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Helping a Sibling Make Peace with Mom at End-of-Life

by Viki Kind, End-of-Life Expert
June 07, 2012

Question: My mom is dying and I am really worried because my sister won’t say her goodbyes or make peace with our mom. I don’t want her to live with a lot of regrets but every time I tell her she needs to talk to mom, she gets angry. What should I do?

Answer: I really appreciate how much you care about your sister and your mom. There are a lot reasons that people don’t do what they need to at the end of life. You probably already know that your sister has a very different relationship with your mom than you do. Maybe she is mad at her mom for something from the past. Or perhaps it is too painful to accept that her mom is really dying.  Or maybe she still needs her mom and she doesn’t want to let go.There are so may people resist making peace.  

And unfortunately, not everyone can have peace after someone has died. For some people, holding onto their anger is more important than trying to find closure. Many people live with a lot of regrets after a death.

What I suggest you try to do is to tell your sister that whatever she decides to do, you understand.  Then listen with an open heart to why it is so difficult for her to bring herself to do this end-of-life work. You may find that there are valid reasons for her actions.  I often find that when I listen to a person’s story, I can find my own peace as I can now understand why this person is acting in a certain way. But be careful. You have to have this conversation with an open heart and an open mind. If all you are trying to do is to convince her to do what you think she should do, she will just get angry. Try to put aside what you think she needs to do and listen to what she needs you to understand. This will be a gift to both of you no matter what she decides to do.

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Viki Kind is a clinical bioethicist, professional speaker, and hospice volunteer. Her book, The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices For Those Who Can't,” guides families and professionals through the difficult process of advocating for those who can no longer speak for themselves. She has recently launched a DVD that includes a template to create a quality-of-life statement.

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