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5 Ways to Promote Family Unity After a Death

Deaths are difficult times for families, and not just because of the grief and sadness involved. Suddenly, the extended family is thrust together. While this time should be for love and healing, it can also bring out old grudges, disagreements, and difficulties.

Here are some ideas to help you avoid family discord and promote family unity after a loved one's death.

1. Respect the Departed's Wishes

Different family members may have different opinions about the funeral, burial, and division of the estate. However, the opinion that matters above all is that of the departed.

Ideally, your departed loved one left a will expressing his or her wishes. Despite their personal opinions, family members should respect the departed's wishes for the funeral and burial.

The funeral should ascribe to the departed's religious beliefs, even if family members follow different religions. Ask the departed's religious leader to meet with the family before the funeral and explain more about the departed's religious beliefs.

After the funeral comes the difficult task of dividing the estate. The will should designate the departed's choice of executor, who is in charge of carrying out the will. The executor can also choose an estate lawyer to work as the mediator. It's especially important to hire an estate lawyer if the departed did not leave a will, if the departed left a large estate, or if the family anticipates conflict with the division of the property.

2. Know Your Role in Planning the Funeral

Typically, it's the responsibility of the next-of-kin (the closest living relative over age 18) to take charge of the funeral planning. The next-of-kin has the right to make any decisions not indicated in the will. The next-of-kin hierarchy is:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Guardians
  • Grandchildren
  • Great-grandchildren
  • Nieces and nephews
  • Grand-nieces and grand-nephews
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Cousins

If you're the next-of-kin, you don't have to manage everything yourself. Make a list of things you need to do and start asking family and friends for help.

If you aren't the next-of-kin, volunteer to help in the way you best can. For example, if you're an experienced chef, you could volunteer to plan a family dinner. If you know about floral design, you could volunteer to select the flower arrangements. Don't be offended if the immediate family says "no." Simply be available for whatever they may ask you to do.

3. Welcome Everyone at the Funeral

Many situations can complicate family relationships. However, a funeral is a time for you and other family members to share in your mutual love for the departed. It's not a good time to express your disappointment or dislike for other family members. No matter any past grievances, express your gratitude and appreciation to anyone who attends.

If you think that your presence at someone's funeral will upset the immediate family, call someone in the family you trust and discuss whether you should attend. If you choose not to attend, send a note expressing your condolences.

4. Plan a Family Service

A funeral is a rare opportunity to reunite with many members of your family. However, at the funeral, family members will be busy greeting many friends and acquaintances. The family should have an opportunity to meet together and strengthen family bonds. Ideas include:

A family prayer service before the funeral

A family dinner after the service

A quiet evening to share memories and stories about the departed, including looking at photos and watching home videos A short service at the burial, including speeches, prayers, or musical numbers

These family activities can help you strengthen family relationships. They can also help you cope with your grief together as you reflect on memories of your loved one.

5. Give Family Members the Benefit of the Doubt

Remember that this time is stressful for all family members. They are trying to sort through their grief while dealing with nerve-racking decisions and high funeral costs. With a heightened emotional state comes a greater difficulty thinking rationally and making decisions. During this crazy time, family members may act selfishly or illogically in a desperate quest to gain a sense of control.

If a family member does something you don't agree with, don't give in to anger or blame. If necessary, talk to him or her about why his or her actions hurt you. When possible, try to let go and move on. Recognize that during this time, your family members might not act their best and might make some mistakes along the way.

Follow these guidelines to promote greater love and friendship among family members. Your loved one's funeral can be a time of family unity rather than division.

At Elmwood Casket Company, we believe that the cost of the funeral shouldn't drive a wedge in your family relationships. Turn to us for affordable, beautiful caskets, burial vaults, urns, and headstones that are up to 50% cheaper than those at funeral homes.

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