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 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 left 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 — 102 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.

    • My mother was the matriarch of our family, one husband and four sons, and was the unquestioned glue that held us together under her substantial emotional wings. Only 5′ and a smidgen more in stature, nevertheless she ruled her roost like a fearless lioness protects her pride.

      When she died after a courageous and protracted battle against an insidious disease, she left a chasm in our family and in our hearts that can never be filled. She was irreplaceable. After our…ummm…her death, it became quickly evident how important her enormous positive influence was over the men in her life. We were 5 lost ships amidst a maelstrom of sadness, rudderless globs of liquid messes missing the family backbone.

      Soon we will experience the 13th year since Joy Gail Franks Clearman’s passing.Yes, her name was Joy, like the signature emotion she invoked in all who knew and loved her. Our father has since passed away as well and their sons have managed to move on. Still a family, albeit a dinstat and fractured one, our glue missing and still terribly missed.

      • Michael, I can totally relate to your story. Ever since my paternal grandmother passed away about four years ago, my family has also become fractured. I severed ties with the bulk of my family consisting mainly of my grandmother’s nieces and nephews and other grandchildren because they were such an incredibly negative force during her final days. The entire time my immediate family and I tried to care for my grandmother, our distant relatives were insulting, combative, deceptive, and anything but supportive. Now I find myself trying to hold on to a few of those relationships but they seem to keep slipping away.

        My mother (who is the prime caregiver of my nursing home bound father,) has delved deeper into her church often “adopting” church members as her sons or grandsons. She doesn’t reach out to me much these days either. My two brothers (who live together,) and I rarely speak. They’re both “the big, strong silent type” and I’m really only close to one of them. But the cherry on the cake was me just learning that my beloved nieces are moving away now. I won’t get to see them anymore.

        When my grandmother died it was as if the foundation of our family was decimated and left no one standing in its wake. I often feel alone. Isolated. Depressed. I have love in my life but it’s a struggle sometimes just to stay upbeat because in a very strange way, I actually feel like I don’t have a family to call upon anymore. Growing up I never understood how some families could ever fall apart especially when there is love and laughter involved. But through the years I’ve learned that just as we age and our youth fades, so does the familial ties that bind us, often far too easily.

            • my father is 66 & I am 13 all I do is obsess about how I could loose him quite early in my life. I also worry about the family name, my family consists of only 17 people but only 3 of us are wallers ( my name ) as my father is the only male waller and I ( female ) are his only child I feel like I have ruined the name because I cannot pass it on. Also I obsess about how if my grandma dies my dads side of the family will fall apart and I will have no one because she is the only one who gets us together as a group on holidays and stuff. My only cousin on that side ( due to my other cousin dying in 2002 ) moved to America and only comes back to see our grandma and her mother. But her mother lives in France so if my grandma dies she will just go to France and I will never see either of them. ( my cousin won’t come back for us because she is not that close to my parents and will not pay £1200 just to spend time with me ( she is not selfish and has not said that it is just what I think ) I am also scared for myself because my grandad died ( aged 91 ) on jan 13th 2017 ( my first time loosing anyone ) and ever since then I have spent most nights crying myself to sleep. I’m sorry to have wasted your time with this I am just having a really hard time right now and I wanted to tell somebody.

              • ((((Hannah)))) I am so sorry. You did not ruin the name! You’re grow up and hopefully have a family of your own. Also, you can be the one who gets everyone together on holidays, seeing as you know how important it is!

  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.)

    • @merryweather, the scorpio trying to take over the aquarius, leo, aries, sounded more like Taurus sun/leo moon Queen Elizabeth 2nd, who will not allow Scorpio son, Charles to take over (over her dead body maybe) by then, perhaps prince William will be the one to take over.

  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.

  34. I’m very worried. My father is 93 and I’m his last days and I’m totally losing my shit right now. I don’t know what I will do when it happens. He has Alzheimer’s and has lived between worlds for awhile but I’ve never known a world that hasn’t held him.

