The Whole Family
I was listening to Laura McKowen’s excellent podcast “Tell Me Something True” and she said something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. In reflecting on her divorce nearly a decade ago, she said, “I felt like I lost my shot at a family.”
I had to pause and write it down, because she articulated the very thought that has been at the core of so much of my suffering. My father died when I was 21, so I already had one experience of losing my family, as I knew it. The thought that my divorce might cost me the family I created too – well, that thought nearly flattens me sometimes.
But I have learned that I am not alone in having this thought, or this feeling. The reasons are different, but the fear is the same. Maybe it is because of a death, or a divorce, or maybe it is the ache of never finding a partner, or finding a partner at the wrong time. Maybe it is a struggle to get pregnant, or to stay pregnant.
Or maybe it is because someone you love has physical or intellectual or emotional challenges that you did not see coming. Maybe that someone is you. Or maybe you always imagined having two kids, or three, or a daughter, or a son, or a kid who likes to dance/ read/ watch football as much as you do, or a partner who doesn’t forget to buy you a present on your birthday. Maybe your family moved far away, maybe you had a fight and haven’t spoken in years.
All of these experiences are unique–each with its own complex set of emotions. But the losses we experience have more in common than we first believe. At the core of all of these vastly different experiences is the pain and fear that we may have just lost our last chance to have a family. Or, to have the family we thought we were supposed to have. To move past the pain, we begin to reimagine what family looks like, and who we consider part of ours.
Their father and I have lived apart for nearly half of our sons’ lives now, so I still smile a little when I hear one of the boys refer to the four of us as “the whole family.” (As in, “Mom, why am I the shortest one in the whole family?)
We are the only family they have ever known.
To some people we may seem broken, but to them, we are whole.