Family Bitterness and Quarrels

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”Squabbling Families, How to Stop the Bitterness?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My mother passed on recently and I need to get with my brother, who is trustee of her estate, to discuss the issues of the trust. Our relationship is strained. To tell you the truth I have resented him for a long time because he manipulated my folks to give him things I never got. How can I end my bitterness so I can work with him to carry out mom’s wishes?


Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Bitter:

It is unfortunate when sibling jealousy creates conflict and causes a serious separation. However, such bitterness and the rift it can cause in a sibling relationship need not interfere with the business at hand.

In some instances where siblings had difficulty setting such feelings aside in order to handle family business, they chose to seek professional help (e.g., counseling) and found that this assisted them to resolve their bitterness. However, if at that point the sibling with whom they were to discuss the family business was still unapproachable, then seeking legal advice was a logical next step.

”Family Quarrel, Did it Hasten a Loved One’s Death?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

My mother died peacefully in the hospital after a long illness. During her last few hours my siblings and I were arguing amongst ourselves at her bedside. I feel guilty because I think maybe our argument hastened mother’s death. Is that possible?

Tormented Daughter.

Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Daughter:

Of course, always consult one’s physician about matters concerning the body. That said, guilt is an emotional phenomenon that would be difficult to fully explain in a brief forum such as this. Suffice to say that as I read the description of your torment, I find myself curious as to why there is guilt when a family member died peacefully. Although some people believe that upset can trigger a stressful physical reaction, given a peaceful death stress would not appear to be a factor.

But guilt is guilt and it is important to identify its cause. One explanation could be that if one person is opinionated during a conversation and a quarrel ensues (in this case, siblings quarreling during mother’s final moments), then the opinionated person may feel guilty for being opinionated and angry with those who quarreled with her. Her guilt could be linked to thoughts such as, “if I wasn’t so opinionated there wouldn’t have been a quarrel.”

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this weekly column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Extra articles and additional Q & As may occasionally be posted in response to specially requested topics. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

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