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Getting Along With Family After a Parent Dies

What happened to those blissful summer reunions brimming with prized family recipes and boisterous laughter, or listening to your brother’s quirky stories during the holidays? The loss of one or both parents can complicate everything from settling wills to simply talking on the phone. Sometimes the death of Dad or Mom reveals relationship fractures that can widen into frustration, blame, distancing or rage.


After a parent passes, how can you adapt to your changing familial relationships now and in the future? How do you reconnect when the family bonds are frayed or already severed? Perhaps the following tips will help:

  • Practice small steps of open communication. Be direct and honest about what you value in the family. Post a fun family photo to Facebook®. Pick up the phone and make a quick call. Suggest a time when most of the family can get together during the next six months. A graduation, wedding, birth of a baby or holidays are all natural reasons to reunite for a shared occasion.

  • Forgive and move on from the past. Some family members struggle to let go of resentment over things from years ago. Own up to your own faults and ask for forgiveness if necessary. Seek counseling to resolve destructive feelings and right your own ship. Otherwise, live in the present and give discontented family members space. Refuse to let another person’s unhealthy behavior ruin enjoyment for the rest of you.

  • Reclaim or reset family traditions. If family reunions or vacations together have gone by the wayside, initiate at least one of them again. Maybe your family traditions are as simple as baking holiday cookies, grilling in the backyard or attending a sporting event for the kids. Together with your siblings and broader family circle, make a list of the traditions you still want to celebrate and pass on to future generations.


How has your family navigated your relationships after the death of a parent?

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