousin John have been close for 35 years and you think he is a great guy.  After the death of your grandmother, he does some shady manipulating to try to get her car.  You are outraged and appalled, so you think to yourself, “wow, I always thought John was a good person.  Now I see him for what he really is.  I can’t believe I never realized how greedy he is”.  All of the sudden everything else John does around the death is clouded by your new-found realization that John is a shady, greedy troll.

Timeout.  Let’s take a few steps back here.  Grief makes us all do crazy, sometimes crappy, things that we often regret.  It is important to cut people (and ourselves) some slack.  People do all sorts of awful stuff when they grieve, so view these things as poor choices due to an impossible time in life.  It doesn’t override the 10, 15, 35, or 50 years of wonderful things you know about the person.  Try to remember that this may be the exception in their behavior, not the rule.  Just like you need to be gentle and forgiving with yourself, you need to be gentle and forgiving with others.

If there is truly no managing the conflict on your own, keep in mind that there are professional mediators who can help.  They can work with your family to get through the basic logistics. They are trained professionals and you may just find some time with them can help you better understand each other.

I have no doubt many of you have experienced these tough family conflicts.  Please leave a comment to share your experience – the good, the bad, and they ugly.

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March 28, 2017

62 responses on "When Death Brings Out the Worst: family fighting after a death"

  1. My mother passed away October 2016. She was placed on Hospice for Cirrhosis of the Liver. My mom came to stay with me in her last days. She also left me to be the beneficiary of a 10,000.00 policy. My mom and I were best friends. We spoke on the phone at least twice a day before she came to live with me. I lived only 10 minutes away. I was the child my Mom could depend on the other siblings were involved in there own lives and didn’t help my mother at all. I explained to them that she didn’t have long to live. I’ve been a nurse for 19 years so I seen the disease process before she was diagnosed as End Stage. My siblings were I. Denial. Now that she has passed They are accusing me of overdosing her on Morphine to get the insurance policy. My mother stopped eating. Was unable to take care of herself and they never came by to ask if I needed help. I can count on my two fingers how many times they called and came by to visit her. Now they are spreading vicious rumors about me. Now they are saying they want an investigation done into the death of my mother. I’m absolutely shocked that people could act this way. Not only did I loose my mother but I lost my siblings. It’s a very hard situation to handle. It hurts badly.

  2. “While you sleep, they are over there protecting your freedom” was Jeff’s last post on facebook. I lost my Veteran son early this week and I want his ashes buried in a military cemetery. His sisters are fighting me wanting him put in the ocean which I do not want. I know Jeff would want to be with his military brothers in a military cemetery. He was so Proud of his service to our country and his facebook posts show that. They told me if I didn’t put him in the ocean they want nothing to do with me and that once I died they would have his ashes exhumed and put in the ocean. They have said some very hateful things to me and it’s so hard dealing with this loss and all this hate. I won’t break up his ashes …he came from me whole and I will bury ALL his ashes. When a death happens suddenly you would think the family would pull together but that is not happening. My 2 daughters haven’t talked to me for years until this death….now again they are saying they will want nothing to do with me if I don’t put him in the ocean. Is there an answer to this situation?

    • My dearest friend of many years lost her husband who was a captain in the Air Force. He was buried at Arlington. It was an extraordinary service. I think it’s important to do what the deceased wanted or would have wanted. He is your son – you get the call!

  3. so my story from 4 months my father and my stepmother and my sister she was 20 years and my another sister she was 5 years all of them died in accident car the only one save in this accident is my brother he just 3 years old i`m 22 years i don`t know what i do i thinking about suicide but i cant leave my brother alone i really i don`t know what can i do

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Maria, if you are considering hurting yourself please seek help right away! You can walk into any emergency room or call 911 (if you are in the US). You can also call the suicide hotline in the US at 18002738255 or in the UK at 44 (0) 8457 90 90 90. If you are elsewhere just google suicide hotline and your country name. Your 3 year old brother does need need you. Please believe that although things seem hopeless right now, that with time and support and through finding ways to cope things will get better.
      Many on this site have been exactly where you are, feeling there is no hope. Somehow though,people manage to move forward – one step at a time and one day at a time. Our site is always here for grief support, but the most important thing right now is that you talk to someone about what you are experiencing.

  4. Seems as though I’ve read hundreds of posts looking for a similar situation as mine but just have not found it as of yet, close but nothing seems to parallel my frustrating grief. I lost my wife of 33 years a little over a year and a half ago, and still miss her tremendously. Many friends said it takes about a year and you’ll start feeling better, well maybe for some but it’s not working here. I really have zero interest in socializing as I don’t feel a need to fill the void of what I once had, I feel that void will always remain empty.
    When my wife passed a memorial was set a week later, for just close friends and family (didn’t know she had so many friends). A little background, when my wife was first diagnosed with this cancer it was already stage 4 and her prognoses was 1-year maybe less with treatment, she went 18-months. Needless to say this was the saddest emotional roller coaster of our 33 year marriage (and I know I’m not alone here). We of course got lots of support from close friends and family, with the exception of my eldest brother and sister-in-law who lives 150 miles away (2-1/2 hr. drive). After battling this disease for a year we never received a letter, phone call, or a visit from my eldest brother and sister-in-law so we decided to go visit them. They were very apologetic stating how bad they were and even shed a tear or two as we were leaving, and we never heard from them after that day. My niece and nephew and their respective families were at the memorial but not their mother and father. I received a card in the mail from them about a week and a half later with a little note of pleasantries as to what a wonderful sister-in-law my wife was to them and how she’ll be missed. They said also in the note that they did not know she had passed until they discovered it on the internet, and they live 5-6 miles away from their son and daughter whom attended the memorial.
    They have not reached out to this day which is mind boggling to me, not so much the dis-concern they showed while my wife was still here, but the fact that he’s my own blood and shows no concern what so ever as to how I’m doing. I could never do this should the rolls be reversed, just unconceivable to me I can’t, get my arms around it. Sometimes I just want to get in the car drive up to their place and point blank ask them “How can you two be so self-serving, selfish, and uncaring, to a member of your own family”? Then again……..I don’t want to force them to come up with another nauseatingly poor excuse. Bear in mind, I’m not disjointed about the fact they did not attend the Memorial, it’s we never heard anything from them for 18 months since my wife’s diagnoses/prognoses, nor 18 months since she has passed (Sorry, I feel as thou I’m seething as I’m writing this), it’s just beyond my comprehension. I could go on and on with this issue but I think I’ve explained myself sufficiently without boring people to death with other events that basically portray the same behavior.
    I’m looking for answer’s here. Sometimes I feel the need to forgive them, other times I feel it’s just unforgivable. The last point here is that my eldest brother and sister-in-law are now 80-years old, and I’m 64 so anything can happen from one day to the next. Somehow I feel compelled to not go to our graves never speaking to one another again. Do I need to be the big brother here?