  35. My grandmother is 93. She is getting weaker and weaker by the day. She owns a substantial estate and will leave behind lots of money. Her daughter, my aunt, is nearly 60 and has downs syndrome. The past 3 years have been nothing but talks about where the money goes when she dies and how much my aunt gets, who will take care of her etc. My grandmother has no formal education. Her estate’s worth is the result of her home being built in an area that later became an affluent suburb.I think her most complex job ever was hair styling. There are 3 other sisters in their 60s. My grandmother just assumes they are going to drop everything to care for my aunt with DS. Grandmother has also been going around telling everyone what their job is after she dies. She is an extraordinarily rude woman. She feigns everything. If my grandfather hadn’t built a successful business she’d have nothing. She has no discernable talents I can see other than to cook and nag people and gossip. My father almost 70 takes her to the doctors which now happens up to 4 or 5 times per month. I go with him to keep him sane. He is the only one who takes her. No one else ever does. My family has been a shame for 30 years. We only see each other on Easter thanksgiving and Christmas. I have no plans to continue on with holiday traditions. They are a waste of time and money. Hundreds if not thousands spent on dinner for one day, stupid gifts, travel time through absurd traffic…. why? For what? As many people pointed out on this thread, holiday traditions are dying. The average Americans traditions are idiotic, based on consumerism and money worship. Be honest…. hardly anyone in the USA celebrates Christmas for the religious underpinnings. Or easter for that matter. Also very few people are truly grateful. Americans always want more more more. Call me cynical but the moment the old lady bites it, my wife and I are done. I’d rather travel to places I want to go those days than sit around and small talk with people with whom the only thing I have in common is the coincidence of sharing genes. Plus, most of them are gonna vote Trump and my wife is an immigrant. They have never had the balls to make any comments directly to her but they are just stupid enough to make very strong antiimmigration comments with her in the room. They care nothing for her culture. Or whether they offend and alienate me, which they have. But it’s ok because most of them struggle financially whereas my wife and I live well. We earned it through years of hard work. I will keep up appearances until the old lady goes off to the great beyond, but the minute the funeral is over, I am packing my family in the car and we are riding off into the sunset. My cousin keeps telling me how I have to play a key role in keeping things together. Why? To preserve some BS romantic notion that we are all pals and really care for one another? My wife and I had hard times at one point. Did they call? Write? Help? Nope. Now that we are sorted out and getting better and better everyday, why should we pitch in? There is no compelling reason at all for me to spend time or money with these so called family members after granny kicks the bucket. Whew….. that felt good.

  36. I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to put up with toxic, sabotaging family after a matriarch or patriarch figure dies especially if the family’s anger at/jealousy of the dead comes out at the child of the deceased. There’s nothing superficial about self-preservation. My aunt mistreated me after my mother her older sister died. When I stopped allowing it, she made sure she ruined my relationship with her son, my cousin as revenge. From what I can tell many families only stayed close because they needed each other for survival anyway, bodies to work the farm, etc. I don’t think love had much to do with it.

  37. I love family traditions but i’m the last person to even try to keep it up. I hope my sisters are the ones to take over. I’ll just provide the support. (my aries sun/Taurus moon sister is the type to take over)

  38. I don’t want my parents to die any time soon but I am SO READY to take over when they do. *I* will be the matriarch some day 😀 My brothers are weak, they will bend to MY will. The family will stay together. They don’t have a choice. And neither do their future spouses. Or their future children. If I die a long time before my brothers though I don’t know if they’ll be able to keep doing family things. One is a recluse and the other is totally detached. My Dad lost touch with every single member of his family when his parents died and I could see my brothers doing the same. My Mom is still very much in touch with her family and her parents died decades ago.

  39. My Gemini grandmother held the family together for her four children and their families; after her husband died, she came to live with us (my mother was her youngest daughter). Thinks then revolved around our home, then my mother, but mostly my mother’s sister and my aunt, their sister-in-law, kept it glued and rolling. Due to ridiculous petty estrangements between extended married families and in-laws, and then the deaths of the aunts (both Aries) and my father (another Aries) the family sort of fractured; career moves for work took people hundreds and thousands of away.

