Families Fall Apart After Matriarch Or Patriarch Dies

Italian familyIt’s a common phenomena.  The matriarch or the patriarch of a family passes and the family unravels.  I knew a mother who died, leaving her husband and four sons behind.  The men never realized she was what held them together and helped them relate to each other.   When she left the picture each man became an island.

I’ve seen families collapse when the patriarch dies as well.  Whatever the qualities the individual had, there is no one willing or able to step in and replace them or reconfigure the family so it can be sustained and recover from the loss.I don’t think families have to accept this fate as a foregone conclusion.  The falling out can be avoided.

The families who manage this tend to live in reality, meaning they realize their parent(s) are not going to be around forever.  Based on this, they take on increased responsibility as time passes and their parents age.  A younger family member takes over the cooking of the holiday meal, for example.  Another may start making the calls that keep the family in touch and organized.  Basically, they follow the example set by the matriarch or patriarch so the family can endure into the next generation.

We each have a Sun (male) and a Moon (female) in out chart, these are referred to as the “lights”.  You’ll have a very hard time in life if your lights are dim.

Who are the “lights” in your family?  If they pass, is their someone waiting to step up?  Why or why not?

145 thoughts on “Families Fall Apart After Matriarch Or Patriarch Dies”

  1. This is part of the reason why I feel such pressure to find a husband. Once my dad dies, there is no male figure to step in for the support that only a man can provide.

  2. These families don’t recover that I’ve seen. The family members drift apart and eventually die and that’s the end of that line.

    I think we’ve become superficial, with superficial roots that just don’t compare to what a strong family offers.

    1. I tried to take over as the glue but I’m not able. My sister makes false accusations against me (as she has done since age two, with glee) and now my mom won’t talk to me either, to “protect” my sister.

      1. I know exactly what you mean. After the death of my father I was the only one out of three daughters helped mum out financially and emotionally. In fact I was only one talking to her. I was always ‘the good girl’ in the family but never the favorite daughter. However, I helped mum with such a devotion and sacrifice because she was the only parent surviving. Nevertheless mum demanded my share of father’s inheritance even though I gave her a lot of it already and called me selfish with false accusation and name-calling. How betrayed I felt. Because I gave up so much for her I felt so deeply hurt. I couldn’t get out of my bed for two weeks. Now I don’t talk to mum anymore, and I know children are not supposed to sacrificed so much for their parents and siblings are not supposed to dump their shared responsibilities to only one person.

        1. Gosh I am so sorry to read this Jo; you have been through a horrible time and must have been very deeply hurt. Wishing you love, peace and hope you can be kind to yourself now – you certainly deserve all the kindness in the world. Mary xx

    2. Avatar
      Michael Clearman

      My mother was the matriarch of our family, one husband and four sons, and was the unquestioned glue that held us together under her substantial emotional wings. Only 5′ and a smidgen more in stature, nevertheless she ruled her roost like a fearless lioness protects her pride.

      When she died after a courageous and protracted battle against an insidious disease, she left a chasm in our family and in our hearts that can never be filled. She was irreplaceable. After our…ummm…her death, it became quickly evident how important her enormous positive influence was over the men in her life. We were 5 lost ships amidst a maelstrom of sadness, rudderless globs of liquid messes missing the family backbone.

      Soon we will experience the 13th year since Joy Gail Franks Clearman’s passing.Yes, her name was Joy, like the signature emotion she invoked in all who knew and loved her. Our father has since passed away as well and their sons have managed to move on. Still a family, albeit a dinstat and fractured one, our glue missing and still terribly missed.

      1. Michael, I can totally relate to your story. Ever since my paternal grandmother passed away about four years ago, my family has also become fractured. I severed ties with the bulk of my family consisting mainly of my grandmother’s nieces and nephews and other grandchildren because they were such an incredibly negative force during her final days. The entire time my immediate family and I tried to care for my grandmother, our distant relatives were insulting, combative, deceptive, and anything but supportive. Now I find myself trying to hold on to a few of those relationships but they seem to keep slipping away.

