Working Through Family Conflicts

The death of a loved one is without a doubt one of the most stressful times for any family.  We’re overwhelmed with our own feelings of sadness and grief, yet there are funeral arrangements to consider and decisions that must be made.  Most often, family members can support one another through the processes, but for some families that are struggling with strained relationships the death of a loved one becomes an even more traumatic event. 

When a death occurs, it may sometimes force those who are estranged or in disagreement to come together.  Even the most closely knit families can find themselves in a battle of wills and opinions during a time of loss; how much more so for families already in conflict?  Yet, in spite of our differences, we can create an environment that allows each one the freedom to appropriately work through his or her own grief if we are willing to make conflict resolution more important than winning or being right. 

Holding on to old grudges and past resentments only impairs our ability to navigate our own feelings of sorrow and loss.  Consequently, we must be willing to put these resentments aside, if only for a short time.  Little can be done about the past so it is best to stay focused on the present.    

Forgiveness can be difficult, especially when we feel we’ve been wronged by a family member.  But unforgiveness is a negative emotion that is most harmful to the one carrying it, not to the offender. Studies have shown that negative emotions can cause health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, and depression.  Our health is much too high a price to pay for harboring such negative feelings.  Consider whether the issues are truly worth the time and energy of fighting over, or whether it is better to agree to disagree.   Sometimes the best (or perhaps the only thing) we can do is to call a truce, and that’s good enough. 

Every family is comprised of unique individuals with their own thoughts, opinions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.  It’s no wonder we clash sometimes.  But in times of loss, we cannot appropriately deal with additional conflicts that drain our energy and emotions even further.  Working towards peaceful interactions with family members is critical to our well being—and theirs. 

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