    We cousins try to stay in touch, maybe see each other every other Christmas, and take turns hosting. My sister-in-law is great at this and the one located in the center of far flung people. But few are like my mother…sort of entrenched and won’t budge, everyone has to go to them. Outlying kingdoms. We all live 50 to 300 to 1000 miles from each other, so it’s a virtual kingdom. But nothing like it used to be; my husband’s family is still very intact with family event around the patriarch, but as he ages, it’s uncertain who will step up, it’s again sort of all of us taking turns — we all live relatively close to each other so it’s not as hard.

  40. For those stuck with only females to carry on a family name, definitely use your surname as a first or middle name for your children!! Those are often cooler than most given names…Jones OMalley, OMalley Jones etc…

  41. Growing up, I tried to keep the family together since my sister and my parents were in a constant fight. Some years were better than others. Dad was an alcoholic for the first 18 years of my life and then a recovered alcoholic. Amazingly enough, the final split with my sister happened after he died. He wasn’t much of a patriarch but he always took the blame for everything, so whenn he died there was no one else to take the blame.
    I don’t care about family anymore, my sister stepped on her mom and dad and me and now claims to have her own family. She refused any responsabilty for her role in this family, but she claims she is responsible. People do shitty things under the concept of ‘family’.

  42. My grandmother and her middle sister died within days of each other and were the last remaining siblings of 6. After my grandmother’s funeral, my mom and I went to see my great aunt in the hospital and as we said good bye to her daughters in the lobby their comment was “well, have a nice life, it is doubtful we will ever see you again with the “sisters” to keep us coming home.” They were right of course, in the 20 years since, we have neither seen or spoken to anyone from my grandmother’s family. I have reached out a couple of times, but it was clear there was no interest. Now my mother and I barely speak as she wants to only spend time with her husband and he has decided he does not want my kids in his house. Oh well…off to start new traditions and regrow our family tree off of a new branch.

  43. My father was a patriarch who connected the family (pisces sun, moon in libra). He died 20 ys ago and for some years my mother took over. Over the last ten years the responsibility has been passed on to me and one of my brothers. We have different areas. As I am the only one with kids I have become responsible when uniting family at birthdays and holidays. I am proud of this, but sometimes it is a heavy task. But I Will gladly do it to keep a foundation for my kids. Cancer rising conjunct saturn trine jupiter in Pisces. Sag sun in the 5th.

  44. I have thought about this. The part about the lights is interesting. My parents are in their late 80’s and lights will go out, unfortunately. They are dim in my case: Libra Sun and Scorpio Moon. I don’t have the energy or enthusiasm – the reasons are too difficult to explain. My two brothers are even worse – divorced, unmarried …

    I don’t think the family name is so important in these matters, but to people to whom it is, the law is flexible in my country.

  45. Funny to think back on it. We really needed to fall apart. My brother’s wives were all too ready to take over. My parents carried a certain power. It’s not that they were rich or powerful or anything, very salt of the earth with a touch of that married-in-the-40s romanticism (Hollywood in the 40s, they resembled those movies), maybe just cancer sun parents. By the time my mom passed I was very ready to move on. My sisters and I are still fairly close, up and down, in and out. I like organic process. I don’t like the commanders telling me what to do all the time. Hell, I’m almost 60. Who needs it?

  46. SparklySkyLamps father died 3 days after that post. R.i.p. Duke. Our grandma died 5 years ago and things have drifted since.

  47. I told my real father when his mother (my grandmother) passed I would be parted from that side of the family and begged him to remember that at her funeral. He went on and of course that was lost to me. I knew it would be. She was a fun Gemini and made sure I came to stay with her in the summer and that I got to know all my aunts, uncles and cousins.

