When there is a death in the family, emotions run high, everyone is stressed and exhausted, and to top it all off, there is pressure to make important decisions. It’s no wonder families — even those who get along beautifully during normal circumstances — can be fraught with ill feelings, hurtful behavior, and confrontations.
The fact that everyone grieves in their own time and way can also play into this volatile situation, but knowing this, and understanding other common reasons why this shift in family dynamics occurs, can help to diffuse problems before they tear your family apart.
What flames the fire of family feuds at funerals? Here are 5 common culprits:
1. Varying stages of grief
Because grief is a very individualized process, family members are likely coping in many different ways, which can easily lead to misinterpreted behavior and misunderstandings. If one person is ready to go through a loved one’s belongings and another can’t imagine doing so just yet, this can definitely cause tension and conflict.
2. A sudden change in roles
With the death of a loved one, roles within the family are often impacted. For instance, an older sibling may suddenly feel pressure to be “in charge” or a widowed mom might be overwhelmed with her new role as a single parent. These changes can understandably lead to increased angst and arguments.
3. Elevated emotions
Plain and simple, everyone’s emotions are heightened during such a difficult time and this often results in people saying things or behaving in ways not typical. It is difficult to be rational with elevated emotions, so not only can behavior be out of the ordinary, but reactions to others may be unusual as well. It’s important to consider the emotional state everyone is in before getting angry or frustrated.
4. Relationship with the deceased
Different family members have different types of connections with their loved ones, so when there is a death in the family, each member is affected in a different way. An elderly cousin who has years of memories is going to react differently than a younger relative with less shared experiences, for example.
5. Underlying issues
When family members are suddenly thrust together, it is not unusual for irritability to rise, along with unresolved issues from the past. If emotions are running high, underlying problems often resurface, whether from a childhood incident or from recent resentment. If this occurs, it’s important to try your best to keep an eye on the big picture — saying goodbye to your loved one in a way that fulfills his or her wishes.
These are just some of the sources that can cause family dynamics to change after a loved one’s death. Knowing the reasons behind family behaviors can help to keep tempers from flaring and conflicts from arising. Of course, it can be difficult to remind yourself of these things while grieving, which is why our caring staff is here for you! We are experienced in assisting families through grief, and can even help with pre-planning in order to avoid the added stress of decision making during such a difficult time. If you would like to learn more, contact us today.