  5. My mother passed away in April 2016, I took care of my Mom for 8 years, She had an Alziemer. We are 4 sisters. My two sisters are married, the youngest one is ignoring me everytime i come visit home. I happy i did everything for my Mom, before she died , i renvated her house, and i have spend so much money and i even hired someone to take care of her because i was working. Today all my Sisters does not like me, when i come visiting home they ignore me. The youngest is worse because she think now she owns the house. I don’t know why. I have my own house but i can tell you both 3 of my sisters don’t feel comfortable with me around. The 3’rd one, she was since took the mother saying she was going to appoint a lawyer for my mothers Estates. But i know nothing, she never came back to brief us of how much she has used and how far is the progress. Remember she took the money after my mother’s funeral last year April. They really hate me and i feel i must just leave them and mind my own business. I am the eldest in the family. But they treat me shabbily.

  6. As a family, we have had an awful year – six months of hell with our daughter whose relationship broke up after 7 years and kept trying to take her own life , hanging, overdoses , one so severe that we nearly lost her . We had just got back into some kind of semblance of a life when my unmarried brother, a priest , died very suddenly 8 weeks ago .
    As a professional tax accountant , I began the process of sorting out the estate but my younger brother raised immediate objections to me doing this accusing me of not being able to cope – I was coping fine, doing the same job a solicitor would have charged us thousands for to get to Admin stage ( my brother left no Will) – in fact , it was therapeutic to be of some use .
    My deceased brother and I shared our faith – my younger brother and his family have none ; they did nothing towards the funeral , contributed nothing financially or practically and my younger brother was ( allegedly ) according to his wife , a mess . Spending his time drowning his sorrows in the pub , taking useless “advice” about estate processes from just about anyone who would talk to him .
    By contrast, I coped OK to begin with, my brother was where he had aspired to be all his life – with Jesus , with God – I could not grieve his death in the same way although I miss him unimaginably – he was ever my rock , my moral compass , the voice of reason and fairness .
    As I began to process his estate , things were said by my sister in law that didnt ring quite true – things like my late brother had promised to help both myself and my younger brother financially , but he would help my younger brother “more” . It hurt , but to begin with, I took it in good grace .
    As I have looked deeper and deeper into my late brothers affairs , I have found irregularities I never expected to find – assets missing, things missing that I had given him for birthdays and Christmas and my sister in law would never give me a set of keys to the house my brother had just bought to retire into – I would ferry goods and chattels to the house undertaking a 110 mile round trip twice a week only to have to wait of my sister in law to get home from work , to gain access to the house .
    When my surviving brother realised that the assets in the estate were far more than we ever anticipated , he became very secretive and acquisitive , as did my sister in law.

    We each have three children , the nieces and nephews that my late brother adored and talking to other church members , it became clear that despite my brother leaving no Will, he had expressed verbally that he wished to leave his death in service benefit which was held in a discretionary trust , to be split between his 6 nieces and nephews plus a donation to the church – the DIS payment is sizeable .
    All the trustees required was confirmation that my surfing brother and I would be willing to divide the DIS benefit in half – I readily agreed but my younger sibling and wife didn’t – they said that my deceased brothers expression of wishes should be adhered to.
    My late brother was so unwell in the last year of his life, not only was his judgement flawed , he could take services and not remember doing them afterwards , lost things an accused me of moving them or taking them away ( he lost his birth certificate – when I cleared out the rectory , I found it exactly where I had told him it would be ) – he often took his medications twice , self medicating on very strong drugs , he didn’t even recognise one of my sons .He was clearly not of sound mind most of the time .
    Since my surviving brother has declined to split the DIS payment , he and his wife have cut off all contact with me ; they even rang the solicitor acting for us all, to change the dates of the Probate appointment without telling me – but I caught them out by ringing the same firm to re-arrange my own appointment with them – and in doing so , I will see the acting solicitor before them.
    Alarm bells are ringing in my head ; I now believe that there was at best, coercion taking place so that my brother and sister in law would get the DIS benefit without telling me , and at worst , outright fraud . The worst thing is that they are not only defrauding me and my kids , but also their own who have already been told not to expect much from their late Uncles estate .
    I know my lovely deceased brother well; I know he would have wanted that DIS payment split seven ways , between his 6 nieces and nephews and the remaining 7th to the church – the rest of his estate , as he died intestate , will inevitably come to myself and my surviving brother .
    I hate myself for being so suspicious and untrusting because it goes against my Christian principles and those of my late brother – but its making me ill . I already have a life limiting condition and my stress levels are unprecedented now .
    I want to believe that my sibling and his wife are completely “above board ” – but , I’ve worked in forensic accounting for 36 years – if it looks like an elephant, walks like and elephant and smells like one too, its not going to be a mouse .
    I’ve never felt so mentally and spiritually , physically and psychologically low – I cannot grieve my beloved brothers death properly because of the actions of my sibling and his wife . I have no choice but to put this situation before a court – I have lost my precious big brother and will now lose the other one . I search my soul daily to find answers , but it comes down to one thing only – for years and years , my younger brother and his wife have always had their hands in my late brothers back pocket – cars , loans , mortgage payments etc – whilst I stood on my own two feet – I’ve always felt it rude to ask family for money .
    I’m fighting to protect my late brothers name and fulfil his wishes as best I can, by talking to the people who worked with him and knew him for decades – which was how his funeral was put together – my brother and sister in law regarded the funeral mass as “Cultish” – one of their children refused to throw the customary earth onto the coffin at his interment – it hurt me that whatever they thought about David’s faith and his funeral wishes , they refused to honour him in his faith .

    I am broken by this situation but determined to fight on , not just for my own children and their futures but for the futures of my brothers children as I know my late brother would have wanted to leave them this discretionary trust money . My sibling admitted to me in conversation that he did not intend to give his kids anything from the estate as he had never had a “leg up” in life – which , I pointed out , was totally untrue .

    Obviously , I do not know who is named on the trust document concerned , but another trust scheme on which my sibling was named as sole beneficiary , has been overturned by the trustees and that fund will be split equally between myself and my brother – I only know that I am not named myself – well, thats fine , but I deem it totally inappropriate that my sibling and his wife , who earn at least twice as much as we do , will deprive my nieces and nephew and my kids of the legacy I know my deceased brother , had he been fit enough to make proper decisions , would NEVER have denied them .
    The moral of this tale ? Leave a Will , make sure discretionary trusts are properly notated and above all – BE KIND AND FAIR – put personal greed aside and think about what your deceased relative would really want to happen .
    This is a unique post on here because its about an unmarried man with no children who died very suddenly – but it has split a family asunder – and I doubt I will ever speak to my sibling and his wife again – its the last thing my beloved brother would have wanted or could have foreseen – as I share faith and my sibling does not, he has no fear of the afterlife and having to face our brother again and explain his actions – on the other hand , I do have faith and would feel damned eternally if I dont see this through to the proper conclusion – long post, I am sorry for this .

