Getting along with family after a parent dies

Right at Home John Headshot (2) (Small)By John Baldwin, FLTN Columnist-

Remember those blissful summer reunions brimming with prized family recipes and boisterous laughter, or treasured holidays with the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all savoring rich memories? You thought your family closeness would always hold strong, tethered by love and unity. But with the loss of one parent or both, you may now realize something is lacking in your communication and your togetherness.

As typical in many families after a parent dies, Dad or Mom, or both, proved the glue that bonded everyone else in the immediate and extended family together. If your parent was ill before death, chances are you and your siblings poured yourselves into caregiving and frequent communication, but now find yourselves drifting apart. Without the patriarchal or matriarchal captain of the family, navigating family relationship dynamics can feel like floundering in unchartered waters.

Grief unfurls differently for every family, complicating everything from settling wills and dividing up possessions to setting up reunions or simply talking on the phone. While post-loss emotions run high, what if the death of Dad or Mom reveals relationship fractures that widen into frustration, blame, distancing or rage?

The death of a parent can shake a family to its core. Sometimes as we are assisting the remaining spouse or older family members, we hear about an eruption in sibling strife or family bickering. However, disagreements shouldn’t lead to the breaking of family ties. We can all benefit from better coping skills when in comes to losing a parent and gaining a new way of relating to the loved ones who are still living.

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. Then, pull out the calendar and pick up the phone.

The Perrysburg Office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., serving the communities of Wood, Lucas and parts of Sandusky counties. For more information, contact Right at Home of Perrysburg at, 567-336-6062,or by email at