    The grandmother that raised me had 11 brothers and sisters and was the glue and she made sure they all stayed together and that their kids and kids kids all knew each other. My mother took over and continued this and I tried to do the same for years. As the years went by my sisters began to fight so much that is was impossible to have them all in the same room without some sort of nastiness so I stopped doing it. I do however try to do it for my children and theirs.

    Its a lot of work trying to keep all the various personalities together. I frankly got sick of doing it. I will, with my own children be very clear with them. I tell them when I am gone they will only have each other and they need to remember to take care of each other. When one gets angry with the other I refuse to take sides only saying…. forgive each other…you are brothers. You’ll know how important your relationship is someday.

    There are so many fractured families today. Scattered all around. Barely contacting each other. I have an Aries cousin that flat refuses to let it happen. She will RAM the shit out of me lolololol she is not going to let it go. While she drives me crazy I do love her for it. She is going to make sure everyone visits and keeps in touch. I really like that about her.

  48. I don’t agree that it can be avoided, at least in all cases. I have seen three families been blown apart after the death of someone, and in each case, there was no good reason for it. It just was.

    In my own case, I was married to my best friend for 25 years, and knew her since childhood before that. She contracted cancer and fought it for over 3 years. We had a blended family with all adult children, the youngest being in mid 20’s.

    Kathie encouraged me to go to counseling while she was sick and one of the things the counselor and I talked a lot about was trying to keep the family together after Kathie passed. She was a former hospice nurse and told me, as your article did, that it’s not unusual for families to fly apart.

    My take away from all of this, is that for some reason, small previously ignored issues in a family can take on nuclear proportions after a parent dies. And it’s just not with me – it’s sibling to sibling issues that also destroy families after as well. The whole thing is a friggen mess. When I lost Kathie the death ripped through the very heart of my family and I lost my last connections to her through the children.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve basically come to the conclusion that during the “living years”, both parents need to be the glue, and not just one. But if the dying spouse was the glue and the surviving wasn’t, watch out. You may be lucky enough to have kids that adapt and bring you closer – thank goodness one out of five kids did that for me – but basically I feel if you haven’t been the glue before death of a family member you will be adrift at sea instead of continuing your role as family leader and magnet.

    I have moved on with my life, but I truly lost more than a soul mate when Kathie died. I lost a substantial part of my life though family

  49. My dad and I were always the more rational ones in the family, while my mom and sister have been estranged on and off for years and years, and fight viciously when they do reunite. After my dad died in January of 2014, they started using me as a go-between and personal on-call therapist. My sister literally never contacts me unless it’s to complain about my mom, and when I contact her she shows a bored sort of sceptical interest for a few minutes before starting in on my mom again. My mom, looneytunes though she can be sometimes, does contact me regularly with genuine interest in how I am. But she generally vents to me about my sister as well. My mom’s in Alberta Canada, I’m in Glasgow Scotland, and my sister is in Abu Dhabi U.A.E.

    My sister is vindictive, and has in the past told my niece that I am a pathological liar and degenerate, and now apparently my niece is under the impression that I am a racist and sexist (she has barely spoken to me in years and avoids it if she can, so there’s only one way she could have come to this conclusion as far as I can tell) and has cut me out of her life. I’m 28 and the past 15 years of my life have been consumed by my dad’s cancer, my mom’s encephalitis, her recovery and depression, constant familial backstabbing, and my dad’s death. He was the only one in the family who really supported me in the end in keeping this family together, and I have finally given up trying to keep it together alone. My family has completely fallen apart, with only my mom and I holding on. I have become a very solitary island.

    Ain’t life grand? Oy! I need a drink.