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Don’t be sorry for the long post! I am so sorry for what you are going through and I hope the process of writing it out gave some small feeling of purging! It is truly a tragedy what estates can do to divide families. I wish I had magical words of wisdom, but since I don’t I would just encourage you to remember that (as much as you might want to) you cannot change/control the actions of your brother and sister in law. The only person you can control is yourself, doing the things you need to do and also taking care of yourself. Sending good thoughts….

  7. My Dad passed away 3 weeks ago. Each of the 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren were very close to him. Mom passed away 11 years ago. Dad had been ill for more than a year but wanted to be in his home. Youngest sister and older brother lived in town and helped out the most. Myself and other sister lived 2-4 hours away, myself caring for a severely disabled adult son.we did our best, visiting often, helping out and arranging his care. C, the youngest sister got her adult daughter to move in with him though right from the start, wouldn’t stay weekends. We also had some nursing care so she mainly made sure he had meals (though never cooked)& that he took his pills. We paid her caregiver wages, room& board and internet, at 25- she had not worked or gone to school for 5 years. So this was a bonus to her. She complained constantly about being tired. Couldn’t be alone at night so we hired her brother to be ther 5 nights a week in case dad needed help to the bathroom – another $300 a week and he mostly just played video games. Next he needed evening nursing care so we added that. Next the daughter needed a week off (after 5 months) – we worked that out despite all the other issues we were dealing with. Everyone knew that when Dad passed – the jobs with him ended and that included the staying in his house during the week. Well, apparently not. C asked us several times during funeral arranging about her daughter living in the house. We didn’t think it a good idea as she would be isolated (family is in a different city), no friends nearby or transportation as she does not drive. Also she had not been at the house since he died (2 weeks)& lived with her Mom on weekends. She kept pushing so the 2 other sisters each explained why not in Clear but kind emails. Then, without replying, she moved her daughter in anyway. Brother & I as executors told us to move out as we needed to secure the house and changed the locks. C wrote horrible messages about all of us on Facebook, about our greediness (every single thing will be divided evenly & fairly)& how we value money more than people and tossed family out on the streets. So the FB community believes we are horrible money grubbers. Her kids wrote similar. Then they unfriended us. Then came the scathing emails. Her greatest beef with me? I didn’t give her friend $20 for gas when she picked me up from the airport in the day Dad died (I gave her the $5 I had in my purse). I had just driven 200 miles, taken 2 flights and spent $1,000 on travel – all the day he died. She had not wanted to pick me up either. She also,left my husband’s name off the obit and when I told her I was hurt by that she snapped – “well I don’t have one – how would I know.”. Now she has informed all of us that she wants nothing to do with us (despite years of us helping her physically, emotionally and mostly financially). She is taking her inheritance and thumbing her nose at us. Told us to sell off everything including the house and give her her share. Oh and as for the cottage we all jointly inherited? We must pay her out for her share as she doesn’t want it and by the way – don’t use any of dad’s money for the repairs it needs – just cut her a check! Yes – my sister has turned into Godzilla and both she and her daughter are accusing us of being the wrongdoers. Just unbelievable. We just want to feel the sadness and grieve our beloved Dad. Not feel hurt and anger and confusion. It feels like a train wreck and we lost 5 family members – not just 1

  8. My mother passed away a few days ago. I am one of several children. The local florist makes a registry of sympathy items immediate family liked so they can offer suggestions to those not sure what they want to send. My sister in law acted like a “monster bride” adding a large number of suggestions of what she liked to this list. I don’t want conflict at this time, but how is the best way to divide these items after the funeral? My brother and his family did nothing to help my elderly mother such as mowing the yard, shoveling snow or taking her to appointments. I want to be fair about distributing the sympathy gifts among my siblings. Any suggestions?

  9. You don’t have permission to access /My best friend of 30 years died recently. In grief, I reached out to another old friend who I fell out of touch with. He called the family to offer condolences. Unfortunately unbeknownst to us, there was a rift between the Mother, and the father that persists, (they are divorsed), and the Mother chose not to tell the father of my friend’s passing, (she said it was my friend’s wishes). My other friend called to offer the family his condolences and ended up inadvertedly telling the father. So Now I have the mother mad at me and the father trying to get in touch with me to get details, because the mother hangs up on the father when he calls her. I have blocked all parties involved numbers as I don’t want to be involved in what is a family affair further. It wasn’t my intention to cause trouble when I reached out to my other friend in grief, but the mother blames me for this mess. I guess I just need some one who’s not involved to tell me if I did anything wrong and if I’m handling things right. Thanks for your time.

    • You did nothing wrong. It is unbelievable that parents could hate each other so much to not share that information. Neither side should be hassling you.

  10. My mother just recently got diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in the bone after breaking her hip. My sister never calls and refuses to visit because she says and i quote “Now mum is dying i won’t get a cent.” My sister never cared for either of my incredibly ill parents even when my mother was initially diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. She needed constant care as did my father and i took much time off work to help. Would do so again in a heartbeat. She neither works and has older kids. Yet she feels she is entitled to my parents money which i feel should remain put for any treatments my mum may need and after that my father. Yet she squabbles with my heavily grieving brother who now cares for my parents to push my mother whom is in hospital now to rewrite the will so she and her children get their money. How does one even settle such greedy behaviour? I want all money to remain for my mums care and funeral and anything my dad may need as he is very sick too. My brother agrees but my sister is making my mum’s final moments so very hard with her money grubbing vindictiveness. She won’t call my father or mother but consistently complains that as eldest she deserves most of their money and possessions. I’m the one taking on my mother’s final wishes and trying so hard to help my brother and father deal with their grief. My sister is only in contact via text to ask how the inheritance situation will be done. We’re at our wits end.

  11. My best friend passed away 3 mos ago, very suddenly she had a blood clot in her leg, I was texting her at the time, her and I knew each other for 13 years but we were just family by marriage, almost 2 years ago something happened one day at a barbeque and we just clicked it was a friendship were we always were together and we hugged each other, held hands, did everything together, we could talk for hours about anything and always laughed together, when I would go to her house I would ask if her other friend was coming and she would say no!! I want u all to myself, I know how much she loved me and I her, but her other friend who lives around the corner was friends with her 3 or 4 years, but they didn’t have the connection and bond we did.. we did everything together 4 or 5 days a week we seen each other and text everyday all day, when she passed the other friend was suppose to go look at her leg and instead of calling 911 when she didn’t answer she took an hour going home n getting tools to break open the security doors, when she got in seen she was blue called 911 they said my sweet angel had been dead 10 minutes by then, they called me I rushed to hospital but she was gone, at the funeral everyone from her family lives in diffrent states and they called her the best friend and she let am , when I said my speech people said she was only one not crying and since then I have backed away n let her play the part.. also my ex brother in law who cheated on my sister n left her after 20 yrs moved in her house so I have mourned my friend who I cry about everyday all alone because our family’s aren’t close now because of the brother in law who cheated on my sister, it breaks my heart that her husband n son haven’t said to people that i was her best friend because they know it.. Im just very hurt because alot of things that I gave my friend people took so when I went there later to pick something out for me all the things I gave her were gone.. I feel betrayed by her so called bff, and won’t answer her texts or speak to her because she knows this isn’t right.. I also know her husband n son are grieving and probably don’t even realize it ..

