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How to Avoid Arguing With a Sibling at a Funeral

by Maura Banar, studioD

Often, a funeral often brings out emotions that range from anger to denial. When a family member dies, this can translate into uncharacteristic behaviors exhibited in other members of the family. Previously unexpressed or displaced anger can lead to arguing with a sibling at a funeral. This poses a problem for other attendees, who are trying to process their loss while paying their final respects. Additionally, arguing at a funeral draws attention away from the person who has passed away, showing a lack of respect. You shouldn’t express your disagreement with your sibling at a funeral, and in fact, the most respectful approach is to avoid confrontation.

Communicate to your sibling that you are not willing to engage in an argument at the funeral. Part of the intention behind communication is to make things known to another person, states Clemson University, in its online publication "Building Family Strengths." In the case of your sibling, communicate by stating clearly that no argument between you will occur because you will not participate. Keep in mind that although you don't have control over your sibling's reaction, you have already taken control of your own behavior -- and it takes at least two individuals to hold an argument.

Remove yourself physically from potentially volatile encounters with your sibling. If there is a positive aspect of funerals, it is that they involve a number of people in a relatively limited space. For you, this is an opportunity to choose the opposite side of the room so that you can be as far away as possible from the sibling that you are in conflict with. Removing yourself from potential arguments also provides you with space to collect your thoughts and emotions, states the University of Arizona in its online publication "Avoid Argument."

Enlist the support of friends or family members who are also attending the funeral. Conflicts between family members are usually not a well-kept secret, and human behavior tends to favor aligning with one side or the other. This will provide you with the opportunity to surround yourself with one or more individuals who can act as a perceived barrier between you and your sibling. Be careful not to make protecting you from conflict the primary goal for staying with your supports, because this becomes more of an obligation to you and not to the deceased. Also, avoid engaging with your supports in complaining about your sibling or the conflict.

Discuss the conflict directly with your sibling, with an offer for a resolution or at least a temporary hiatus until after the funeral. Keep in mind that confrontation can lead to additional conflict -- but in some cases -- it is worth trying to make the best of a difficult situation. When speaking with your sibling, use "I" statements, and avoid blaming or passing judgment. Explain your feelings, including descriptions of the behaviors that led to the emotions. Don't assume what your sibling is thinking or feeling -- even if you believe with certainty that you are in the right.

Maintain an awareness that at any time, your emotions may arise during the funeral, posing the possibility that you may feel compelled to lash out at your sibling. While your sibling in this case, may not be the cause of your heightened emotional state, strong emotions are often displaced. Displacement, a term often used in the field of psychoanalysis, refers to the application of a strong emotion on something or someone who is not the original stimulus for the emotion. You may have strong feelings that include anger at the loss of someone but that someone isn't there to receive your expression of anger.

Anticipate and prepare yourself for the possibility of confrontation during the funeral. Ideally, both you and your sibling can maintain decorum at this difficult time but if the hostility between you has been simmering for some time, managing your anger and theirs may feel like an impossible task. MayoClinic.com explains in its online publication "Anger Management: 10 Tips to Tame Your Temper" that simple approaches such as counting to ten can help you manage your emotions. If you're confronted by your sibling during the funeral, you have the choice to walk away and take a break. You also have the ability and the option to think before you speak and consider the potential consequences of each chosen action.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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