  50. My father was the heart of our family. He took charge when necessary and loved to have fun with the three of us (mother, sister and myself). In my memories, he is almost always smiling. But he passed away a few months ago from Parkinson’s dementia. He broke his hip after a fall, and never regained consciousness after surgery. This is the point where I lost my family. He had only a slim chance of surviving the surgery and it was grim. My mother and I never had a doubt about whether my sister would come. She lived only two hours away and had several in-laws and family to help with the kids. But she called about 10:00 PM to say she couldn’t come. I was shocked and angry. I had always thought that we were a loving family and would always support each other. I started to complain to my mother and as soon as I began to speak she launched into a furious defense of my sister that turned into a nasty personal attack against me. I have no doubt my mother was taking out her frustration with my sister’s absence against me. My sister had been distancing herself from me for a while, and had made several snarky comments that we both untrue and unlike her. So something about my father’s death must have finally brought out her ire.

    But the saddest part is that the rift with my sister lead to estrangement from my mother. I loved my mom, and knew that she could use lots of help. Not only in the aftermath of dad’s death, but in the future as she aged as well. My sister is moving thousands of miles away while I live five miles from my mother. We no longer speak to each other or see each other. Mom seemed to think that having ‘separate’ families would be fine, and continued to defend my sister. It was heartbreaking but I eventually decided to cut ties with my mother. My sister’s behavior had been so destructive and obvious to everyone but my mother. So now we never talk or see each other. I know she does not have much money and will require knee surgery soon. But too many bridges were burned, I’ll never see her again. Or my sister.

    Looking back, my sister spent lots of time with her in-laws and was gradually disengaging from the family. But the abruptness and hostility were shocking, especially under the circumstances. It seemed like she had been waiting a lifetime to lash out at me with contempt and cruelty. I only wish I knew why. I don’t have any memories of any animosities, and we were great friends in our teens. So I lost my entire family in a week. And I know with 99% certainty we’ll never see each other again.

  51. My only sister, who is about a year & half younger than I are not talking since the death of my mom a little over a year ago. I was 41 at the time, and my mom was 67. She died of a brain tumor. My aunt, my sis & I would take turns sitting by her bedside during the 7 months leading to her death. I did not see the break in my sister’s relationship coming. She & I had a close relationship, so I thought. We would openly show affection. We met regularly for lunch & would share each other’s lives freely. A couple weeks after my mom died, she messaged me a 6-page letter full of accusations of things I had done. Some of them I saw were a clear misunderstanding. Others I don’t even remember doing. I went to counseling, thinking I was going mad. I thought I had this evil self that had done these things unawares. Crazy, huh. I have some possible explanations to the “WHY” question. I just have to stop going down that road & move on.

    • I’m so sorry for your losses. Discovering the “why” has also lead me to counseling, and I’ve gained some insight. I realized that my mother was extremely resentful towards me, and had been expressing her anger to my sister. I don’t know why my mother was resentful, but I believe she expected me to step into my father’s role of caring for her. Perhaps my sister expected the same, I’m not sure. But somehow over the course of my father’s illness I became the odd man out and safest target for their anger. I’ve had to really put some emotional distance between myself and both of them. It’s been no problem with my sister, she’s been sniping at me for years and I’ve heard nothing from her since my father’s death. But my mother and I live in the same town and she seems to want to have the relationship we had before. I saw her at my aunt’s funeral just yesterday (I had only seen her a couple times since my dad’s death). I didn’t feel anything, just indifference. No sorrow, pity, anger, love, affection or anything I had felt before.

      But on a positive note, I’ve reached some acceptance with my father’s death. I can look at his photo and smile, now. For months I couldn’t bear to see his image or think of him, it just hurt too much.

      • Thank you for sharing that. I believe my mom was the glue that held my sister & I together. I think she may have been encouraging my sister to continue trying in her relationship with me. We are so very different in our personalities. Maybe she wasn’t able to understand me & instead of trying, she put walls up. After mom died, she had no one encouraging her to try. Some of her friends didn’t like me either so they were probably not helping. I guess you have to just be grateful for the relationship you did have & the gift that it was and be able to say goodbye.