        My mother (who is the prime caregiver of my nursing home bound father,) has delved deeper into her church often “adopting” church members as her sons or grandsons. She doesn’t reach out to me much these days either. My two brothers (who live together,) and I rarely speak. They’re both “the big, strong silent type” and I’m really only close to one of them. But the cherry on the cake was me just learning that my beloved nieces are moving away now. I won’t get to see them anymore.

        When my grandmother died it was as if the foundation of our family was decimated and left no one standing in its wake. I often feel alone. Isolated. Depressed. I have love in my life but it’s a struggle sometimes just to stay upbeat because in a very strange way, I actually feel like I don’t have a family to call upon anymore. Growing up I never understood how some families could ever fall apart especially when there is love and laughter involved. But through the years I’ve learned that just as we age and our youth fades, so does the familial ties that bind us, often far too easily.

            1. my father is 66 & I am 13 all I do is obsess about how I could loose him quite early in my life. I also worry about the family name, my family consists of only 17 people but only 3 of us are wallers ( my name ) as my father is the only male waller and I ( female ) are his only child I feel like I have ruined the name because I cannot pass it on. Also I obsess about how if my grandma dies my dads side of the family will fall apart and I will have no one because she is the only one who gets us together as a group on holidays and stuff. My only cousin on that side ( due to my other cousin dying in 2002 ) moved to America and only comes back to see our grandma and her mother. But her mother lives in France so if my grandma dies she will just go to France and I will never see either of them. ( my cousin won’t come back for us because she is not that close to my parents and will not pay £1200 just to spend time with me ( she is not selfish and has not said that it is just what I think ) I am also scared for myself because my grandad died ( aged 91 ) on jan 13th 2017 ( my first time loosing anyone ) and ever since then I have spent most nights crying myself to sleep. I’m sorry to have wasted your time with this I am just having a really hard time right now and I wanted to tell somebody.

              1. ((((Hannah)))) I am so sorry. You did not ruin the name! You’re grow up and hopefully have a family of your own. Also, you can be the one who gets everyone together on holidays, seeing as you know how important it is!

        1. DeVone, your last comment about “Growing up I never understood how some families could ever fall apart especially when there is love and laughter involved” really hit me. This is the confusion that I feel when I think of my sister. We had such a loving relationship the years before she “divorced me” upon my mother’s death. I couldn’t understand how she would be able to just walk away. Your answer helped me in a sad way.

      2. Thanks for sharing, you put into words what many of us feel but can’t express, I respectfully will plagiarize your words…

      3. Hi Michael,
        I can totally relate to your story of when your Mother passed, leaving a deep and irreplaceable gap in your Family.
        My Mother recently psssed after a long illness, and she was the essence of what kept our family together. Her caring, compassionate and understanding to all the family members is going to be missed and I am still trying to navigate the magnitude of her loss,
        Warm Regards, Gail.

    3. I too can relate to many of these posts. For years I carried on with the family traditions and holidays so the younger generation would have something to remember. (Christmas Eve; Christmas Day; Easter; Thanksgiving; Birthdays; Fourth Of July; Memorial Day ) Talk about stressful and expensive! I grew tired after 25+ years realizing I was the only one who cared. I did not do one Christmas Eve holiday celebration and the whole thing fell apart. It wasn’t about tradition, it was all about the handout. I don’t regret a single moment, but I say ENOUGH!

      1. I can so relate to this. Sad, but true. My father was the prime person who kept our family together. He died several years ago and although my mother is still alive; she has health issues and tends to favor certain of my siblings. My sisters and brothers have families of their own and now that they are grandparents, they have little interest in gatherings outside of their respective families. There is tension among some of my siblings and although there have been times I thought things had been resolved, inevitably the same things occur to distance us. My nieces and nephews have had children of their own and aside from seeing postings on Facebook, I do not even though these relations. I tried for a few years to get my family to gather at Christmas, but it is exhausting and even then, their were still family members that chose to have their “own” Christmases and/or other celebrations. This is how families and extended families fall apart. I guess it’s inevitable, but still sad. I have learned to accept it. This blog allows me to vent. Thank you.

    4. You posted this on my Mom’s “spirit birthday”, and yes, this is what happened in my family when she died.

      She was/is a very loving person and was the connector between most of us. After she left, it all started to break down.