  12. Vultures…my husband had a heart attack and was very ill. He was released to come home for a short while. 36 hours later his son (my stepson) entered my house without my invitation (stepson’s key which was to be returned) with family cousins and reps to hold family court – and to persuade my husband with an ultimatum to ‘pack my bags within 24 hours, divorce me so that his 36 and 37 year old lazy stepsons with girlfriends and hoard of animals could move in.” Both our mental capacity issues were raised as well as concerns about my husband being held a hostage against his will! I was aghast and horrified. My sick husband told them to go and I threw them out shouting at them that they had no right to come into my house. This is a pre-empt of what will occur when my husband dies. Vultures who think they are God!

  13. My comment/question is simple. For personal reasons I do not want to be referred to as “beloved son/brother” on the family headstone. My family refuse to comply with my request – what canI do?

  14. My Mom passed away recently. , My Dad already passed a few years back. There was no will, In the state we live in our law states that when their is no will ( and also their was no house,no real property) then personal belongings of the deceased go to the surviving children of the deceased, Equally divided. My Mom just rented a apartment.) , My brother did not follow this law, He made all the funeral arrangements and paid for them( dont even know with what money?) Was their any in the estate, pension fund., life insurance, We dont know,, but He called us and left us a message that told us of Moms passing after everything was arranged and payed for so we couldnt have a say in anything regarding the funeral. As well as Church Arrangements. , Who was doing readings, who were pall bearers, We couldnt take a part in any decision making,because everything was done by My Brother. . The funeral home was nice and polite but sorry that their was nothing they could do because everything was already paid for by my brother who knew of Moms passing first and then put everything into action. , Then after the ensuing days, my brother cleaned out Moms apt ( we were not allowed in because only my brothers name was on the lease for the apartment with a phone and address info for contact information so the apt complex director would not let us into Moms apartment.. This led to My brother taking everything and did not divide equally between another brother and myself < Everything ( personal belongings, any money left in accounts, etc should have been divided one third) So because of no will, , My brother only, gave us a box of pictures of our family my parents had and of our children and some small gifts we had given to Mom and Dad thru the years, and some little trinkets, plaques etc we did not even ask for. ( We also noticed some expensive gifts we did give were missing) Other than that, He a emptied the entire apt and its belongings and kept them or gave them out to whoever He chose. . This is a sad situation, We asked my brother for certain keepsakes we wanted, ( copys of family genealogy in the Bible, and or the family Bible, and copys of old family pics of great grandparents and relatives on both sides of Mom and Dad and copys of parents Wedding album and some other personal Keepsakes we would have liked to have which He didnt give us. , We did not get one third of everything in the apt by any stretch of the imagination, . He wont answer texts ,phonecalls or answer letters, We were told we could bring it to court and have him document where all the money went and to follow the law and He should have split personal belongings three ways with surviving children. ( If you all cant agree on a item you can buy each other out) . At first I thought about court but then I found out you really dont need a lawyer and you fill out a administration form and it seemed like alot of work and all the belongings were already given out,, To get one third also some things may have had to have been liquidized.if you all cant decide on who wants what and before it is given elsewhere, You need to come to agreements. None of this happened. Its a sad situation that you have to deal with on top of death, I wish that Mom would have taken some steps to take care of this but she died unexpectantly and guess she thought she had time, But.My brother thought He could break State law and take what He wanted and not divide equally between surviving children. , He has gotten away with it, He will have to live with this on his conscience. ( if its working properly) , A Good and Holy Priest told me what matters is reconciliation took place with My Mother and myself before her unexpected death and that is very important. Our daughter encourages to look at Saint Francis with his poverty and think like that. You dont need material things, ( just memorys). Last I texted my brother saying He did not give us all the personal keepsakes we asked for and if He could ever find it in his heart to give us them to us one day we would be greatful. I doudt that day will ever come that He responds back, but the peace that I have knowing that I didnt break any laws and My brother was informed He did,, you cant put a price tag on , ( Having peace) Sure I would have liked the personal keepsakes we asked for but we cant get them now unless we go thru alot of trouble with court forms and its something that I just dont feel like going thru now even though it hurts and am trying to accept it , There are good days and bad days, Some days feel like should go to court and make brother document where all the assets went and that the surviving children are suppose to be the first people who can ask for certain belongings before it goes to relatives, neighbors, friends, goodwill or whoever my brother chose to give it to. Its a sad situation, It has taught us a lesson for our own family and children that this wont happen with our children and has opened up discussions, We dont want them to experience this. If I were in that position I could never empty my Mothers apt and keep everything or give it out without asking my other two brothers what they would like and whats important for them to remember Mom and Dad, So its hard for me to understand how my brother can do this. So we learn to live with this hurt and hopefully in time the hurt will diminish. I know Our God is a just God and sees everything, I will leave it up to Him to bring about justice in this life or the next regarding what my Brother did with this, Like the article stated, Now I believe it had to maybe do with control in handling grief. I never thought of it that way but it makes for a good explanation of one of the reasons of why my brother acted the way He did, Reading these posts helps and makes you feel you are not alone, and this seems to be fairly common in familys, My poor Husband and what He went thru with his family is also wrongful. His Parents had a note book that He didnt even know about, and all of his siblings wrote in the book what personal items they wanted, so at time of his parents passing all his siblings came with their trailers and trucks to take away everything they asked for in the house, while my poor husband didnt even know about this book that it even existed and He didnt get any of it as everything had already been claimed by his siblings. , He went into the garage and took some of his Fathers tools no one wanted. How terribly sad and awful. I think people alive and reading any of these posts should do all they can to learn from these experiences and take care of their affairs so children especially are not left with this heavy hurt at their parents death adding more to the grief they have. , Thanks for having a website like this, at least to share your grief and story is theraputic in some way and other people out there going thru this can understand your pain. . Praying for all people suffering from grief and situations they find themselves in with family members that just add to their grief and also for the souls of any loved ones that passed on and may be still suffering and need our prayers. Our family is of the Catholic faith and we are taught how our deceased loved ones need our prayers, Masses, Love and Charity towards them, I try to concentrate on that aspect, And I rejoice in knowing our God is one filled with Mercy as well as justice. . I will leave the wrong done to us for God to take care of. ( but it still hurts what was done to us) Time heals I keep hearing so waiting for time to pass. There are good days and bad days, You can be angry about it and then next day find yourself being forgiving and feeling sorry for someone to do such a wrongful act.to you and then you learn from the experience and its always better to have peace in your heart than carry around all the baggage, and pain. I know I am not perfect and have messed up many times in life but It just amazes me in a situation such as this that I can not comprehend how this was done and My brother did this.to us. Wishing everyone peace in your heart today and as many days as you can muster it up. Blessings, AveMaria . , . . . , .

