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Conflicts of Interest

Everything you ever wanted to know about conflicts at home, at work, or in the neighborhood.

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Death doesn’t become us

January 30th, 2013 at Wed, 30th, 2013 at 12:23 pm by Vivian Scott

I’ve heard that a death in the family brings out the worst in us; and I now know that firsthand.  My Dad passed away a few weeks ago and I have enough siblings, in-laws and outlaws in my tribe to cover the possible spectrum of reactions, responses, and retorts that come out in a family crisis.

My Dad was an old guy—87 years old—who, because of a severe health condition should have been gone a long time ago.  For some reason I always thought he would live into his 90s and I would get a call one day that he didn’t come down for breakfast and, having passed at some point during the night, was found by a staffer who went to check on him.  That’s not what happened.

Daddy-O went from chatting it up on a Sunday to being admitted to critical care on Monday night, then transferring to hospice on Thursday.  The one thing I know for sure about this group I call family is that we are individuals and each of us needed something different from the experience.  Family came from all over to say goodbye, settle their scores, support one another, and have a few fights along the way.  Then Dad passed a week later and we fell apart.  Big fights (and I mean big!) ensued.  Some of us wanted to keep anything and everything in Dad’s apartment and some simply wanted to savor their memories.  Some jumped in to plan his funeral while others left town to grieve on their own.  We were emotionally all over the place and didn’t make much room for our differences.

For whatever reason, any skill I have in resolving problems went out the window at the most crucial times.  I did a pretty good job calming issues between others but when it came to bombs thrown in my foxhole, I lobbed them right back.  Ouch.  I did, however, get it together and calmed myself enough to participate in mending fences.  But, the experience brought to light that even the most supportive families fight, spit, and yell at the most inopportune times.  The good news is, we’re working through it and will get past it.  The bad news is, we harmed one another.

We’re sorry, Dad, that we broke our promise not to fight.  However, we’re not sorry that we learned from the experience and that we’re slowly coming together as a family that you would have wanted.

Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator with a private practice serving King and Snohomish Counties. She is the author of, "Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies" and a contributing author of "Thriving in the Workplace For Dummies" as well as "Managing All-in-One For Dummies" (Wiley Publishing). Ms. Scott is a Certified Mediator Member of the Washington Mediation Association and received their Outstanding Contributor Award in 2012. Her mediation cases range from assisting couples through divorce and parenting plans to creating new workplace environments for organizations of all sizes. You can learn more about Vivian by visiting her website at or

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