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Why Some Families Don't Stick Together After the Death of a Loved One

Shutterstock / Yakobchuk Viacheslav

Family conflict after a loss is common. Here are some of the reasons why.

Q: I would just like to know why some family members disassociate themselves from another family member after a death?

Wow—we don’t know if we can answer that one-line question in a whole book.

We’ve heard some of the most horrible stories about the way families behave towards each other after a death.

Here’s a list of probabilities: 

• Some of what happens is an extension of long-term issues between members of the family that may have been hidden.

• Some of what happens relates to money and property and other issues relative to the estate and people’s fear of financial insecurity.

• Some of what happens relates to the mass of misinformation many people have about dealing with their own grief and in reacting to the grief or others.

• And very often, a family is loosely held together by their co-relationships to the head of the family—mom, dad, grandma, etc. When that individual dies, the glue that kept the family together loses its hold, and like a house of cards, everything comes tumbling down.

We’d guess that your situation reflects some or all of the above.


Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? Find comfort in one of our grief support groups.


While we may have given you some general guidelines in response to your question, there’s another question that relates to the secondary loss that follows the death: “How do you deal with the emotions you feel when you are affected by the disassociation you mention, or the splitting up of the family?”

As with all losses, we direct you to "The Grief Recovery Handbook" (available in most libraries and bookstores). As you read it, you will learn what actions will help you become emotionally complete with the death of the person who was important to you; and how to deal with the change or end of relationships with others within the family.

From our hearts to yours,

Russell Friedman And John W. James

© 2018 John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at [email protected] or by phone, 800-334-7606.


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