The Best or the Worse in Us

Question: My father died just three days ago. Immediately following his death, my brother (my only sibling) immediately became controlling and started excluding me from all decisions, to the level of stopping me from going to my parents home and in particular from going into my father's bedroom. It was extremely jarring to be treated this way. Feeling defeated, I traveled back home. Now I feel scarred from the experience and regret that I didn't spend more time with my mother and father's personal belongings before they are disposed of. How does one deal with family upheaval and dysfunction following a loved one's death?

The death of a family member can either bring a family closer together or further apart. It seems to intensify all it touches--emotions, memories, past behaviors. Difficult relationships become more strained, closer relationships become comforting. We are who we are and that is what each person brings with them to one of the most stressful situations life offers.

How does one deal with family dysfunction? Probably in the same manner we always have unless we make a conscious effort to do things differently. When one person changes how the game is played it forces everyone to react differently. It is hard and scary to step out of our dysfunctional comfort zone (everyone is dysfunctional it is just a matter of degree) and do things differently.

I don’t think there is any one answer to your question of how to deal with family upheaval and dysfunction following a loved one’s death. Each family has their own patterns, rules to their games of life and individual roles each member plays so direction will be individually based.

Now what to do about your being left out of your families disbursement of personal belongs. What is done is done. You probably can’t get what is gone back but you can tell those involved how you feel about being left out.

If you see that others have something you have special feelings about, talk with them, ask them if you can have it. They may listen, they may not, but you will have the satisfaction of using your voice to make your thoughts known. Sometimes we have to speak our truth in order to build integrity with ourselves.

Regrets without action just becomes a heavy weight. You don’t need to forgive those who have upset you by their actions but you do need to forgive yourself for your own actions that you regret.

We always do the best we can in any given situation. No one sets out to do the worst they can do or be. (We all act from our past hurts and beliefs which can look like we are trying to do our worst but each of us is doing the best with what we have in our ”personality bank”). By forgiving yourself for not standing up to your brother and asking for what you want you reinforce your determination to act differently the next time a similar situation occurs.

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