  15. Oh my word, wish I had read this a few months back! It might have spared me some of the countless restless hours reliving the shock and anger at my sister’s behavior when my Mom passed away suddenly. There were awful scenes that seemed straight out of a movie. My sister forged ahead with planning a funeral without asking me or my grandmother. She ignored my grandmother’s pleas to have a catholic funeral since that was the only religion Mom ever practiced and the man who was like a brother to her was a Catholic priest who had taken her to Rome and holy sites in the middle east. She facebooked my mom’s death, then called my grandmother to tell her she lost her only child a few hours before any other family could be with her, never once contacting family nearby to be with her. She refused to pay for my mother’s body to be embalmed for the wake so my grandmother wouldn’t have to view her week old corpse. My Mom also wanted to be cremated and she said it was an unneccesary expense, calling me the worst word you can call a woman and demanding that I pay the interest on the credit card she was using to foot the bill until life insurance came through. During the funeral she refused to sit with the family, instead prefering to sit across the isle with her best friend. The sad thing is these moments as well as really ugly scenes with my sister prior to my Mom’s death likely fueled by her processing grief around my father’s death 7 years earlier have left me with such awful memories and the feeling that I no longer have a sister. She has never apologized to my Mom or myself for her screaming, profanity-laced tirades and probably never will.

  16. My 17 year old niece was just killed by a drunk driver a few months ago and we are a very close family. It was my sisters daughter and my 16 year daughter were inseparable since birth. My sister has literally gone crazy…she is 37 and started hanging out with the 25 year old coach at our daughters school non stop and text around the clock. Nobody in my family can even talk to her anymore without her texting or talking about her new friend. Her remaining daughter and my sister fight over who gets to spend more time with the 25 year old and her husband seems fine with it. They have forgotten all of us and won’t even talk about their daughter who was killed only a few months ago!! I am furious with her bc she has completely emotionally shut down and reverted to being a teen! My heart is broken and my daughters can’t understand how their aunt and remaining cousin aren’t even grieving or talking about this huge loss.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


      Gosh, I’m so sorry for your family’s loss and for the turmoil they are now going through. While it is certainly normal for people to act different or for their priorities to change after a death; you do describe a very unique situation. Unfortunately it is just impossible to know specifically what’s going on with your sister and whether her behavior is helpful, self-destructive, or neither of the above.

      I guess the question I would ask if I were you is, what need is this 25 year old filling for your sister? Does he somehow, either personally or through her relationship with him, help her feel closer to your niece? Does her involvement with him help her to escape or avoid reality?

      As frustrating as it is, if this relationship is a way to avoid grief (and it may not be) it makes sense that she would shut her family out. You want and expect her to grieve, so at this point being around you might threaten her as it would force her to face realities and emotions that she doesn’t want to face, or cause her to feel shame for avoiding her grief. On the other hand this 25 year old is maybe allowing her to be someone different entirely, allowing her to look at life differently, and maybe allowing her to feel closer to both her daughters. Have you had a candid conversation with your sister about what’s going on with her and about your own feelings? Is she receptive? Responsive? I’m sorry we can’t offer more. I hope you’re able to find a way to connect with your sister. Hang in there 🙂


  17. I had this problem with my husbands family he passed away July 13th 2015. They are the type of people that are always mad he had been in jail for 5 months prior they didn’t speak to me the whole time cause if something they were mad about, when he passed I told them I wasn’t going to make a final decision without them because I felt like it was the right thing as soon as we started the arrangements I make sure what I wanted was OK with them they were all in agreement with what I wanted but when it was all done and over with they had a problem with everything that I chose now it’s been almost a year and they want nothing to do with my children which is fine because it’s their loss these are my mother-in-law’s only grandkids of her sons they didn’t even hug them at the funeral my children did nothing wrong they lost their father and his entire family

  18. Here’s my problems, my mother was seriously ill for some time. Back in December well new yrs eve to be excact, I stayed with my mom of 66′ knowing this is more than likely going to be her last new year. We spoke of death, she seemed to have come to terms with it. Any way during our conversation I said don’t worry mom were all on the same path, and me being a believer in the afterlife also gave a little comfort to us both.she told me what she wanted, I said I know you want to be cremated, she said, and also said she would like a whicker effect coffin. I said how about horses and carriage mom, she said you won’t be able to afford such things, I said watch me. My mom loved horses, we planned prior to this news years eve, to go to a farm and see some horses as shed never been so close to one., unfortunately mom got worse and passed away on Sunday 2nd April, yes 3 days ago, I’ve had a couple of days to think, yesterday I went to a well recommended funeral director, payed for the horses and carriage, and the coffin she wanted.this leaves an outstanding amount for all other arrangements, I’ve been writing a tribute since yesterday for the vicar to read, I asked my sister for some input, she said mention that mom liked to bet on the horses. By brother informs me that my sister doesn’t agree with the horse and carriage, she thinks it’s tacky, and doesn’t want mom on display. She’s getting at me with snidely remarks, hel!!. Can anyone see a problem here. Everyone I spoke to thinks I’ve done nothing wrong. It’s my moms final journey,

  19. It can be amazing the positive support you may feel and have when someone has just passed away but it’s months later when things calm down, when your mind isn’t as busy after sorting affairs out and other family members get on with their own lives and don’t keep that close contact. This is when you feel alone and lost the most.
    Communication is a two way thing and when that is broken and you are constantly keeping in touch with no thought from the other side to pass by on their own accord to say ‘How are you today?’ you feel isolated and forgotten.

    I would give this advise, it takes less than a minute out of your daily life to see how someone is when family has passed away. The effort needs to be equal from both parties and never assume. Step into the person, affected shoes and try and walk in them…. No one is never too busy that’s just an excuse.

  20. Greedy , heartless aunts

    • I lost my dear aunt last summer. She was 74 and never had children. My greedy aunts took all her Rolex watches and her savings and went on vacations..I went to her gravesite yesterday and there is No headstone…only a small aluminum grave marker. Shame in them… They will rot in hell

  21. I am horrified by the way some of the family members acted after my mother passed away. Thank God we have a Personal Representative! It was NEVER a close family, but I was particularly appalled at the reading of the will. Mom liked control over everything and everyone, and when that went away, the result was chaos, confusion, finger-pointing, bitterness and a lot of hurt feelings!

