Families Fall Apart After Matriarch Or Patriarch Dies

It’s a common phenomena.  The matriarch or the patriarch of a family passes and the family unravels.  I knew of a mother who died leaving her husband and four sons behind.  The men never realized she was what held them together and helped them relate to each other.   When she was lost from the picture each man became an island.

I’ve seen families collapse when the patriarch dies as well.  Whatever the qualities the individual had, there is no one willing or able to step in and replace them or reconfigure the family so it can be sustained and recover from the loss.I don’t think families have to accept this fate as a foregone conclusion.  The falling out can be avoided.

The families who manage this tend to live in reality, meaning they realize their parent(s) are not going to be around forever.  Based on this, they take on increased responsibility as time passes and their parents age.  A younger family member takes over the cooking of the holiday meal, for example.  Another may start making the calls that keep the family in touch and organized.  Basically, they follow the example set by the matriarch or patriarch so the family can endure into the next generation.

We each have a Sun (male) and a Moon (female) in out chart, these are referred to as the “lights”.  You’ll have a very hard time in life if your lights are dim.

Who are the “lights” in your family?  If they pass, is their someone waiting to step up?  Why or why not?

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Families Fall Apart After Matriarch Or Patriarch Dies — 50 Comments

  1. This is part of the reason why I feel such pressure to find a husband. Once my dad dies, there is no male figure to step in for the support that only a man can provide.

  2. These families don’t recover that I’ve seen. The family members drift apart and eventually die and that’s the end of that line.

    I think we’ve become superficial, with superficial roots that just don’t compare to what a strong family offers.

    • I tried to take over as the glue but I’m not able. My sister makes false accusations against me (as she has done since age two, with glee) and now my mom won’t talk to me either, to “protect” my sister.

  3. Aw, ((sunnysadge)). Since my dad has gotten sick, I have been separated from his side of the family. We have stopped going to family gatherings and the family has not really asserted themselves too much to support us. So people who I spent a lot of time with as a child, well, the connections have just died. Two of my dad’s brothers have died as well so the family is just dissolving in the way that Elsa is describing in the post. Also, my dad was the only brother who got married and I am not a man obviously, so our family name will not live on.

  4. My dad is much older and so his parents are long gone. My aunt was the matriarch, she passed in 2002. We were very close and it was a blow. Sundays at her place, for the entire duration of her marriage and her life. The family has definitely felt the loss, She had 3 daughters, and they do try to organize regular get togethers but settle for the phone, usually. My aunt was a Leo with an emphasis on Cancer.

    My mother has been estranged from her siblings for decades and her parents are passed, as well.

    Pluto transit to my Moon has been horrible but I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this stuff.

  5. @Caroline, yes I understand, my grandmothers family died in WW2 and all we have is a last name.

    I have a friend who has the same problem as you, as the only male who got married and had kids, only had females, so they can’t pass down the name.

    (((Caroline))) I feel for you. If you have a last name that sounds like a first name you can use it as a middle name or first name when you have children?

  6. ((h.))

    sunnysadge, if I become a doctor of psychology, I am considering keeping my last name, as my mom did when she got her degree in medicine. I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Either way, my last name won’t live on, but what can you do?

  7. uh woo woo alert, I just pulled the chart from my Grandmother’s death about an hour ago and just now popped over here to see this. How relevant. She was our Matriarch of a very extended family and held us all together making sure we got together around big holidays and continued to interact even though we were all scattered across the country. Growing up she was the eldest daughter of 9 sisters who were placed in an orphange during the depression. When she was old enough to leave, she took them all with her to keep them together.

    After she died, the remaining females in my family (fondly referred to as the Wells Family Mafia) vowed to keep the ties together and organize what she once did on her own. We have been pretty successful. She died in 2007 and even though it is hard getting together without her, we all feel her presence (and even have a picture of it) :)

    I’m feeling her strong today. She suffered from Dementia/Alz in the last few years of her life so I had pulled her chart to look at her Neptune around that time..was just curious.

  8. @Caroline I have kept my last name, even when I was married, now going through separation and divorce.

    I know. I wish I could pass my last name to my daughter, but you never know she may use it. I used my mothers last name. And it is official too.

  9. ((((caroline + sunny)))) Thank you, too–it means a lot. Ugh. It makes me so sad. My mother was always vexed by my relationship with my aunt, but my aunt was able to provide something my mother unfortunately could not. I love my mother but I’m working through some stuff right now and I don’t feel very close.

  10. My mom’s family dwindled after her grandmother died, but my dad’s family continues to flourish, as his mom and dad each came from very big families to begin with and many of my uncles and aunts are around my age. From my dad’s siblings, the only cousins of mine who will pass down my last name are two boys. My other 6 cousins are girls, plus my two sisters. One silver lining is that most women in Mexico use both their maiden and married names. Eg Jane Smith marries Mr. Jones and becomes Jane Smith de Jones. I like that and might do that when I marry.

