October 16 2018
Written By
Barbara Karnes
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Family Discord As Death Approaches

Family Discord As Death Approaches


Barbara - October 10 2019

Hi Thom, family dynamics are certainly complicated. I admire your striving for a more positive, affirmative approach to your life. Here are my thoughts: as you have learned you aren’t able to affect your siblings and how they manage their lives so nothing is likely to change there. Your mother’s dementia basically determines how she responds to outside sources although I would think a quiet, calm environment will influence her energy, or maybe not, dementia is so unpredictable and unmanageable. That leaves us with you. You are the key person here and you must take care of yourself so you can juggle all of these dynamics. Some ideas for self care: find a sounding board. Find someone you can download with. Someone who will listen to you rant and complain without judgement or suggestions. This person can be a counselor or a good friend but it needs to be consistent. Getting through this challenging time means taking care of yourself. Make sure you play, enjoy living, interact with others so you keep balanced. Use your counselor or the good friend you have chosen to download with separate from fun time. A thought with your family: don’t make waves, don’t confront or counter, don’t engage, get through this time with peace in mind (that may mean you not expressing your thoughts or ideas). As my husband says “This too shall pass” and then you can live your life as separate from your family as you choose. My blessings are with you all. Barbara

Thom Cammer - October 10 2019

Barbara , I have recently discovered your work and it is exactly what I have been searching for. I have a question for you . My family of origin has been dysfunctional forever. My mother was an abuser. She also triangulated between her children, causing conflicts and disrespect between her 2 children and one grandchild. I have done years of therapy and work to find a healthier and safer way to live my life, but they never have and continue the tradition of dysfunction, even going so far as to bring violence into my family home. Now that my mother it’s reaching the end of her life as a result of old age, complicated by dementia, I dread what lies ahead in terms of emotional outbursts and potential violence. I have been my mother’s primary caregiver for 7 years now and I trying very hard to make it a gentle and healing transition for her, free from negativity and toxicity and violence. Do you have any suggestions about what might help keep things peaceful and honorable? Usually, boundaries are not respected. So I’m curious to know if there is another approach that you’ve seen work successfully for others in similar situations.

Lupe Iglesias - March 17 2019

Soo true. My passed 2 1/2 yrs ago of brain cancer. But towards the end my two brothers were fighting and fighting. To point at the hospital one had to be kicked out. I tried as much as possible for my dad not to hear and sometimes would lie to keep him comfortable. He was sedated but I was told he could still hear. I think it was the stress of everything that was going on. One brother was financially keeping my dad’s house together and the other was an emotional wreck and relapsing into drugs not understanding how to deal with the pain. I just wanted my father to be comfortable .

Barbara - October 29 2018

Hi Linda, thank you for sharing your family experience. I think honoring the lving’s needs is more important than honoring death bed wishes. I know that is hard to hear but we the living have to continue on and your choice to build the bridge with your step daughter and family was a good one.
Blessings to you all. Barbara

Linda - October 29 2018

Before my husband died, he made it very clear that he did not wish to have a funeral service. This was known by all his children. I made sure all his children (my stepchildren) were present the day he died so they would have an opportunity to say good bye. After his death one of his daughters insisted on a funeral/memorial service. When i reminded her that was not her fathers wish she continued to insist on it saying it was for the family not for her father’s benefit . At that point i decided to grant my stepdaughters request because i needed to build a bridge with my stepchildren more than i needed to honor my husband’s request. He was gone but the relationship with his children would be ongoing. It proved to be the right decision for us. There was a great deal of healing between us because of it

Susan - October 25 2018

Unfortunately, one situation this does not address is when conflict is created by a discord between keeping the person alive at all costs and allowing them to die. Some family members simply do not want to allow their dying relative to die, and can accuse more realistic/accepting members of “killing” their family member. It can be awful.

Barbara - October 24 2018

Hi Nancy, I am sorry to hear of the family separation your husband’s death has caused you. It may be that you have to take the first step in getting your family back on track. Family is important and sometimes it isn’t about what happened or who did what but about how can we move beyond this and be together. My blessings are with you and your daughter. Barbara

Nancy Buckingham - October 24 2018

Unfortunately this did happen after my husband died. My daughter asked if I trusted her to plan the funeral? (Her stepfather) well I went buzurk… lack of sleep, very emotional and she decided to walk away from the situation and for the last 5 1/2 months they (her family) have not been over to have even 1 meal together, they were the reason we moved here.. I am giving her space to her, but the emotional loss is difficult.

Judy Fauth - October 23 2018

When my husband was dying, I made up my mind I would not let the bad relationship between his sister and me get in the way of being with my husband. He wanted so much for there to be a truce between us, so a truce there was. After his passing, things had a tendency to go back to the way it had been but I have continued to reach out to her because that’s what he wanted. It has in no way hurt me to extend the Olive branch.

Diana - October 23 2018

Barbara, great words of wisdom in dealing with a stressful and very sad situation. Thank you!

And the best is, you NEVER have to speak to them again!

Roxanne Crisman - October 17 2018

Losing a parent or child is a very difficult situation I know first hand. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty of the whole situation, it’s about the patient not anybody else. You are his next of heir, and you know his wishes better than anybody. Don’t let this conflict get between you and your father. Roxanne Crisman

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