I’m 29, and my mother died two years ago. With that massive, devastating loss came a significant inheritance: both wealth and very adult responsibilities that came with the money. (I inherited the family business, for example.) My newfound resources can make my friends, some still struggling to make ends meet, pretty uncomfortable. Is there a less awkward way to explain my new fiscal reality to my peers?
To the extent that sudden inheritances can be accompanied by a certain amount of guilt that you have benefitted from tragedy, keep in mind that your mother left these assets to you because she wanted you to have and benefit from them. You can always opt to simply manage your newfound assets, as opposed to using them, until you feel a less-conflicted level of ownership. Depending on your resources, you might also want to think about honoring your parents more overtly through the creation of a family foundation or via other charitable giving. If you are in a position to do so, it might be a helpful move to hire a business manager for a year or two who could help you wrangle all the lawyers and accountants and give you a fuller understanding of your economic position.
And while peers probably can’t do much to help you with the logistics of managing the business and the estate, that doesn’t mean they can’t empathize. And you don’t need to quantify the problem to qualify it. All you have to say is: “the business part of this is overwhelming.” Even without all the particulars, hopefully everyone can understand how much it sucks to have to deal with something like taxes on top of being so fucking sad.
For years after my dad died, it seemed like people were staring at me at weddings during the father-daughter traditions (walking down the aisle, giving away the bride, the father-daughter dance, toast). Sometimes people would ask me about it, and what I was going to do at my wedding since my father was not going to visibly be part of those traditions. Do you have any advice on how to gracefully address these awkward scenarios?
If I may: What the hell is wrong with people? I hope, at least, that these questions were asked in the context of wedding planning and not in a complete void, which is so insensitive as to be incomprehensible. These father-daughter wedding moments are obviously fraught with emotion for you. Let’s give the starers the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are just checking to make sure you are OK. As for the people who come out and ask what you are going to do when the time comes: Those people likely have good intentions (acknowledging the importance of your relationship with your father) but terrible concepts of timing and appropriateness. I recommend simply saying, “We’ll decide an appropriate way to honor my father’s memory when the time comes” — and then getting away from them.
Meg Tansey hails from New England, where talking about your feelings is frowned upon. She has lots of life experience but is not an actual therapist. Meg has a MFA from The New School and currently lives and writes in New York City. Send Meg your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject: Ask ML).