    This sort of reminds me of Gone With the Wind, as my family is very proud of it’s business, land, and continuity, and I want to be a part of it. :)

  11. Caroline and Sunnysadge: it seems to be becoming accepted in UK for people to hyphenate their names on marriage, eg Mr & Mrs Colson-Boyle.

    Of course, you can only do this for one generation, or it would get a bit unwieldy.

  12. This happened in my extended family on my mom’s side. When my great-grandpa died his 8 children fell to squabbling and unsavory dealings with the estate. When my great-grandma died tensions erupted and several family members had to physically move to get away from the drama. Being Italian did not help!

  13. I think my Granddaddy was the last light keeping my Pop and his siblings together. We shall see, but I do know this: Pop’s branch of the family (my sisters, me, and our assorted families) will stay close because we always circle our wagons together. That we learned from the older generation. :-)

  14. I don’t think we’ve ever had one person keeping everyone together. Both sides of the family all group together into their little nuclear families and anyone else (cousins, siblings, aunts/uncles, anyone who marries in) are occasionally invited on sufferance. What it really boils down to is that the personalities are so different that if we weren’t related, nobody would EVER want to associate with anyone else not of their direct womb bearing. My aunts aren’t at all compatible with their siblings, and none of my grandparents were of the “let’s keep everyone together” ilk, except maybe the grandmother who died young.

  15. Timely post. I’ve said many, many times that once my inlaws pass on (Leo and Scorpio), my hubs’ family will fall apart. Hubs and his brother will stay close, but no one else wants anything to do with each other. This has been going on long before I married into his family, but it’s only gotten more obvious as time goes on.

  16. Really, you’ve got to grow up. Example, if those boys I mentioned liked the family their mother created, it was up to them to get a woman who would create something similar and start investing. A lot of this is causes by these long, LONG childhoods people have, that seem to last a lifetime in come cases.

    On the hyphenated names, passage to power makes a good point. You, as woman may have preserved your name but what the hell is your kid supposed to do when 2 names marries 2 names? I can’t help but see it as short-sighted and also very faddish. I mean, in scheme of the world, I don’t think it will become the new norm.

    Basically, I think women are destined to fail at being men and men will also fail at being women. I realize many here may not agree but so what? I’m old and this is what I think.

  17. The mother’s name goes down the tubes and has since the beginning of time. This little 20, 30 or even 50 year experiment is not going to stop that. If you don’t like this, don’t bother me. Go complain to the fact itself if you can find it. The man has the family name – period.

  18. Yeah, LOL. That’s why I always check out guys’ names who I like. If we’re gonna get married someday, I want to like the way your last name sounds with my first name. And then beyond the aesthetics, last name in terms of reputation is even more important.

  19. except in some cultures (various native american ones and others) where the women have the family name. *shrug
    also like in spain where they could inherit land so people ended up with really long last names to track maternal heritage.

    we have a matriarch. and i’ve feared what happened when she left… but the cousins seem to be picking up pieces of traditions over time to help ease her as she gets more and more tired

  20. I guess so, but if you want it bad enough there’s always a way. My dad told me about a guy he knew who took his wife’s last name after they got married because it meant so much to her. Apparently it was a bit of a hassle to do so, but now they have two sons and a daughter so the woman’s family name is safe.

    I don’t personally know any families that fell apart due to the loss of a patriarch or matriarch, but my family only consists of three people so if my mother or father dies, there isn’t going to be much left to hold together anyway.

  21. “a woman who would create something similar and start investing”

    My BIL married the total opposite of that. She never liked the inlaws, made it clear that her family was the only one that mattered (her family is scattered and she doesn’t speak to her only sibling), and refuses to make or attend any holiday gatherings–she goes to friends’ houses instead. Long ago, when she used to host these things, she was always complaining about his family mooching off her or some crap.

    A lot of people these days aren’t interested in continuing family traditions, so the way she acts is a symptom of a larger problem than the problem itself.

  22. My family is from Spain. My name is five names long and includes both my mother’s maiden name and my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Maternal names are very much respected and acknowledged in Spain. My own kids have my maternal last name as their middle name so I’ve maintained the custom–and expect them to include it somewhere in their own kids’ names once they become parents. LOL.

  23. My extended family may splinter when my grandma goes.. but I see my aunt and/or my sister stepping in. I can’t even think of my parents dying. :(

  24. Oh but to get back to the point of this topic, yes I have seen a large family collapse after the death of a matriarch. And my own family, especially sibling dynamics, really changed when my father died. My mother keeps tradition going but the atmosphere at family gatherings is just very different–I don’t like it.

