Family dynamics when someone is dying

Courtesy of | Originally Published 07.21.2015 | Posted 04.08.2018

As a hospice volunteer, I have heard of stories of arguments and fights breaking out among family members, sometimes RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DYING INDIVIDUAL.


A death in the family, especially when it’s the last parent, can throw up a lot of unresolved and painful issues.

image_understandingdeathdying5smallFor example:

  • Some members of the family will have had a warm relationship with the dying person. Others may be harboring dislike, grudges or anger.
  • Some will freely embrace what is happening. Others may want to deny that the person is dying.
  • Some will be happy to stop life-extending treatment. Others may not want this.
  • Some may feel horrified by the person’s deterioration and find it difficult to sit with them.
  • Relatives who live at a distance may feel guilty for not being there. Others may avoid contact due to family conflict.
  • Relatives who care for the dying person may feel their own life is on hold and become angry and resentful with the rest of the family if they feel they are not pulling their weight.
  • Sibling rivalry may surface and divide loyalties, causing further resentments and disputes.
  • Some relatives may be privy to secrets that no-one else knows, and find this distressing.

So, be prepared for this to be an intensely emotional time which needs patience, understanding and a willingness to communicate openly and truthfully with the rest of the family. Sadly, this is not always possible, and disputes can happen or deepen. If you need help and support do talk to a professional counsellor; you can find details of counsellors in your area at Find Me Help.


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