our everyday life

How to Cope With Adult Siblings After the Death of Your Father

by Joan Hartman, studioD

Loss of a parent can be an overwhelming experience. Adding the stress of dealing with your siblings after the death of your father can elevate that stress level to monumental proportions. Don’t neglect your physical, emotional and even financial needs during this time. Taking good care of yourself will help you cope with those around you and the difficult decisions that may need to be made.

Emotional Needs

Keeping in mind that everyone grieves in different ways and even shared grief is very personal can help alleviate some anxiety and pressure. It isn’t fair to make judgments about how you work through your grief compared to how your sister or brother expresses theirs. If you need to go for a walk, call a friend or go bowling then do it. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself in any way that works for you. It is not your responsibility to alleviate your sibling’s grief. Taking care of you in a healthy manner will set a good example for them to deal with their own grief.

Physical Health Needs

Experiencing the depth of your own grief and that of your siblings can be exhausting. With so many things to take care of it is easy to neglect your own physical health needs. Be sure to rest, eat a healthy diet and maintain your regular routines as much as possible. And don’t be afraid to laugh and smile when your and your siblings talk and reminisce about your father. A 2004 study, published in American Psychologist, completed by George Bonanno at Columbia University on the topic of human resilience following loss and trauma found that those who are able to experience genuine laughter and smiles when remembering their loved ones worked through their bereavement much better than those who repressed their positive feelings.

Making Important Decisions

It is tempting to sign documents or work quickly to take care of estate matters in an attempt to alleviate the pain or pressure of having it remain undecided. Because grief can be so overwhelming it inhibits the ability to make good judgments. Dr. Edward Creagan, an oncologist at Mayo Clinic, advises putting off major decisions when possible to ensure you make the best decision for you and for your family. If it is necessary to move quickly seek advice from someone you trust who isn’t also grieving to get a clearer picture before you make a decision.

Dealing with an Unfair Will

You may be faced with feelings of anger, resentment and hurt which can make you question your relationships with your father and your siblings. This is especially true if you or your siblings disagree with your father’s will. Before deciding you want to challenge any aspect of the will, weigh out the effect that decision will have on your relationships with your siblings. You may regret letting emotion guide you if it causes a rift between you and your brother or sister. Willow Lawson, "Psychology Today" author of How Can I Deal With an Unfair Will, says it is important to remind yourself that although you may not have been acknowledged the way you expected it doesn’t diminish your feelings for your father and is not a measure of the value he placed on your relationship.

About the Author

Based in the heartland of Illinois, Joan Hartman has been counseling individuals, youth and families since 1993. She has written and published a manual for counselors helping youth who are experiencing alcohol and drug problems. She holds a Master of Education degree in counseling psychology from the University of Louisville.

Photo Credits

  • David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images