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Overcoming the anguish money and greed can bring to a family.
722409_45720411.pngMoney has the unique ability to bring out the best and worst in all of us. And on those occasions when it brings out the worst, particularly between friends or family members, it can devastate a relationship. I’ve seen families torn apart and close friendships come to an end because of disagreements over money.

“Control your money, control your life,” is the tag line to The Dough Roller. I chose those words to reflect how money intersects with our lives, hopefully for the better, but not always. And it’s not just about controlling money, it’s also about controlling our attitudes and emotions toward money. And with that in mind, I’d like to share with you something that happen to me when I was a child and how I’ve spent the better part of 30 years trying to come to terms with it.

The Financial Wound

If you’ve read What A Financially Painful Childhood Can Teach You About Money, you know that my father died in a car accident when I was 12. What you don’t know about is the conversation he and I had two months earlier as we were taking a two hour trip by car to visit some family. During the trip he told me that if anything should ever happen to him, he wanted me to have his watch and a ring he always wore. He was in the jewelry business, and these items meant a lot to him. At the time I didn’t think much about what he was saying. After all, he was 39 and in perfect health. Of course, how could I know that after that trip I would see him just one more time before his accident.

Some months after his death, I told my family about the conversation my father and I had. The watch and ring were very valuable, and the decision was made to give them to me when I turned 18. I accepted this and gave the issue little thought. A few years later, however, I learned that the ring had been stolen and the watch sold.

Why was the watch sold? I was never given much of an explanation other than for the money. Of course, I had no interest in the monetary value of the watch. I wanted it because it was my father’s and because he wanted me to have it. Following this I had to come to terms not only with losing the watch, but also with the family member who chose to sell it rather than fulfill my father’s wishes.

Finding Healing

Since then, I’ve told myself a thousand times that it was just a watch. For some reason, though, that just doesn’t seem to wipe away the pain of losing something so meaningful to my father. So how do we find healing when a loved one hurts us over money? I won’t pretend for a second to have all the answers to this question, but here is what I’ve learned over the past 30 years from this situation:

  • Perspective: As a starting point, I’ve had to put this into the proper perspective. We are talking about a watch. Yes it was meaningful to my father, and therefore to me, but it was still just a watch.
  • Choice: We have to make a choice whether we are going to allow the situation to ruin the relationship. Sometimes two friends will choose to end their friendship over money troubles. With my family member, I made a different choice and am glad I did. It hasn’t always been easy, but I think I’m a better person for having made the decision to keep and build the relationship rather than to end it over a watch. Besides, my family had already lost enough.
  • Recognition: I had to recognize that none of us is perfect and that we all make mistakes. The family member who sold the watch had experienced their own tragedies in life. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like living through some of the painful experiences they lived through. The point isn’t to make excuses for them, but rather to realize that we all have challenges to overcome in our lives, and we all make mistakes as we try to overcome them.
  • Time: You’ve probably heard the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” Don’t believe it. In fact, time can make wounds even deeper if we let it. But what time does give us is more experience, which in turn gives us more wisdom and understanding.

So after 30 years am I still searching for healing from the loss of the watch? No, I think I’m past that. I’m still searching for healing from the loss of a father.

Author Bio

Total Articles: 1083
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Article comments

Pinyo says:

DR – I am sorry to hear about losing that watch. It really sucks when our family can do something like that. When my grandmother died, my father’s siblings did the same to him. Because my dad is living here, they took everything without leaving a single token for my dad to remember his mom by.

But like you said, it’s a material thing. I hope you can focus on all the good memories of your dad instead. If it helps, my dad keeps a little box of various things, and even stuff that he wrote about his mom, as a keepsake.

We had a similar situation when our Grandmother died. Because we didn’t live in town some of our cousins went through first and took what they wanted without considering anyone else. It is hard to forgive but stuff will not bring back a person.

C says:

I know you’d like to have the watch – I don’t blame you – he wanted this for you too. However, it might give you comfort to hold on to the spiritual aspect of the situation – the fact that he wanted to give you the gift, rather than the gift itself.

paidtwice says:

I have not had something over death happen – but I have had my parents do something dishonest (to me, they felt justified in their actions and still do) with money that was meant for me for a specific purpose (an inheritance from my grandfather that was supposed to pay my student loans) and honestly, I’m still not completely over it although I’ve had to let go of in several ways just to get back to being okay dealing with them ;). Sometimes it is really hard to let go, and it sounds like you’ve progressed to the point that you really understand what it is that still hurts (and always will).

Milander says:

My grandmother died of illness, I won’t explain here, my grandfather died 2 weeks later of a broken heart. He had willed the house to be sold and the money divided equally between his grandchildren, all 4 of us. What happened? My Aunt moved into the house and sold their own as my grandparents house had a bigger garden. The fair thing to do (even though it broke the will of my grandparents) would have been to divide up the money from the sale of their house even though it would have meant that we would have recieved less than my grandfather intended. They spent that money on a new plasma TV, redecorating the ‘new’ house, etc.

