As promised last week, here’s how you can contribute to a more peaceful resolution when dividing heirlooms in your parents’ estate.
- Sit down and say what’s on your mind. Beating around the bush confuses everyone. Confrontation is not necessarily a bad thing. My father always said that the day after a thunderstorm is usually clean, bright, and beautiful. It clears the air and so does a confrontation that is more about sharing than finger pointing. Some heirs can’t handle this confrontation, and I would definitely recommend some kind of mediation, if they want to save the relationship. The down side is that if they don’t fix this early on, the relationship is normally irreparable as the damage is done. Then, both parties live out their lives with anger in their hearts.
- It’s vital to do everything you can to keep the peace. Regardless of what part you play in this, it will have an impact on you too, most especially a negative impact. Even indirectly connected, it will touch you in some negative way. To avoid this, do your best to take the “high road.” It feels good to do so, though it’s not always easy.
- Validate the other person’s feelings if they share them with you. At least, listen. Repeat what they said to you so they feel you heard them. Both should agree to simply do the best you can to smooth it over somehow. A photo of Mom and Dad sitting in front of you wouldn’t hurt. After all, this is about honoring them and not about the heirs.
- Encourage others to be a part of the healing process, if they would like to be. It is not about taking sides. It is about encouraging both parties to do what they can to heal the hurt. Always remain objective and try very hard to see the other side. Seeing both sides, or at least putting yourself in the other’s shoes, might very well lend some insight into the situation. The problem is that we are generally too self-centered to do this. Promise me you’ll try!
Dividing heirlooms can be one of the most contentious experiences of our adult lives. There is no way to completely eliminate family squabbles. But, you can learn to put them out when they are smoldering, instead of when they grow into a full-blown forest fire.
© 2010 Julie Hall