Recently an acquaintance of mine, Joe, shared that he was “stuck” in his grief. Upon asking some probing questions I found out that shortly before her death his mother gave some jewelry, which Joe referred to as “family heirlooms”, to his sisters who, quickly after their mother’s death, turned the items in for cash. I sensed his mounting rage as he shared details of their deception adding “they didn’t even need the money”.
Before the “heirloom cashing” the siblings had been close even referring to them as his “best friends”, however at this point they had not spoken in well over a year.
I asked him 2 questions:
Q1. How has your anger towards your sisters affected your life?
A: Joe’s anger was negatively affecting other relationships; most concerning was that the bitterness he carried was interfering with his ability to connect with his wife. He had also isolated himself from the rest of his family intentionally missing his niece’s wedding and the graduations of 2 other nieces. However he said he did “the right thing” and called the nieces to explain that “because of their mothers” he would not be there but sent a nice gift.
Q2. How do you think your mother would feel knowing that her “stuff” caused you to cut off your sisters and miss family celebrations?
Tears welled up in his eyes as he said. “She would have never wanted this to happen.”
I shared the following with him:
- Inheritance is left to family as a gift. Unless there’s a contingency on how it’s to be used, then the person who receives it can do whatever they want with it as it now belongs to them.
- We place emotional value on inheritance based on a story we’ve attached to it. Inheritance is, simply put, stuff belonging to someone who, prior to their death, made a decision to give it to someone else.
- Destroying relationships with people we love over stuff eventually destroys all our other relationships, as we displace anger and bitterness onto those we’re still connected with.
- Anger and bitterness breed anger and bitterness. Harboring bitterness over alleged offenses by family members will create an inheritance of anger and bitterness for future generations.
Joe’s story is not unique; I’ve heard hundreds of similar stories over my 20 year career.
However; the bottom line is: If you are going through something similar or know someone who is ask the question: “Is this what your deceased loved one would have wanted?” If the answer is “no”, then put down your anger and pick up the phone TODAY, call those family members and begin the healing together.