  22. My family is doing this right now,and my aunt is still alive.The family members that are acting like vultures,did this when my grandmother passed away,they took everything from her home,when we were told to come up and take what we wanted,everything was gone,even personal items that were given to her, when asked where they were they did not no.My aunt now in the hospital, suffering from possible cancer was told by these family member that stuff is missing from her apt.,why even upset her when she is ill.I was told by her to take her items back to my home for safe keeping,as she knows what they did to my grandmothers belongings.Terrible thing to have to lose family members,becasue they want stuff from her place.shame on them.

  23. I never knew what people could be like after a death of a family member. I am the common law wife of a beautiful man who died suddenly and much too young. The two brothers…one who hadn’t seen him in 30 years, except for a few times (the latest times at my urging him to re-connect with his brother- now I understand his resistance) had started planning to steal his woodworking tools and anything else he thought he wanted two days after he was found. I learned this when I offered to have my husbands cousin over to use the tools, since the guy doesn’t have much. My husbands mother said “— has voiced an interest in the woodworking tools..” when you’re ready”… Well, — called dibs on my husbands truck on the second day too…in the guise of giving it to his son .. (They all think I have no rights, apparently). My husbands other brother literally found out the beneficiary info on the FIRST day he was found, through an old friend of his who had access to the computers at my husbands place of work…not legal. They all know what I’m getting- but no one has told *me*. To boot, now I’m single with no income and rent to pay… and they expected me to offer up a % of the services- payment. (After they froze his bank account with two months rent in it. Gone! & Even though the two brothers live extremely well)… The ex who has always used his beloved son to manipulate my husband into getting everything *she* wanted… literally wanted me to give her his favorite clothes so that she can have her friend CUT THEM UP and make a quilt for her 17 year old son (who was given a 1,200 guitar and everything he wanted by me and who expressed NO interest in the quilt) .. ON THE SECOND or THIRD DAY my husband was found. The ex still pushed for another guitar too…again, his son had no interest.
    These people are truly sick in my opinion… and I have threatened them all with arrests if they come to my house. Good luck to anyone who’s going through this Bulls–t! You’d think losing the love of your life would be bad enough to deal with.

  24. My husband’s mother died unexpectedly in January 2015 after a short illness. We were traveling. The widow and his daughter (my husbands sister) tried to make the funeral arrangements (2 days) so quickly that we were not able to get home to attend. A phone call was made to the father and he said that is the way it is. The funeral home, however, was not able to make the arrangements that fast and we could attend the funeral.

    After that, the sister convinced the father to give her his house. She then mortgaged it to the hilt and took out large sums of money. The sister then gave away the mothers belongings without asking if the brother or his children would like anything.

    The father has given the sister free range over his life and decisions. Of course, that means he has only her influence. That is purely his choice.

    There have been told many lies and untruths told by the siblings to the father and all other relatives to blacken my husband, the brother. It appears to be to character assinate the brother and his family. Maybe even to assuage guilty consciences.

    In December 2015, My husband put a small decorated tree by his mother’s grave. He has decorated the graves at Christmas for many years. Other relatives decided to desicrate the decorated tree.

    Guess there is no choice but to cut them all out of our lives to avoid constant hurt. We just can’t, and chose, not to deal with the family’s chosen path of meanness. We will have nothing more to do with them. This may be the sisters plan, but the dad made it very clear that this is his choice.

  25. Our brother Patrick died suddenly of stomach cancer in June of 2014, after we lost our sister Mary in January of the same year, also of cancer. Perhaps is was the shock, but our older sister Donna, who had promised to help me and our remaining brother with the funereal expenses, has not contributed one cent as of December 2015. She is retired and on a fixed income, but so are my other siblings. Her adult children support her, so money is not the issue… To top it off, she is an extremely fervent catholic, and doesn’t hesitate for a second to criticize loudly any one who doesn’t follow the catholic doctrines. Her hypocrisy boggles the mind! You put a dollar sign in front of my sister, and those strong Catholic “values” go out the window..The part of the article “Generalizing the Negative” is true, but as I look back on our adult relationship( I am the youngest of 7 kids and my sister Donna is 19 years older than I), she has never reciprocated any act of sibling affection. We all have treated her to lunches, dinners, movies, even vacations, and barely a “Thank You” is offered. I know you don’t give in order to receive, but all I ever asked was to have a sibling relationship where you don’t go months without hearing from a person, or that your calls and e-mails are ignored.. As I write this , I have officially given up on her…I don’t reach out to her any longer, because the deafening silence is too hurtful.. I n 2014, I lost 3 of my adult siblings..2 of them, Mary and Patrick, from cancer, and my sister Donna from selfishness..

  26. Im going to start off with a little bit of background to try and bring everyone up to date. My grandmother passed away less than a month ago. She was a strong amazing woman with a heart of gold and open arms. She left behind 5 living children all over the age of 50 along with over 20 grandchildren, over 30 great grandchildren and even a couple great great grand babies. My mom (the baby of the family according to grandma) has been a permanent fixture in my grandparents house as a caretaker, a companion and a best friend to her mom for the past 10 years. They did everything together and lived within their means while relying and leaning on eachother to make ends meet. They didnt have much, they shared a small trailer worth less than $5000 and everything they have in it thwy purchased together they were more than happy to have eachother and proud of what they have accomplished as a team. Now she has passed and my mom is all alone and to top it off her siblings are being very cruel. Grandma died suddenly and unexpectedly and did not leave a will. The only thing she left was words of her last wishes to my mom and i. We have been accused of stealing and hiding valuables that dont exsist and a living will that was never written. Mom is the only one of her siblings that has ever worked for her money (though it isnt much) and is also the only single sibling of the family. She drives to and from many clients homes on a daily basis in a car that barely runs and is now trying to make ends meet on her own small income. My aunts and uncles showed up a two weeks after her passing and tore through grandmas room like it was a rummage sale leaving nothing but a bed and night stand and now they are trying to take the trailer and car that has been signed over but never transferred to my mom so they can sell them for less than $6000 leaving my mom and the 2 dogs she inherited completely homeless and without a vehicle. As i said before they are all married with their own cars and houses. The funeral costs were taken care of with donations and there are no final bills. They just want the little bit of money. They have all had great relationships with eachother until the day she passed. I love my family and all that they are but im finding it hard to forgive their cruelty and selfishness. I cry for my moms heartache everyday and just keep thinking to myself grandma will be home soon to straighten all this out knowing its not true. I apologize if this is not the place to share this story but i feel as though it needs to be told and i appreciate the open ear.

  27. My grandma has died since September 2014 and my mum, dad and granddad has been fighting since and my grandma was the one who didn’t let them break apart!!!