While I am perfectly financialy independent (I didn’t need that money, far from it in fact) it would have been VERY useful for my youngest brother in college and my middle brother who was setting up home at the time. THe greed of my parents and my relatives irked me so much that my wife and family have not had proper relations with them for 10 years now.

I know it is terrible when this happens but I was so close to my grandparents, who were there for me when my parents weren’t, that I can find no forgiveness in my heart for them. They were complicit in denying the wishes of my grandparents and I will never forgive them for that.

This can and does destroy families, if we (my wife and I) hadn’t had children I doubt whether I would have ANY relaionship with my parents. As it stands we only have a partial relationship because they are my childrens grandparents and they need to have grandparents. It’s tough maintaining a relationship with them and.. well, I’m sure their are other people out their how can understand how I and my wife feel.

Bless all

DR says:

Milander, it’s amazing the pain that money can cause. Greed can take hold of some and motivate them to do some really hurtful things. And forgiveness can be very difficult, but not impossible. It sounds like keeping the relationship for the sake of your children, as hard as it is, will benefit your family in the long run.

DR says:

C, the spiritual aspect was a big comfort through all of this.

The Chef says:

I want to appreciate how you dealt with the situation and made a relationship.

The concept of Time that you mentioned for healing is awesome I completely agree with you. Time gives and the break to think what is correct and act upon it.

Elizabeth says:

DR, Thanks for sharing that story. Your four points have such a ring of truth — yet they’re so hard to come by.

I guess we all eventually experience financial betrayal and ugliness. It’s the betrayals by family, motivated by greed or sheer selfishness, that can hurt for a lifetime.

My deep and as-yet unhealed financially-motivated wound came at the hands of my father. When my grandmother died she left a huge estate including original artwork (including several Picasso’s) and first edition, personalized books (she and my grandfather socialized with the likes of Tennessee Williams and Robert Penn Warren). Not to mention the china and silver and palatial house and stock holdings and cash.

She also left a butter-yellow 1965 Ford Mustang. The Mustang was the only thing I wanted. Everyone knew the Mustang was mine — eventually. Then my father sold it. He needed some cash and rather than liquidate any other part of his vast holdings, he sold my Mustang. For a mere $1,000.

I was my grandmother’s namesake and I had very fond memories of her from my childhood. All I wanted was that one piece of her.

Someday, when I my children are grown, through college, and are financially independent, I’m going to buy myself a 1965 Mustang. It won’t be the same, of course, as having Grandmother’s car, but the act will be my final act of independence from my father — who will most likely, by that point, no longer be alive.

DR says:

Elizabeth, thanks for sharing your story. It’s amazing to me how, once we share stories like these, we realize that so many of us have similar experiences. I think it makes the difficult moments in life seem a little less lonely.

Your comments about time and healing really resonate with me.

Your thoughts apply to many situations beyond money. Thanks for giving me so much to think about!

fathersez says:


THis is a touching story. The more we think of such a “past hurt” the longer the pain will endure. Somehow, we have to find a way to flush this out.

I use the method of telling myself, “that this is their level of knowledge, sense of integrity and education.” With this level, what they did was what they thought was fine.

And move on.

Pain may still endure, especially when we have to run into them often and maintain pleasantries. I find that repeatedly reminding ourselves of the above help.

Thank God there is God to finally sort this kind of things out.

Suzie says:

My situation is a little bit different in that my oldest sister and her husband took advantage of my father while he was living. My father died in February. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago, plus lost his vision. My relatives insisted on keeping him in his home and “taking care” of him long past when he should have been placed somewhere. Fortunately they were forced to do this when he was hospitalized and the doctor refused to discharge him unless he went to a nursing home. My other sisters and I were able to have him placed in an adult residential facility (a home with only 5 residents and round the clock professional care) for the last couple months of his life. While my father was still living at home my brother-in-law was buying breakfast every morning at a well known fast-food place to the tune of $300 a month. Plus they were spending and additional $600 a month on groceries supposedly just for my father. It was obvious that more than 90% of this was for my sister and her husband. My father was not eating close to $1,000 a month in food. They were also getting at least $200 a month for gas even though my father didn’t go anywhere except to doctors appointments. There is more but you get the idea. The main reason that this bothers me so much is not because I was expecting any kind of an inheritance from my father when he passed but that they took his money and neglected his care. I live about an hour away, plus could not afford to hire an attorney so there was not much I could do. I threatened to call adult protective services once but my other 2 sisters begged me not to. It has only been a couple of months and I still am upset with myself that I did not do more to ensure my father had better care.