Dr. Emi Garzitto
The Intersection of Money, Grief and Conflict
Death brings up completely complicated feelings.
Our body is in a state of shock. There is a severing of a connection.
It is a kind of loss even if it is with someone we have struggled with or even hated.
As I remind my clients, hate is a relationship. The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. All of these complicated feelings mixed with trauma especially the trauma of our early childhood firmly embedded in memory lodged somewhere in our body can bring about a toxic cocktail that we call grief.
Money and stuff that belonged to the deceased suddenly becomes valuable for what it represents. It can represent love, equity or inequity. It can become "payback" or retribution. Who gets the most? Who did mom and dad love the most? There are a multitude of experiences and feelings that begin to unravel and they are tied up with our trauma and experiences with the deceased and those still alive.
How can we navigate all of this while we are still trying to process and heal and understand our own experience of someone's passing? There is no easy answer and one size fits all strategy but I offer a few suggestions to help you navigate all of the complexity of loss.
1. Slow Things Down. When your brain is in a state of grief or trauma it is not working at its best. It is working in survival mode and the parts of your brain that you need to access might not be available. So. slow it down. Breathe. Pause. Do one task at a time and pause in between tasks.
2. Pay Attention To Your Feelings. This is important because your feelings are going to guide you in your healing and in the moving towards a freedom and a release of past burdens that may have weighed you down. Noticing your feelings. Take time during the day to check in on your nervous system. What am I feeling? Where do I feel it? How much energy do I have in my body? These are all good check-ins to have with yourself. If you have a journal it's a great idea to write down this process. Keep a record of the times and memories that show up with the feelings. Become an explorer of your feeling landscape.
3. Take Your Feelings With a Grain of Salt. This might feel contradictory to point number 2 but it is in fact critical. Your ability to notice your feelings and not act on them is a discipline that is going to be very valuable . The anger or resentment you might feel about a family member is good information and it may be rooted in history, behaviour and past practice but it needs to get tabled because you are not in a place to attend to it just yet. Avoid getting caught up in your feelings. Leave this for when you are more resourced and clear.
4. Table Big Decisions. Take the time to pause and manage the immediate experience and tasks like the funeral arrangements, the financial paperwork and so on. This is not the time to leave a marriage, start a business or sever ties with your siblings. All of these decisions need to be tabled for another time when you have taken care of number 3. You need to process those feelings when you have more resources before you go ahead and make the big decisions. Your brain is not quite ready and neither is your nervous system.
5. Make Self Care a Priority. Your present day experience can be excruciating but it is also an opportunity for healing and evolving into a better, more congruent version of you. Play the long game and focus on making sure you are supporting your physical body. When you take care of your body you are doing double duty because you are also taking care of your feelings. Take a shower, get dressed in clean clothes, go outdoors, move your body and drink water. These small but critical steps will help you to move you forward. It will help your body to acclimatize to its new direction.
6. Get Help From Professionals. You should not do this alone. If the conflict over financial separation is large bring in professional support. Do not hesitate to to get help from professionals to help you in managing all of this complexity. Take advantage of EAP programs ,grief counsellors, and financial planners. Experts in handling grief, loss and conflict can guide you and and save you time and money as you move towards healing.