  28. Thank you so much for writing this piece. I found it very helpful. I am the oldest of six siblings who lost both parents within six months of each other in 2014-15. All of us are on the same page regarding our parents’ trust estate except one brother, who is abrasive, insensitive and outspoken about what “he” thinks our parents’ trust and will says, and what it actually says. His comments started before our remaining parent (father who is was never close to) died earlier this year. As I am the successor trustee, he complains and criticizes what I do regarding the estate despite the fact that the estate lawyer told him I was doing everything in order, and in a timely manner. He wants me to sell and liquidate all of the estate’s assets and divide it six ways, but that would effectively make two of our siblings homeless. So anyway, reading your essay helped be make some sense of out his behavior. Thank again.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Ugh, I’m so sorry that this is your experience. I cannot tell you how often we hear stories like this. I hope your brother is able to find away to be a little more at peace with the decisions that were already made and which are being made. Good luck with everything.

  29. I recently lost my mother and went through what I believe to be the worst experience with disagreements and fighting. I was at a loss as to what caused the disagreements but after reading the article, realized it was about control. Though I felt there was communication among us and joint decisions made, accusations were thrown about me doing things “my way”. That for me was very hurtful as I consulted and communicated information each step of the way and got input before finalizing. I now realize that family members needed to try to regain that control that was taken from them through the death of my mother.

    • I am going through the same thing right now. My sister who I was closest with committed suicide. I have planned and paid for 99% of everything because none of my family can afford too. I want her to have a beautiful service. I have got hell from my mother and 2 of my sisters. I had her belongings sent here to my house and I have caught hell from my them all week. It has made this whole process twice as stressful. I’m appalled at my moms behavior. She is so afraid I will open the boxes and take something. She doesn’t even want me to to open it so I can take some of her things to the funeral home to lay out in her memory. It sickens me, the whole thing.

      • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

        Oh my gosh, Kathi, I am so incredibly sorry for the death of your sister and what you are going through. Grief can bring out so many complicated emotions and behaviors for families and this can be even more complicated when a death is by suicide. We have a post on suicide loss which may also be helpful to you. Please take care and I hope you find our site to be of support.

  30. I am going through the most right now, my grandmother is very sick and my uncle is made because me and my brother are beneficiaries right along with him and wants to know why his kids aren’t, my grandmother adopted me and my brother when my mother passed while we were kids. He’s thinks we’re keeping insurance papers from him. I have power of attorney and a joint account and have been helping her with everything. Now he’s trying to get her pension and make funeral arrangements already. Though he was go be my support but boy was I wrong, his mother isn’t even dead and he’s acting like this.

  31. I just lost my 14 year old daughter a month ago. Her father and I are divorced. It was nice to see both sides get along until the “gift box”. All I have to say is this article hit me. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one going through this. I wish you could do more articles so I could understand the grandparents side and understand people. I’m sad and angry. Never thought this would happen in our family.

  32. When you bring a stepmother and stepchildren into the mix it is even worse. My stepmother (actually I refer to her as my Dad’s wife…….she was never a stepmother to me.. She ordered the medication that killed my dad. When my brother was killed in a car/train accident the Dr. gave that medication to me dad to settle him…. This was the medication that was ordered for my dad. My sister is a nurse and she informed me of the records that are kept. I would never had guessed that things like that can happen. Because I was one of the executors (until I was removed) of my dad’s will I was able to get copies of dad’s medical records from the hospital. (This was shared to me by my sister. ) This is when we found out for certain (in black and white) that she had ordered the medication that killed our father. 15 years later we are still feeling angry that this could have been done. Please read all of your loved one’s records in the hospital. Do not assume!!!

    • PMD, I am so sorry for your losses! Your story touched me as I had a very very similar story happen with my Dad just two months ago. For me it’s not only the grief of losing my Dad and the ordered medication by a recent marriage, I also call her my Dads wife, but also the trauma of dealing with her greed and theft in his estate. This is truly a heartbreaking nightmare!

    • You sound like the crazy adult step daughter I’m saddled with. She made her fathers life a living hell, unable to accept her father was happy in remarrying me. The scheming little psycho wrote letters accusing me of trying to kill her Dad(because she’s insane).Then, she disowned her father while he was receiving radiation/chemo. She’d only welcome him back if he divorced me. Her insane obsession with me continues to this day, after his death. I have a restraining order in place against her. She also broke into our home while he was in hospice, helping herself to items she felt she `deserved.’ While he was in hospice dying she pestered me about the will. You sound just like her. I doubt your step mother killed your Dad. I think you’re mad because you wanted everything left to you

      • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


        I’m sorry for your husband’s illness and death and for the turmoil you’ve experienced with your step-daugther. I don’t doubt this has been traumatic, but I don’t think it’s fair to assign your step-daughter’s characteristics and motives to the above commenter. Although the situation you described can and does happen, so does the situation she described. Though a grief website like this lends itself to support and advice of one another, it’s also limiting in we truly have no way of knowing what anyone else has experienced or been through.

        • Absolutely!!! My step-mother died before my dad, but from what I read, she doesn’t seem like a very loving person. I wonder………who really was the greedy one?

      • Elka,

        I read her statement, and then read yours. Actually you sound much more vindictive and greedy that your late husband’s daughter. Maybe you should read what you wrote again. WOW!

    • As to your search to prove your step-mother killed your Dad via medications. I can assure you even if you get the list the nurses will be rolling their eyes in disgust. I learned from hospice nurses it’s not uncommon for adult children who hate their step-mothers to pull this stunt. It’s that cliché. My awful adult step daughter also blamed my 86 year old father for `plotting’ with me to ‘turn my father against me.’ I loved my husband more than I’ve ever loved anyone and I cannot imagine ever feeling that way again about anyone.BTW, over the two year course of his illness , I was with him every day. I never stopped viewing him as handsome. Or the most perfect person in the world for me. She called him ugly. She chose hating me over loving herfather and as a result she robbed herself of spending time with him. Her obsessioj with `getting to me’ was and is so all-consuming it’s also robbed her of living her life. What a tragedy. To have hurt her fathrer by hating me and by continuing to hate me she has no time for anything else. What a terrible self-imposed emotional prison she created for herself.

  33. I am dealing with “rogue” family members now. My mother is ill, there are end-of-life issues. It is just a matter of time before she is put on hospice care. In the beginning (she broke her hip and was also just recently diagnosed with cancer for which she would not tolerate aggressive treatment) we were sharing some responsibilities, but they all slowly stopped returning mine or her calls, don’t come to see her. I work full time and 3 of the others don’t work at all and even live closest to her. The other 2 are in complete self-centered denial. It is the purposeful non-communication that really has me at a loss. My resentment is becoming so severe that when she passes, I don’t care if I ever speak to or see any of them ever again. When it come to money — there is none — but if I am even approached in regards to any, some big beads are going to be read before I exit the family altogether.