  3. Aw, ((sunnysadge)). Since my dad has gotten sick, I have been separated from his side of the family. We have stopped going to family gatherings and the family has not really asserted themselves too much to support us. So people who I spent a lot of time with as a child, well, the connections have just died. Two of my dad’s brothers have died as well so the family is just dissolving in the way that Elsa is describing in the post. Also, my dad was the only brother who got married and I am not a man obviously, so our family name will not live on.

  4. My dad is much older and so his parents are long gone. My aunt was the matriarch, she passed in 2002. We were very close and it was a blow. Sundays at her place, for the entire duration of her marriage and her life. The family has definitely felt the loss, She had 3 daughters, and they do try to organize regular get togethers but settle for the phone, usually. My aunt was a Leo with an emphasis on Cancer.

    My mother has been estranged from her siblings for decades and her parents are passed, as well.

    Pluto transit to my Moon has been horrible but I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this stuff.

  5. @Caroline, yes I understand, my grandmothers family died in WW2 and all we have is a last name.

    I have a friend who has the same problem as you, as the only male who got married and had kids, only had females, so they can’t pass down the name.

    (((Caroline))) I feel for you. If you have a last name that sounds like a first name you can use it as a middle name or first name when you have children?

  6. ((h.))

    sunnysadge, if I become a doctor of psychology, I am considering keeping my last name, as my mom did when she got her degree in medicine. I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Either way, my last name won’t live on, but what can you do?

  7. uh woo woo alert, I just pulled the chart from my Grandmother’s death about an hour ago and just now popped over here to see this. How relevant. She was our Matriarch of a very extended family and held us all together making sure we got together around big holidays and continued to interact even though we were all scattered across the country. Growing up she was the eldest daughter of 9 sisters who were placed in an orphange during the depression. When she was old enough to leave, she took them all with her to keep them together.

    After she died, the remaining females in my family (fondly referred to as the Wells Family Mafia) vowed to keep the ties together and organize what she once did on her own. We have been pretty successful. She died in 2007 and even though it is hard getting together without her, we all feel her presence (and even have a picture of it) 🙂

    I’m feeling her strong today. She suffered from Dementia/Alz in the last few years of her life so I had pulled her chart to look at her Neptune around that time..was just curious.

  8. @Caroline I have kept my last name, even when I was married, now going through separation and divorce.

    I know. I wish I could pass my last name to my daughter, but you never know she may use it. I used my mothers last name. And it is official too.

  9. ((((caroline + sunny)))) Thank you, too–it means a lot. Ugh. It makes me so sad. My mother was always vexed by my relationship with my aunt, but my aunt was able to provide something my mother unfortunately could not. I love my mother but I’m working through some stuff right now and I don’t feel very close.

  10. My mom’s family dwindled after her grandmother died, but my dad’s family continues to flourish, as his mom and dad each came from very big families to begin with and many of my uncles and aunts are around my age. From my dad’s siblings, the only cousins of mine who will pass down my last name are two boys. My other 6 cousins are girls, plus my two sisters. One silver lining is that most women in Mexico use both their maiden and married names. Eg Jane Smith marries Mr. Jones and becomes Jane Smith de Jones. I like that and might do that when I marry.

    This sort of reminds me of Gone With the Wind, as my family is very proud of it’s business, land, and continuity, and I want to be a part of it. 🙂

  11. Avatar
    passage to power

    Caroline and Sunnysadge: it seems to be becoming accepted in UK for people to hyphenate their names on marriage, eg Mr & Mrs Colson-Boyle.

    Of course, you can only do this for one generation, or it would get a bit unwieldy.

  12. This happened in my extended family on my mom’s side. When my great-grandpa died his 8 children fell to squabbling and unsavory dealings with the estate. When my great-grandma died tensions erupted and several family members had to physically move to get away from the drama. Being Italian did not help!

  13. I think my Granddaddy was the last light keeping my Pop and his siblings together. We shall see, but I do know this: Pop’s branch of the family (my sisters, me, and our assorted families) will stay close because we always circle our wagons together. That we learned from the older generation. 🙂

  14. I don’t think we’ve ever had one person keeping everyone together. Both sides of the family all group together into their little nuclear families and anyone else (cousins, siblings, aunts/uncles, anyone who marries in) are occasionally invited on sufferance. What it really boils down to is that the personalities are so different that if we weren’t related, nobody would EVER want to associate with anyone else not of their direct womb bearing. My aunts aren’t at all compatible with their siblings, and none of my grandparents were of the “let’s keep everyone together” ilk, except maybe the grandmother who died young.

