It’s always been about family. Our favorite TV shows, from “Father Knows Best” to “The Sopranos,” demonstrate this fact. Family gives each of us a sense of connectedness. Family is where we go for support and assistance. Finally, our families tell the world something about us – our heritage, our identity.
Unfortunately, many women have had painful and damaging experiences within their families. Some of my patients have never felt valued by their parents or siblings. Many women come from abusive or alcoholic homes. And some women have no families at all.
How to Find the Family You’ve Always Wanted
Over time, I have enjoyed the privilege of getting to know many resourceful women. In cases where they have not had families, or where family relationships have been highly toxic, they have figured out how to create their own support networks or “families.” These women have decided that they are worthy of the love that families can provide. Here are the steps these resilient women have taken to create happy “families” for themselves:
- Grieve the family you don’t have — In order to move forward you must first mourn the loss of the healthy family you don’t have. By allowing your feelings of sadness and anger, you will eventually be able to accept your family as it is. Acceptance does not mean that you continue family relationships that are harmful to you. It simply means that you are no longer denying or fighting the truth.
- What kinds of “family” support do you need? As an adult, you have undoubtedly found ways to get most of your needs met. So what kinds of caring and support are missing in your life? Do you long for a “mother,” someone who is older and wiser, and can lend perspective and a willing ear? Would you like the guidance of a “dad,” who can perhaps offer more “nuts and bolts” advice? You might long for that “sister” you can drop in on anytime, and with whom you can safely share your deepest, darkest secrets.
- Who can provide this support? Some of these important people may already be part of your life. You might find “family” members by reconnecting with old friends from high school or college. A wonderful way to discover “family” is by pursuing the things you love, such as sailing, singing, stamp collecting or skydiving. Joining a church or a book club may provide other opportunities to meet a potential “mom” or “brother.”
- Building and strengthening these relationships — Now that you’ve selected your family members, here’s how to proceed:
- Find creative ways to integrate these people into your life. Volunteer, plant a garden, or exercise together. Invite them last minute for popcorn, videos, and a sleepover. Use your imagination — the sky’s the limit!
- Let them know why they are important to you. As you are comfortable, explain the specific kinds of support you appreciate most from them. Don’t be shy about letting them know that they are the mom or sister you never had. They will feel honored. And don’t forget to give back to them!
- Overlook their faults. Even created family members aren’t perfect. Unconditionally accept them, and they are likely to do the same for you. Isn’t that what families are supposed to be about?
- Establish your own rituals: Develop unique rituals with your new family members. And whenever feasible, bring them all together. They may not feel an instant kinship with one another, but they will be joined together by their love for you!
Not having a loving natural family will always be a source of sadness for you. However, the ability to form your own family, comprised of folks of yourchoosing, can be a source of endless comfort! Rather than bemoan the past, start creating a wonderful future with your “new” family!