In the steps I have been taking on the journey towards myself, I have been affirming what my beliefs and values are. More and more I realise, however, that what has driven my beliefs and values has been my family. In fact, “family” is one of my most passionate beliefs and I have come to realise that without my family, I would not be who I am today.
As a child, ‘family’ to me meant not only my nuclear family of my parents and siblings, but also my large extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was here where I learned kindness, empathy, dependability, compassion, integrity and above all, acceptance. It was that sense of belonging, that feeling of the family as the base, the knowing that the family would always accept me; that brought me meaning, peace and comfort. There was always a sense of belonging forged by the coming together of the family at meals, holidays, and special occasions. Rituals, schedules and clear communications provided a further sense of stability.
Clear family values empowered me to make decisions that I could live by.
As a teenager and young adult I extended my wings and tried to become independent from my family, I tried to exert my own identity. However, try as I might, I was inextricably entwined and the bonds could not be broken. My extended family remained forever in the background of my life.
As a mother, I appreciated the values instilled in me and I sought to become the same source of strength to my own children as my parents were to me. I tried to lead by example of living by high principles and values. Although we lived apart from the rest of my extended family, we forged ahead as a strong nuclear family with an undeniable unconditional and unyielding bond, that was so ingrained and so deep that it just was. It was the source of much love, respect and trust; as well as being our support system of protection and comfort.
As a mature now separated woman, I turn again to the solace of my extended family for support and realise once more that they are there for me. The whole big picture of ‘family’ has now changed for me, and yet remains the same. Family is where I can be who I am without question, without condemnation. This is where I will always be accepted, where I can always be ‘me’; even as I am trying to fathom out who that person is. My family remains my most crucial source of love, support, protection and comfort.
I think this is absolutely wonderful. I admire your strength – you are a true survivor.
Thanks for your comment and for being there for me 🙂
I am glad your family is there for you! My siblings are very supportive of me—I wouldn’t be able to have the strength I do were it not for them.
But for me, the most confusing part of the divorce is trying to figure out the definition of family. So if this comment makes no sense, please realize that I am trying to understand what family is while my ex is dying.
You’re born or adopted into a family. No matter how screwed up the family dynamics are, you ultimately give one another unconditional love. When you get married, you are choosing someone to be your most important family member. You vow your loyalty. You pretty much base your life on this relationship. Yet the love is NOT supposed to be unconditional???????
When you have kids, your love for them is unconditional.
Although I do not love my ex’s behavior, my love for him IS unconditional, which seems to translate to me “not moving on.” The new family I thought was my family after we married has, for the most part, been unsupportive toward my daughter and me. I’m told this is to be expected; people take the side of their original family member. Sides? When did family become a game of dodgeball?
But this is well within the conditional love I enjoyed from them until my ex filed.
I’m going to make my own conditions. I’m just going to love and not worry about getting loved. Maybe that would be a healthier way for me to think about the meaning of family.
Thanks for your comment. I feel we have some sort of connection as you are able to put in words those thoughts I find hard to express.
The two biggest fall-outs for me has been the bleeding of the nuclear family which grieves me and which I have written about; and the disintegration of the extended family as I knew it in regard to my in-laws, which I have not written about.
In regard to the latter: For some of them it is as if I did not ever exist. There has been no contact. Others within his family are trying to have contact with my children in their own way. Others further removed have sent me the usual Christmas cards with a ‘to’ ‘from’ greeting and that is all. I considered them all part of my family. I was there at the deaths of both his parents. I have shared with them many highs and lows. And now there is nothing. It is not even an estrangement as there have been no words. There is just nothing. A vacuum.
Experts say to surround yourself only with people who make you feel good about yourself, who continue to embrace you with positiveness. Therefore I have decided that it is not at this stage up to me to make the contact myself as it is too much effort. Maybe it will come eventually.
On the other hand, my bonds with my own family have strengthened. That is an unexpected positiveness.
I look at my own mother aged 85 and the strength she shows as the matriarch of our extended family. Yet, she grieved and was lost for a long time after my father died when at the age of 47 she suddenly had to go back to work to support her children through school and university. I would say it took her five to ten years before she really “regrouped” as the strong woman I see her as today.
Divorce is different from widowhood and yet from a long way off, I see that what I am going through is a transition and I will get to the other side…..eventually.
Also I understand your thoughts on ‘conditional’ vs ‘unconditional’ love. I am not sure exactly where I am on that issue myself. It was something I grappled with a lot in the very early days post separation.
Thanks for your support. I really appreciate your cyber-friendship.