  15. Really, you’ve got to grow up. Example, if those boys I mentioned liked the family their mother created, it was up to them to get a woman who would create something similar and start investing. A lot of this is causes by these long, LONG childhoods people have, that seem to last a lifetime in come cases.

    On the hyphenated names, passage to power makes a good point. You, as woman may have preserved your name but what the hell is your kid supposed to do when 2 names marries 2 names? I can’t help but see it as short-sighted and also very faddish. I mean, in scheme of the world, I don’t think it will become the new norm.

    Basically, I think women are destined to fail at being men and men will also fail at being women. I realize many here may not agree but so what? I’m old and this is what I think.

  16. The mother’s name goes down the tubes and has since the beginning of time. This little 20, 30 or even 50 year experiment is not going to stop that. If you don’t like this, don’t bother me. Go complain to the fact itself if you can find it. The man has the family name – period.

  17. Yeah, LOL. That’s why I always check out guys’ names who I like. If we’re gonna get married someday, I want to like the way your last name sounds with my first name. And then beyond the aesthetics, last name in terms of reputation is even more important.

  18. except in some cultures (various native american ones and others) where the women have the family name. *shrug
    also like in spain where they could inherit land so people ended up with really long last names to track maternal heritage.

    we have a matriarch. and i’ve feared what happened when she left… but the cousins seem to be picking up pieces of traditions over time to help ease her as she gets more and more tired

  19. I guess so, but if you want it bad enough there’s always a way. My dad told me about a guy he knew who took his wife’s last name after they got married because it meant so much to her. Apparently it was a bit of a hassle to do so, but now they have two sons and a daughter so the woman’s family name is safe.

    I don’t personally know any families that fell apart due to the loss of a patriarch or matriarch, but my family only consists of three people so if my mother or father dies, there isn’t going to be much left to hold together anyway.

  20. Avatar
    Anna in Canada

    My family is from Spain. My name is five names long and includes both my mother’s maiden name and my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Maternal names are very much respected and acknowledged in Spain. My own kids have my maternal last name as their middle name so I’ve maintained the custom–and expect them to include it somewhere in their own kids’ names once they become parents. LOL.

  21. My extended family may splinter when my grandma goes.. but I see my aunt and/or my sister stepping in. I can’t even think of my parents dying. 🙁

  22. Avatar
    Anna in Canada

    Oh but to get back to the point of this topic, yes I have seen a large family collapse after the death of a matriarch. And my own family, especially sibling dynamics, really changed when my father died. My mother keeps tradition going but the atmosphere at family gatherings is just very different–I don’t like it.

  23. Something I can’t wrap my head around is that my guy has a Dutch name. And you know–I ain’t Dutch. We always joke “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” LOL
    The only other person I considered marrying had a name from the same background as me.
    But this is all a moot point because I’m not having kids. Not my own, anyway, I’m going to be a foster mum:)

  24. I am the matriarch of our family; this was true from the time I was very young. I didn’t seek this out, it just found me. If there is a crisis, hand it to Demelza (I remember playing Mom to my own Mom when I was 11). All of the family holidays and special occasions take place at Demelza’s house (mind you, this has gone on for 30 years, long before a generation of parents and grandparents began passing on). I don’t think it will continue once I’m gone, and that is a real shame. There really isn’t anyone to pass the torch to (I’ve tried, believe me). However, it has enriched my life tremendously, being able to provide this stability and cohesion. My Cancer husband has supported me unflinchingly over the years; he is family-loving, too (of course!).