  52. I am reeling with emotion after losing my mother 2 weeks ago, but after her passing,some of my other family members had a problem with the funeral arrangements that me and my siblings agreed to. I received hostile phone calls from 2 of my nieces and one of them put up a Facebook post asking some of the grandchildren if they were ok with the funeral arrangements. All of this turmoil went on before the funeral,and has continued forward, and I was devastated by it. The worst part of it is that the instigator of all of it is my youngest sister. Right now, I don’t want to lay eyes on her or her daughters again. I just pray and try to heal from the loss of my mom and the loss of a big part of my family.

  53. My mom was sick for 2 1/2 years, and one of my trouble some nieces never came to see her once, even though she came to NJ several times. My sister was up here for over 3 weeks in February and came to see her once. They were the worst. I will forgive all this for my sake, but I won’t forget their behavior.

  54. The relatives in my family who APPEARED to be the lights keeping everyone together by arranging get-togethers were/are all bullies. Every last of one them.

    I’m not knocking sincere efforts to strengthen and maintain family ties, but the motivation behind making the phone calls and coordinating the gatherings is not always coming from love at all.

    • Ditto is what I experienced. The bullying was horrendous & designed to keep you in line with their wants/needs/expectations only; absolutely nothing at all do with what was best for you as you were never even considered! Falseness, pretence, plastic fantastics (yep one sister-n-law had the plastic surgeries as her hubby was in the media), jealousy – so over it.
      Thankfully all now behind & no longer in contact with any of them. Whyever would you want to be?
      I remember being shocked & stunned at the time when the mother-in-law passed with the grab/greed for anything of value (there was nothing to do with sentiment at all) as the focus was purely on monetary value. Then when the father-in-law passed & witnessing the same, that just turned me away completely.
      M-i-L was the matriarch & F-i-L was the patriarch & that side just blew apart.
      I think the positive I took away from it was being able to openly discuss this with my kidlets (they were 16, 18 & 20 at the time) so old enough to understand.

  55. i think it’s related to an idea from Bowling Alone by Putnam, where in person associations may be dying…. even though they might be beneficial for our well-being.

    Still. If we don’t value each other (bullying or shaming people into action), then we can’t rely on each other and don’t trust each other. This also causes problems because those in-person associations may become damaging too, if we never learned how to be present with others without forcing them to do something.

    Part of the positives (decreased depression, better motivation, shared social resources and knowledge to get through tough times), of in-person meetings and get-togethers is based on being genuine with each other about boundaries and our own imperfection.

    Without the regular practice of heart-sourced appreciation, generosity and forgiveness in our time together, no one has the strength to continue gathering and giving to each other. This is when a get-together becomes a social charade, destroying our relationships to family. I wonder if we can change some of this in ourselves. So we can stop thinking our “enemy” is our “enemy” and instead love them. Realize they might just be “doing the best they can” (yeah..l read from Brene Brown,lol. She writes from the deep, I have to say)

    I’ve found a death of a matriarch or light in the family makes us have to confront the existing foundations built for the family: love or baggage. Then, we have to think, what is it that we want to base our relations on from now on? What is our vision for the greater good? What regrets will I have for inaction?

  56. I’ve been dealing with a lot of sadness since my mom passed away in 2014. My sister and I were very close and then when my mom got sick it’s like the glue unraveled for both of us. I live out of state so I think she resented the fact that she was the one that had to take care of mom the last year of her life. On top of that there was a lot of drama with regards to my moms estate when I took over as executor. Needless to say, it is 2017 and we have not spoken for over a year. At first, I had a lot of anger towards her because her and her husband mismanaged my moms affairs and then treated my family so badly. But after the estate was settled, I felt this huge sense of relief and was kind of ready to move on. She took a different approach. She unfriended me on facebook, moved without a forwarding address and just basically bowed out of my life. I can’t say that I have tried to loop myself back in but it still seems sad to me. I wonder if sometimes relationships with family need to fade away too? Lately, though, I find myself thinking about her and her family and missing the relationship we did have when it was good.