  34. Wow, this article is true. I am beneficiary on a good friend’s insurance policies. Although I was surprised by this fact, I took on the role of handling her final affairs since her family (from whom she was estranged) didn’t. At the viewing before the service, the family members started trying to find out how much money was spent on the funeral. At the repast (reception) after the service, they tried again. one of them approached me and demanded a meeting with me to discuss what I had, what I had spent and what I knew about her finances and belongings. No mind you, these individuals were not involved in her life. Her friends, me included, have known her for 30-40 years and never heard of these people — all of which are cousins because she doesn’t have any immediate family like parents, spouse, siblings, children or aunts and uncles. Now the real crazy part… They are after her house which is valued about about 500K. I’ve never seen anything like this. They didn’t speak at the funeral. They didn’t ask me if I needed any assistance. The didn’t offer to help write the program. They didn’t even write the acknowledgements…I did. And now they want to meet with me? For what? Is that grief or is that greed. I’m trying to be understanding, but my friend was ill and hospitalized for a long time and they never showed up even though I called a couple of them. People can be really interesting.

    • Just lost my mom & my cousin & sister have excluded me in particpating in any plans in which i wonder “where were you while she was living” Not there!!

      • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

        Ah, I am so sorry Grieving Daughter . . . I hope you find your own ways to memorialize and honor your mom if your family aren’t working together in the way you would hope. Take care and I hope you find some support on our site!

      • My mum passed the end of april, and the uncle none of us had seen in four years actually criticized me when I got emotional in her hospital room.Dont you just love it when people think they have some god given right to do/say everything just because they are “family”?

  35. The article helped a little but after 9 yrs our family is still torn. While Mom was trying to deal with her cancer my Dad was falling apart and in his grief making absurd accusations about my sister and especially about me. He passed these lies onto my brother and his wife, who continued the negativity to my other brother. These were then passed to my mom who had to suffer enough with cancer and now had to realize the poison going on in her family. Luckily she called me and we talked and cried for hours finally getting the truth exposed. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of it. I am closer to my sister which made my Mom laugh because we were never really close before. Today my brothers and their families are not in my circle. Dad is “gone” with Alzheimers. When there is a problem with our father I eventually am contacted by my brother. For years I felt guilty but after seeing a psychic was told I could let it all go; it was meant to be. To my Mom, her family was everything and to see it split apart continues to be sad. To lose my Mom and my family at the same time was so confusing. The lies told about me were so confusing because all I wanted was to help my Mom through this last phase of her life. I worked with hospice and helped my Dad with her medicines. He seemed to appreciate my help to my face, then trashed me behind his back. Anyway….that was 9 yrs ago and long past time to get on with my life. Still, thanks for the article. It’s nice to know torn families exist. As Mom would say, that’s life!!!

  36. This helped some, but this isnt what made us fall apart, ours was not respecting each others different grief. A sort of in their eyes, trying to prove who loved him the most. I sat and cryed trying to figure out why and I think I found the real answer, we all loved this little boy deep, I think for me, I am grieving more, not because I loved him more, but because I had more time and memories with him. Enough to fill my heart so that the pain is crazy. They think I should grieve just like them and I cant, therefore,,,, a torn family. I struggle with not there sympathy, but the lack of their understanding and compassion of what my grandson was to me.

  37. P.S. The will! Don’t forget the will. And update it yearly or if there is any change of status in beneficiaries. A 45-year-old will does not address current situations.

    Even a handwritten document can be valid. Some need a notary to validate it. It’s very easy but please check what is acceptable in your state.

    Bless you all.

    • My brother passed away appro: two weeks ago and has still not been played to rest. I’m being told his body is still on ice. The coroner took it on himself to take care of all arrangements before I was contacted, im assuming he thought I am to poor or to ignorant to do so, no I don’t have money but I believe I can do better than him and now everyone is just taking all my brothers things. It’s only me and my mom left and my mom in nursing home with Alzheimer’s. I’m pleading for help, I need an attorney bad but can’t afford one. The coroner was so rude to me I don’t want to show my face. I want my brother laid to rest and I don’t have any say so please can someone guide me in the right direction

      • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

        Debby, I am so sorry for the loss of your brother and the difficulties with the coroner. In most states you have a certain period of time to contact the coroner’s office (here in Maryland 72 hours). If they have not heard from someone within that time, they are then tasked with determining next steps. I do not know the details in every state, but if you are seeking free legal representation you may want to contact Legal Aid in your stated to ask for assistance. Also, you may want to contact a funeral home to discuss the situation with them. They likely are familiar with the process and legal information in your state.

  38. Aagghh! So true! The vultures circled and swooped in, cackling as they picked through the spoils of his (and to a lesser extent, my) belongings in our home. See my comments in the National Widows Day post.

    As a preventive measure to alleviate some of the confusion before illness or death occurs, please do some legal paperwork immediately. This includes powers of attorney (can be general to cover everything or specific to one category such as vehicle or finance), medical power of attorney, HIPPA privacy restrictions, directive to physicians, out-of-hospital do not resuscitate. Had my sweetie done his homework, he (and we) would not have suffered as much trying to make serious decisions when he was delirious from IV drugs and almost gone. T

    Each state has different requirements. Some hospitals or clinics provide forms for free, as part of the admission process. But if you don’t do anything at all, you are at the mercy of the government, the law or the insurance company. And discussions of treatment among family members will not be fun.

    I thank God for the doctors we had who truly put his needs first in the most compassionate way possible.

    • My younger sister had cancer for a few years and we talked on phone for over a year every day. We were believing for her to have a miracle, so when she died, my other sister called and told me. I was shocked and amazed that my niece or nephews didn’t call me, but had my sister do it. I told my sister still living that if they were coming my way, I’d like to go with them. I never heard from her about a day or so, and when I did she said they were flying down (with no thought of how or if I could go) I thought it was cruel…this was before my sister passed. Due to these facts and due to a terrible pain in my arm I was unable to drive to meet my sister in law to ride with her..she was kind and welcoming but I was in too much pain to go. Since my niece or nephews never even called me and all info I was receiving second hand, I don’t feel like sending them a card since I am grieving not only for my sister but also the way I was ignored by them. They all have jobs and I am a widow over 70. I felt like they should have had some consideration for me. What do you think..I would feel terrible just sending each a card after their total lack of respect for me, plus putting a few bucks in would make me look cheap and they would just talk about it.

    • My son died last week he hung himself his body wasn’t cold and daughter and son in law went round ransacking. I decided on what music daughter argued about that. My sister so caring took me to house son rented she ran about ransacking acting like mother Theresa!!! So called friends on face book nowhere to be seen when son needed help. He told me mum your all I have he cried when he heard what his sister called him on the phone. My gentle boy they pretend to care about ! I too grief stricken to even think about anything I tried to save him but failed.I will love him till I die.

      • I am so sorry for your loss Caroline. My son died 1 1/2 years ago and also took his own life. My experience with my family was much like yours… I know how horrible it is to have to deal with people like that when you are already dealing with the worst thing that could ever happen to you…I am so sorry you have to go through this. A website that helped me is ” parents of children who commit suicide”. I was surprised at how many experienced the same kind of treatment that you and I have from their families. Remember what you meant to your son, what he meant to you..that’s all that matters. Sending you a big hug…

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