  25. My mother passed on St. Patrick’s Day 2009 she and her siblings were the family glue. Me and one of my cousins have been trying to keep the family from dissolving but that is not as easy as it might sound. The only senior member on mom’s side of the fence or house now is her younger bother and his wife is in poor health, so staying in touch is like nearly impossible. My father who was 11 years mothers senior is still with us although his mind is pretty sharp his body is not keeping pace with it and is falling apart. The 4th of July 2009 four months after mom passed he broke his right femoral bone up next to the hip it was repaired. That started our association with nursing homes as now daddy needed staff more than just me. The first 24 hr nursing care place kept daddy so medicated that it was like he was nuts. Then they allowed him to get a UTI so bad he had to be hospitalized. They would not accept him back thank God and we found a great place for daddy. However he is very independent still and would not stay in bed was determined to do for himself and still does but the bed was not seated on the floor so he fell and broke the ball off the left hip. In the mean time my husband and I are still living at the house my parents owned and trying to keep the family from flying apart. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas was ok but everyone who came looked as if they were at a funeral every one so sad not what my mom would have wanted even my father would not attend. Between the County the house is in and they Mortgage company jacking the price of the home up and serious repairs like the AC will have to be replaced and due to new regulations that will mean a complete new heating system as well. Who is going to loan an 89 year old man in a nursing home the funds to replace it? (no body)! That is just for starters. The house is 38 years old and not all that well built in the fist place. The doors to the closets and bathrooms are only 24 inches and daddy’s wheel chair is 30 inches a slight problem there. Oh and I am daddy’s Guardian, P.O.A. both medical and other wise not to mention when he goes to be with mom I am the executrix of the estate.

    I am in hopes that after we get moved into our own place we will have much happier family gatherings again. There are more than a few days that I feel like I am loosing it and my poor husband is working like a mad man even though he gets to work from home.

  26. I have kind of an odd story about this very thing. After both my parents passed away, it was just me & my brothers. My eldest brother tried to “usurp the throne.” He basically tried to step in and become the patriarch of the family. However, my other brothers and myself would have none of it. We wanted to be an “autonomous collective” with NO king. (This is what happens when a Scorpio tries to forcibly “take over” an Aquarius, a Leo and an Aries. It ain’t gonna happen.)

    Anyway, once my Scorp brother realized we would not hand the crown over to him and obey his every word, peace returned to the kingdom. I can’t say that everything returned to normal… hell no. But we all still do associate with each other. But I would definitely say that yes, after my parents passed, our little kingdom split up. (And me being the Aquarius… I’m totally ok with that! It was time for some of those empty family traditions to die out anyway.)

    1. @merryweather, the scorpio trying to take over the aquarius, leo, aries, sounded more like Taurus sun/leo moon Queen Elizabeth 2nd, who will not allow Scorpio son, Charles to take over (over her dead body maybe) by then, perhaps prince William will be the one to take over.

    2. Since my younger-older brother already tried to stage a coup when my father died, I imagine he’ll attempt another when my mother passes, and my other brother and I won’t be here for it. (Said brother is also my mother’s favorite, and I understand why and am not bothered. He, however, seems to think this gives him more leverage.) He, however, has a greedy snake in the grass for a wife, and I sometimes wonder how much of this comes from her influence.

  27. I wish I could find a guy who (if he HAD to have the same last name) would take mine. I would probably rather everyone kept their own because I loathe the property aspect of it and it creeps me out, but I’m the last of mine, so nyah.

    Thing is, I don’t want to be a woman. I can’t be a man either (and would suck at it too), but I sure as hell can’t pull off being a real woman. So what do you do?

  28. my family got closer after my mum died, and stayed that way, but maybe that was just because we were all in our thirties by then. As for the double name..not heard of that in UK, but don’t doubt that it’s a wee passing fad. It may be of interest that a couple of centuries back all children took the mother’s name here in Scotland. Women were all referred to as Mistress = the derivative of Mrs whether married or not. My father is a genealogist and discovered this when tracking our family way back to 1600’s. I am so glad our family stayed close.

  29. I am sorry I did not read the previous posts on this thread…but I have seen this first hand.

    My mother in law had borne 6 boys and 1 girl (she came in as a twin). When she died, it was such a death sentence to the family…

  30. Our mother recently passed on. My younger brother instantly distanced himself from me and my family. There had been no problems while our mother was alive. It makes me sad but my gut tells me to let it be. The younger brother is narcisistic and so is hs wife …this may be the problem. My mom had predicted this would happen and I did not believe her ……

  31. Human relationships…regardless of their depth or nature…are transient. Looking within for self-fulfillment…seeking emotional and intellectual growth…and just flat out enjoying being alive…is in my opinion.,.infinitely more healthy than depending on ANY exterior relationship.

