Lace up the boxing gloves, y'all, because someone has passed away and a family fight is brewing. Opinions and emotions are running high and no one can agree on anything. Not one single thing. Absolutely every decision causes disagreement- the casket choice, the music selection and even the headstone design. And we haven't even gotten to settling the estate yet. Throw a little money into the dynamic, and things tend to amplify ten-fold.
No One Wants a Family Fight!
The thing is, no one wants a family fight. Okay, okay, so of course there are those that may truly want to fight. But in my experience, most people do not want to fight with their family members. When they do fight, it is typically because they feel very passionate about their opinions and ideas. And sometimes passion can cause even the most level-headed to become embroiled in feuding.
When it comes to family fighting after a death, I have seen it all in my showroom. I have witnessed an intense (albeit funny) rock-paper-scissors competition to see who gets their way with the headstone design. In the showroom at my store I have heard ugly name-calling that made me cringe. And I have seen the gnashing of teeth and clenching of fists that was *almost* call-the-cops worthy.
And then there are the families that seem to get along just fine. They visit and listen to one another's ideas, ask thoughtful questions and give and take a little. Sometimes they seem like the picture perfect family. But, remember, no one has a picture perfect family! In fact, even the closest of families may experience a little “spat” here and there.
If you find your family is feeling a little tense over the end of life decisions needing to be made, you will certainly want to keep reading. But before youcontinue, consider downloading my Memorial Creation Journal, which will help guide your family through the decisions that need to be made for the headstone. This guide will help keep your conversations on track!
Personalities Involved in a Family Fight
Sometimes a family fight can be avoided, or minimized, by understanding the varying personalities in involved. Of course there are SO many different personality types. There are personalities such as “The Greedy One” and “The Doormat”. But we are not focusing on those right now. I will cover those in future blog posts; but today, I am focusing on “The One in Control” and “The Opinionated One”. They seem to be two of the most popular that I hear about!
Personality Type #1- The One in Control
We all know someone who likes to be in control. Whether they like to be in control of themselves or of others, they find comfort in control. It isn't the act of controlling that they find comfort in. Rather, it is the known, or anticipated, results that they find comfort in.
When someone passes away it can feel as though your world is quickly spiraling out of control. Their schedule can change, emotions feel all over the place and nothing at all is normal. And, for someone who finds comfort in control, this can result in feelings of panic and anxiety. In fact, they often find themselves desperately trying to control anything they can because they simply desire the comfort.
I found an amazing blog post I want to share. It is written by a self-proclaimed “control freak” who has lost her son. She explains how her controlling tendencies impacted her grief and the behaviors she found herself engaging in. This post is SO GOOD! If you have a loved one who finds comfort in control (of if it is you!), please check out this post to help you better understand how grief impacts them. Click here to read Grief and the Control Freak by Shelley Ramsey.
Strategy for the Controller
Let them know that you value their attention to detail and ability. Explain you would like for them to specifically honor your loved one by being in charge of selecting the music/outfit the deceased will wear/casket piece/whatever. And then…honor that request and live with what they select. Know that their selection comes from a place of love and choose to honor that love by accepting it. (This is easier said than done).
When confronted by them about their choice, you don't have to lie and say you love it. If you don't care for the song they chose, phrase your response as “I love the thought you put into selecting it. Mom would love to know you put such thought into her music”. Or, “I love the quality of the casket you chose. I think grandpa would like knowing you wanted the best for him.”
Personality Type #2- The Opinionated One
Sometimes you have a family member that wants what they want because they firmly believe their idea is “the right way”. And they are not scared to tell you so! These folks are often tend to be perfectionists and find comfort in knowing every detail they envisioned was successfully executed. They find comfort in success.
When someone passes away it can feel as though a family, lifestyle, future, etc, is at risk of crumbling or failing. And, for someone who finds comfort in success, this can result in feelings of panic and anxiety. To avoid these feelings they tend to insert themselves into every decision and voice their opinion. While it may come across as them being a “jerk”, in reality, they typically aren't trying to be. In fact, they strongly care about the successful outcome of the task at hand and find comfort in making it successful.
Strategy for the Opinionated One
With those who are opinionated, it is best to choose three options that you are okay with and present them. For example, “I really liked this monument for mom. It fits our budget, our cemetery requirements and her taste. There are three design options that work given the size, color and shape of the stone. Which of these options do you prefer?” This allows you to involve the opinionated person and even choose something they like.
In Summary- Avoid a Family Fight!
Step 1: Understand their why
If you are struggling to work with a family member, try to identify what it is they find comfort in. It is not easy to do this objectively! You have a history with this family member- there may be previous pains involved. But for the sake of your own sanity right now, you need to understand their personality type and try to use that knowledge to your advantage.
Step 2: Understand YOUR why
It is often difficult to know what your personality type is or what brings you comfort. Really try to dig deep and understand what you desire right now. Is it comfort in knowing the estate was neatly closed? Is it the honor of knowing you carried out a loved one's wishes? Do you desire comfort from others such as empathy or sympathy? Understanding what brings you comfort is tough but important.
Step 3: Understand where you differ
Being able to identify where you and a family member's differences lie is important. Perhaps you seek comfort in feelings of honor and your sibling seeks comfort in knowing the anticipated results. Keeping it in mind throughout your interactions is very important! It may even be helpful to have a conversation about these differences.
Step 4: Communicate Wisely
This is the hard part! While you cannot control their actions or reactions, you can control yours. Take a step back, think before you speak and don't be scared to excuse yourself from the situation for a moment. Sometimes a little break can help you put everything in perspective.
For additional resources to help support your family through the grieving process, checkout Remembering a Life- A Guide for Families by the National Funeral Director's Association.