Dear Family Advisor

I took care of Dad, but he left his money to my brother. Now I'm broke, and my brother won't help me.

Last updated:

September 07, 2010

My brother inherited three-fourths of our father's money and possessions. Dad favored him even though I was the one at his bedside (working full-time and going over there till midnight for months on end) as he suffered with cancer. I recently asked my brother for help because both my husband and I were laid off last year, and we got behind on our bills. He refused.

I don't want to spend time with my brother at family events such as graduations and weddings. He flaunts his new car and boat while we're still struggling to make ends meet.

How do I broach the subject that our father was unfair, and he shouldn't follow in his footsteps?

Give up trying to get the money. It's natural that you're hurt by this situation, especially since you took such good care of your dad. But at heart, this issue isn't about money. It's not even about your dad or your brother. It's about you.

As long as you feel your brother (or anyone) owes you something, you'll never be truly free to move on and build your own life -- and you're actually giving them far more power than they deserve.

In Jack Canfield's wonderful book, The Success Principles, his first lesson is, "I am 100 percent responsible for my life." Our parents don't owe us an inheritance. They can leave their money to anyone they like. Sometimes money even turns out to be a curse. Wanting it encourages us to continue with unhealthy relationships, and those who have it may use it to control other people.

While it may not be fair that your dad and brother treated you the way they did, it's your reality. You can't change their choices -- and you may not be able to do a darn thing about your brother's attitude.

Perhaps what you really wanted from your father, and now from your brother, is a deeper connection, attention, and affection. You may feel so hurt that you don't want to acknowledge those kinds of feelings because they make you vulnerable, but feeling as if you were valued less really caused you pain. Whether we admit it or not, we want to belong to and be embraced by our families.

Add up what you have that's valuable. A husband who's committed to your relationship? Children, other family members, or dear friends to encircle you and give you the encouragement and support you need? Surround yourself with people who are strong, loyal, and good-hearted. The world is full of them. If you need to find more such people who inspire you, join a church or community activities; make your own tribe.

Are you healthy? Can you still work? If so, consider yourself blessed. It's such a tough economy right now, and I know you know you're not alone with your financial struggles. We have to hold each other up and believe that better times are ahead, as hard as that can be some days.

Try not to mull over "what should have been" -- literally stop your thoughts in mid-gripe and turn your attention to something you can do, even if it's just cleaning out the garage or making a list of job possibilities.

It helps to keep a gratitude journal. I keep mine by my bed, and I write 20 things a day that I'm grateful for. They're not big things -- a cardinal that zipped along beside me as I took a walk, the friendly cashier at the grocery store, or an e-mail from a good friend. Some days I have to work at it, but usually once I get rolling I can't stop!

Can the rift between you and your brother be healed? Only time will tell. I don't want to minimize what you're going through, but I promise that once you start focusing on improving your own life, your brother, his money, and the hurt it's caused will begin to fade. Eventually, you'll be proud of what you and your husband did on your own. Get a clear vision of where you're headed, make a plan, and soon, you'll begin to feel great about the life the two of you are building together.