Difficult Family Members

Widows often ask me for advice on how to get along with difficult family members.  It helps to acknowledge that we love our families even though they may get under our skin.  Also, the perfect family does not exist and if there was drama before your loss then you can be sure there will be drama afterwards.

As widows we seek out support and understanding for our loss and grief, and unfortunately family members may not be able to provide us with what we need.

Start by identifying what you’re feeling, while understanding that unless they are a widow, they may not be able to relate to what you are saying.

Often when we think about setting boundaries, we focus on others, but this is about you.  It’s up to you to respect your space and come up with specific ground rules if difficult family members disrespect you.

It’s also important to know that it’s your choice to continue with a strained relationship, limit the time together or even to break away for your own mental health.

Step back and think about all the changes you are going through as a widow.  Not all the stress with family may be caused by them, you may have contributed part of it.  It’s natural to be emotional, touchy and even angry after the loss of a loved one.

To cultivate and strength our family bonds we can make the effort to check in with them, sharing memories and honoring your history.  Don’t wait for them to reach out to you, because for many, they just don’t know what to say to a person who is grieving.

If a lot of time has passed since you have seen each other, consider a get together online, a phone call or at least a text message.  It’s difficult for you and if you don’t have the energy for them, then just let them know that.

Don’t avoid your grief, and if they just can’t meet you where you are at, then step back until you do have the energy to handle the members of the family that are difficult.

It doesn’t mean that you don’t care or that they don’t care, it is just that they don’t get it.

Life has changed for you and while in the past you may have tolerated difficult family members, you have lost your loved one, and you may not have it in you to make the effort.

If that is the case step back awhile before you say or do something while grieving, that you may regret later when your journey is farther along and not so emotional.

  1. june483
    | Reply

    Thank you Mary Francis – this is particularly relevant for me. It has been extremely difficult to maintain relationships. I have lost the desire to reach out and as a result my world is turned upside down. I am learning to see just about everything from a different perspective.

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