    • My story is similar to yours in that I lost the relationship I had with my sister when our mom died. I thought we were close. That hardest part is when you get to the point where you just miss her. You miss all the good times. To process this, aside from counseling, I wrote down the good memories we shared. I also wrote down the good memories I shared with my mom. It brought some healing to reflect on the happy times. Also, I said out loud (privately) that I forgave her for…..xyz. I had to verbally release her. I asked God to heal me from the wounds caused by my sis. It really helped. I think the wound will take time to heal. Losing a loved one this way is harder than losing them by death because they chose to walk away & said/ did hurtful things to you in the process. I will never forget my sister or the relationship we had. I choose to be grateful for it. Eventually, the pain inside will heal. It will take time & a continual choice to forgive and let go.

      • I never thought our relationship would get to this point, we talked and shared everything, then it’s almost like this hidden dysfunction exposed itself when my mom got sick. All of the resentments that she had for me but never shared previously bubbled up to the top. The problem was that nobody ever really talked about any of it, so it festered. Then after we had the opportunity to talk, she shut down and decided to not say anything. I am not sure that our relationship will ever be what it was, I guess that’s what makes me sad.

  57. Our stories are so very similar. It feels good to post on this page & hear from others who get it. It seems like no one around me understands what I am going through right now. I believe the same thing happened with my sister and I. My husband took our kids to visit her one time, and my nephew told him that my sister has a tendency to hold grudges. It has motivated me to make an effort to teach my 2 kids at their young age to work things out when they fight. It’s a skill a lot of people don’t have. It is easier to bail on a relationship. You miss out on a lot when you do that though. I know that some relationships are unhealthy and separating yourself is the answer. However, it is good to at least try to work things out before you give up, especially with a relationship you’ve had your whole life! My sister & I have shared life events/ experiences that only we could understand. She is the only one I could relate with on those things. One of the things that makes me sad is that I am losing out on reminiscing with her.

    • Yes, very similar. My sister has a tendency to hold on to things too. When all the stress surfaced with my mom she started throwing things in my face that I did 20 years ago to her! It was so odd and to be honest, some of the things I did not even remember doing as I was so young and stupid at the time. I’m not sure how to fix it. I think it will require a lot of honesty and that is one thing I am not sure she is capable at this point. There is more to the story right now that I don’t want to delve into (theft etc.) but it will only get resolved if shes willing to talk about it honestly and open. I am at peace with the relationship I had with my mom but I also think my way of handling my moms death did not sit well with her either. They say everyone grieves differently, she was more open about it and I think expected me to grieve the same way she did. My relationship with my mom was strained at times and I did the best I could. One day, I think I will have to be the one to break the communication and reach out to her. She won’t do it otherwise. Sad, very sad.

  58. My sister wrote me this long letter and accused me of doing things that I had not recollection of. The thought crossed my mind that they were things that had happened 20-30 years ago, when we were young. Some of it was current, but it was a complete misunderstanding. We have very different personalities also, but in the past, I saw this as a strength in our relationship. I am more quiet and not as out-going as her. She would bring out parts of me that others couldn’t. I haven’t laughed with anyone as much as when we would hang out. I sure do miss that. I have sent her a letter trying to explain why she may have misunderstood me in the past, along with a bunch of memories of us and of mom that I thought may remind her of the relationship we had. I was hoping to soften her heart. I sent the letter last week. It is the first time I tried to contact her (other than a bday card) since our mom died in Feb 2016. I haven’t heard back from her yet. Right now my heart is injured and I am trying to heal. I certainly don’t want to have a talk with her if she is not going to be loving in her response. Part of me doesn’t want her to contact me yet until I heal.
    I can relate to what you said about different ways of grieving. My grieving was to talk to my mom about death and heaven and arrange the burial service and memorial after her death. I didn’t cry when it is happening. It hit me later. I cried going to baseball games for my son, while driving in the car or at the grocery store…not usually in front of family or friends. She is very overt and emotional. What you said about your sister may have been part of it too. She may have been offended about the way I grieve, thinking I didn’t care as much.

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