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Sibling Problems After Mom's Death

by
author image Kathryn Rateliff Barr
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.
Sibling Problems After Mom's Death
Siblings attend the funeral of their mother. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When your mother dies, the relationship between you and your siblings can deteriorate quickly because the glue that keeps the family together is gone. The conflict can cause you to become estranged, and reconciliation often does not happen. To prevent your family from coming apart at the seams, encourage your siblings to seek what is best for everyone, especially if your father outlives your mother.

Mom's Care

Even before your mother's death, you and your siblings might have disagreed about her care. The sibling who lives closest may have assumed a disproportionate share of her care and disagree with you about what should be done, according to “The Impact of Late-Life Parental Death on Adult Sibling Relationships,” a 2009 study published in the “Journal of Aging Research.” That conflict might continue if your mother gave the caretaker sibling power of attorney over her affairs and finances. Claims of “Mother loved you best” or “You turned her against us” can occur if you feel the caregiving sibling had a greater influence over the sale of the family home when your mother moved to a retirement home or hospice care. The caregiving sibling may accuse you of not caring enough about your mother or being involved enough in meeting her needs.

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Grief and Final Arrangements

People grieve differently, and you can argue over how grief is expressed or how your mother's body is treated after death, according to the study. Common arguments focus on burial vs. cremation, grave site selection or disposition of the ashes, and how much to spend on the final arrangements. Such disagreements might be avoided if your mother created a plan for those arrangements and made the information available to everyone before her death or if such decisions rest with her spouse.

Money and Love

The division of assets can be thorny -- especially all siblings do not receive equal amounts, according to estate attorney Michael Dribin, as cited in “Siblings Scorned” on the website Private Wealth. Arguments occur because you can equate the amount you receive with the amount of love your mother had for each of you. You might not appreciate that she gave more money to the sibling who has the greatest need or the one who provided the most care.

Flare-ups are caused by heightened emotions, exhaustion and the need to make difficult decisions, psychologist Avidan Milevsky explains in a “Psychology Today” article titled “Till Death (of Our Parents) Do Us Part.” Try to resolve differences sooner rather than later so you can work together on handling the estate decisions and support one another through the grieving process. Settling the estate could take between six months and two years, drawing out settlement issues, Caring.com senior editor Susan Kostal notes in an article titled “Winding Up Legal Affairs After a Death.” Consult a mediator before going to court to settle a dispute.

Childhood Issues and Family Dissolution

Childhood issues can flare when your mother is no longer around to hold the family together, according to Dribin. Old hurts rise to the surface and the emotional strain of the death can uncouple you from the family. Your personal life can also exert a pull that reduces the time you and your siblings spend together after her death, especially if tempers remain hot.

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References

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