Don't let grief distort priorities

By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added December 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Note: This is the third in a series of editorials about loss, mourning and death. If you haven’t, you might want to visit the archives to catch up.

Mourning is hard enough without worrying that your family is about to implode.

A total of 34 days elapsed between the day my grandmother died and the day the fight began over her estate. Some of my family members felt they “deserved” a bigger piece of the pie than they got, which led to a Facebook flame war. Things were said that can’t be taken back and because of that, I doubt things will ever be the same again.

Saying that watching my family unravel because of a few thousand dollars is less than ideal would be the understatement of the century. But, alas, here I sit, watching the family I thought was rock-solid losing their minds because they’re blinded by dollar signs. I’m distraught and feel like walking away from the lot of them.

Watching my family behave in a way that is uncouth, and completely divergent from the class, elegance, patience and serenity my grandmother embodied and inspired in others, has been incredibly tough. Not just tough, but devastating. If I were being honest, I would say there is even a level of disgust I’m feeling.

In this situation, money is not my concern. In the grand scheme, this little windfall won’t make or break me financially. But I am incredibly concerned that the Nichols family, as I have come to know it, might be dissolving.

When she was living, I always knew Johnnie Ethel was the rock everyone in our family clung to. But it appears she was also the keystone keeping the Arc de Nichols from crumbling to the ground.

Poetic license aside, this is a big problem.

During times of great struggle, one’s family should be there to help and support them. But when the struggle is with your family, to whom do you turn? If I had the answer, I’d liberally apply the solution to soothe what ails you, but, unfortunately, I don’t.

The best advice I can offer to someone in a similar position is to remove yourself. It’s hard to get covered in mud if you stay in the house. Sure, you might not get the financial benefit, but you’ll have peace of mind. If the monetary benefit of your loved one’s unfortunate demise is what you’re most concerned about, then you might need to take some time and re-evaluate your motives.

The previous statement is not meant to be a judgment on those who are concerned about the financial benefits. There are several very legitimate reasons why one would care about finances, but it is very important to make sure you’re not becoming a vulture.

If you let it, money can lead you to some places you otherwise would never visit. When you’re in mourning, you’re dealing with all sorts of incredibly complex emotions. During that time it’s very easy to succumb to the tunnel vision emotional frailty allows for, which is why I say it’s best to stay out of it.

Disputes about money, legacy, memorials and everything else coming after someone dies are all waiting to make you go crazy. But you must try to keep a level head. You mustn’t let yourself fall prey to the negativity. This is a lesson I have had to learn first hand.

Stupidly, I started following the thread and comments, which led to my becoming increasingly enraged. There was a moment where I let rage overtake me, but luckily I got back in control before I pressed send.

I don’t want to make it seem like I was so in control that I found the strength within myself, because frankly, in the moment, I was ready lose all decorum. In truth, I was reminded that both my mother and grandmother would want better from me.

Dealing with this dispute has been quite challenging for me, but as it stands, I think I’ll be able to stay the course. I’m far enough along through the grieving process that I’m unlikely to melt into a gooey puddle of sad, which is promising. Hopefully recent events will lead to good things, but that has yet to be seen.

For the next piece in this series, I want to explore your experiences with grieving and loss. Contact me with your stories,

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