  32. I’m very worried. My father is 93 and I’m his last days and I’m totally losing my shit right now. I don’t know what I will do when it happens. He has Alzheimer’s and has lived between worlds for awhile but I’ve never known a world that hasn’t held him.

  33. Avatar
    Reginald Choudhary III

    My grandmother is 93. She is getting weaker and weaker by the day. She owns a substantial estate and will leave behind lots of money. Her daughter, my aunt, is nearly 60 and has downs syndrome. The past 3 years have been nothing but talks about where the money goes when she dies and how much my aunt gets, who will take care of her etc. My grandmother has no formal education. Her estate’s worth is the result of her home being built in an area that later became an affluent suburb.I think her most complex job ever was hair styling. There are 3 other sisters in their 60s. My grandmother just assumes they are going to drop everything to care for my aunt with DS. Grandmother has also been going around telling everyone what their job is after she dies. She is an extraordinarily rude woman. She feigns everything. If my grandfather hadn’t built a successful business she’d have nothing. She has no discernable talents I can see other than to cook and nag people and gossip. My father almost 70 takes her to the doctors which now happens up to 4 or 5 times per month. I go with him to keep him sane. He is the only one who takes her. No one else ever does. My family has been a shame for 30 years. We only see each other on Easter thanksgiving and Christmas. I have no plans to continue on with holiday traditions. They are a waste of time and money. Hundreds if not thousands spent on dinner for one day, stupid gifts, travel time through absurd traffic…. why? For what? As many people pointed out on this thread, holiday traditions are dying. The average Americans traditions are idiotic, based on consumerism and money worship. Be honest…. hardly anyone in the USA celebrates Christmas for the religious underpinnings. Or easter for that matter. Also very few people are truly grateful. Americans always want more more more. Call me cynical but the moment the old lady bites it, my wife and I are done. I’d rather travel to places I want to go those days than sit around and small talk with people with whom the only thing I have in common is the coincidence of sharing genes. Plus, most of them are gonna vote Trump and my wife is an immigrant. They have never had the balls to make any comments directly to her but they are just stupid enough to make very strong antiimmigration comments with her in the room. They care nothing for her culture. Or whether they offend and alienate me, which they have. But it’s ok because most of them struggle financially whereas my wife and I live well. We earned it through years of hard work. I will keep up appearances until the old lady goes off to the great beyond, but the minute the funeral is over, I am packing my family in the car and we are riding off into the sunset. My cousin keeps telling me how I have to play a key role in keeping things together. Why? To preserve some BS romantic notion that we are all pals and really care for one another? My wife and I had hard times at one point. Did they call? Write? Help? Nope. Now that we are sorted out and getting better and better everyday, why should we pitch in? There is no compelling reason at all for me to spend time or money with these so called family members after granny kicks the bucket. Whew….. that felt good.

  34. Avatar

    I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to put up with toxic, sabotaging family after a matriarch or patriarch figure dies especially if the family’s anger at/jealousy of the dead comes out at the child of the deceased. There’s nothing superficial about self-preservation. My aunt mistreated me after my mother her older sister died. When I stopped allowing it, she made sure she ruined my relationship with her son, my cousin as revenge. From what I can tell many families only stayed close because they needed each other for survival anyway, bodies to work the farm, etc. I don’t think love had much to do with it.

  35. I love family traditions but i’m the last person to even try to keep it up. I hope my sisters are the ones to take over. I’ll just provide the support. (my aries sun/Taurus moon sister is the type to take over)

  36. I don’t want my parents to die any time soon but I am SO READY to take over when they do. *I* will be the matriarch some day 😀 My brothers are weak, they will bend to MY will. The family will stay together. They don’t have a choice. And neither do their future spouses. Or their future children. If I die a long time before my brothers though I don’t know if they’ll be able to keep doing family things. One is a recluse and the other is totally detached. My Dad lost touch with every single member of his family when his parents died and I could see my brothers doing the same. My Mom is still very much in touch with her family and her parents died decades ago.

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