  25. Something I can’t wrap my head around is that my guy has a Dutch name. And you know–I ain’t Dutch. We always joke “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” LOL
    The only other person I considered marrying had a name from the same background as me.
    But this is all a moot point because I’m not having kids. Not my own, anyway, I’m going to be a foster mum:)

  26. I am the matriarch of our family; this was true from the time I was very young. I didn’t seek this out, it just found me. If there is a crisis, hand it to Demelza (I remember playing Mom to my own Mom when I was 11). All of the family holidays and special occasions take place at Demelza’s house (mind you, this has gone on for 30 years, long before a generation of parents and grandparents began passing on). I don’t think it will continue once I’m gone, and that is a real shame. There really isn’t anyone to pass the torch to (I’ve tried, believe me). However, it has enriched my life tremendously, being able to provide this stability and cohesion. My Cancer husband has supported me unflinchingly over the years; he is family-loving, too (of course!).

  27. My mother passed on St. Patrick’s Day 2009 she and her siblings were the family glue. Me and one of my cousins have been trying to keep the family from dissolving but that is not as easy as it might sound. The only senior member on mom’s side of the fence or house now is her younger bother and his wife is in poor health, so staying in touch is like nearly impossible. My father who was 11 years mothers senior is still with us although his mind is pretty sharp his body is not keeping pace with it and is falling apart. The 4th of July 2009 four months after mom passed he broke his right femoral bone up next to the hip it was repaired. That started our association with nursing homes as now daddy needed staff more than just me. The first 24 hr nursing care place kept daddy so medicated that it was like he was nuts. Then they allowed him to get a UTI so bad he had to be hospitalized. They would not accept him back thank God and we found a great place for daddy. However he is very independent still and would not stay in bed was determined to do for himself and still does but the bed was not seated on the floor so he fell and broke the ball off the left hip. In the mean time my husband and I are still living at the house my parents owned and trying to keep the family from flying apart. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas was ok but everyone who came looked as if they were at a funeral every one so sad not what my mom would have wanted even my father would not attend. Between the County the house is in and they Mortgage company jacking the price of the home up and serious repairs like the AC will have to be replaced and due to new regulations that will mean a complete new heating system as well. Who is going to loan an 89 year old man in a nursing home the funds to replace it? (no body)! That is just for starters. The house is 38 years old and not all that well built in the fist place. The doors to the closets and bathrooms are only 24 inches and daddy’s wheel chair is 30 inches a slight problem there. Oh and I am daddy’s Guardian, P.O.A. both medical and other wise not to mention when he goes to be with mom I am the executrix of the estate.

    I am in hopes that after we get moved into our own place we will have much happier family gatherings again. There are more than a few days that I feel like I am loosing it and my poor husband is working like a mad man even though he gets to work from home.

  28. I have kind of an odd story about this very thing. After both my parents passed away, it was just me & my brothers. My eldest brother tried to “usurp the throne.” He basically tried to step in and become the patriarch of the family. However, my other brothers and myself would have none of it. We wanted to be an “autonomous collective” with NO king. (This is what happens when a Scorpio tries to forcibly “take over” an Aquarius, a Leo and an Aries. It ain’t gonna happen.)

    Anyway, once my Scorp brother realized we would not hand the crown over to him and obey his every word, peace returned to the kingdom. I can’t say that everything returned to normal… hell no. But we all still do associate with each other. But I would definitely say that yes, after my parents passed, our little kingdom split up. (And me being the Aquarius… I’m totally ok with that! It was time for some of those empty family traditions to die out anyway.)

  29. I wish I could find a guy who (if he HAD to have the same last name) would take mine. I would probably rather everyone kept their own because I loathe the property aspect of it and it creeps me out, but I’m the last of mine, so nyah.

    Thing is, I don’t want to be a woman. I can’t be a man either (and would suck at it too), but I sure as hell can’t pull off being a real woman. So what do you do?

  30. my family got closer after my mum died, and stayed that way, but maybe that was just because we were all in our thirties by then. As for the double name..not heard of that in UK, but don’t doubt that it’s a wee passing fad. It may be of interest that a couple of centuries back all children took the mother’s name here in Scotland. Women were all referred to as Mistress = the derivative of Mrs whether married or not. My father is a genealogist and discovered this when tracking our family way back to 1600’s. I am so glad our family stayed close.

  31. I am sorry I did not read the previous posts on this thread…but I have seen this first hand.

    My mother in law had borne 6 boys and 1 girl (she came in as a twin). When she died, it was such a death sentence to the family…

  32. Our mother recently passed on. My younger brother instantly distanced himself from me and my family. There had been no problems while our mother was alive. It makes me sad but my gut tells me to let it be. The younger brother is narcisistic and so is hs wife …this may be the problem. My mom had predicted this would happen and I did not believe her ……

  33. Human relationships…regardless of their depth or nature…are transient. Looking within for self-fulfillment…seeking emotional and intellectual growth…and just flat out enjoying being alive…is in my opinion.,.infinitely more healthy than depending on ANY exterior relationship.

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