Family. No one can hurt you quite like they can. It’s only because you love them that they can hurt you in the first place. If you didn’t, then nothing they did or said would ever hurt you. You would be able to treat them like any other stranger – walk away without giving them another thought beyond telling a friend of the encounter.
However, out of all the people you will ever meet in your lifetime, family are most certainly going to be among the top ten of your heartbreak list.
From our very first breath, we are a member of a family. It is a place of security, belonging, and identity. A place of love and acceptance. The heart of our soul. The grounding of our origin.
It’s no wonder then, when rifts happen within families, cracks and holes appear and grudges quickly fill the voids. A grudge is holding onto hurt, refusing to forgive, a conscious and deliberate decision to keep alive a damning act which led to hurt by placing blame onto another person.
Because family is the base of our existence from which we sprouted, when it breaks down, it rocks us to the core, unbalances our sense of direction, displaces us into the world, leaving us to find a new ground to place our feet – a bit like standing on a plank of wood while trying to balance it on a ball. Even if you have friends in your life whom you consider to be your family, it is not the same as being family with blood, and being estranged from them for whatever reason, is the foundation of deep seated hurt.
When I was a kid, my dad’s cousin and her husband and family lived next door. One day, there was an argument next door and after that, we kids weren’t allowed to associate with each other. However, when we were at school where the parents couldn’t see us, we did. A short time later, they moved.
For the next ten years, my dad refused to talk to his cousin. He was hurt by the event way back then. He was bitter every time someone talked about it and would walk out of the room. When we found out that she was in town, it took a while but we managed to convince my dad to speak with her because it’d been long enough to hold a grudge and besides, someone had to make the first move. After he relented, he was glad he did because misunderstandings were ironed out and their relationship was restored.
The first thing I learnt about my boyfriend when we met in January was that he was estranged from his family. For the past fifteen years he has been alone, struggling through life with no support or help from family. No mother, no father, no brother, no grandparents, and no cousins or aunties or uncles. For many reasons, there had been no contact with any of them and it broke my heart. My family, despite our past disagreements and fights, have always been close. I can’t imagine my life without any of those crazies, so to consider life without any family at all was devastating to think about.
Over the past few months, my boyfriend told me that hanging out with my family triggered thoughts about his own family, which in turn led to discussions about the whys of how things are with them. There was deep seated hurt which didn’t seem likely to dissipate any time soon. All his points were valid points, and reasons valid reasons. My heart broke even more. I prayed for restoration of relationship.
Last Sunday, my boyfriend and myself, drove an hour and a half north. At a nice little café in a very large shopping centre, he hugged his mother for the first time since he was 20 years old. So much time has been lost through lies and misunderstandings. So much time my boyfriend has spent living alone unnecessarily. So much of life they have missed out on sharing. So much time has been stolen from their relationship as mother and son.
Next, my boyfriend will reunite with his brother in what will undoubtedly, be another tear-jerking moment.
Since Sunday, my boyfriend has voiced his sadness about the truth of what really happened all those years ago. He had harboured so much anger and vowed never to have anything to do with his family again. Now he knows the truth, the realisation that things could have been very different for him over the last fifteen years is heartbreaking for him. There is no reclaiming of time lost, only a determined walk forward into a much stronger and brighter future which now includes family of his blood.
Having no family contact for all those years, despite having valid reasons at the time for doing so, left cracks and holes in my boyfriend’s foundation which were filled with anger and grudges – a promise to himself not to let go or to go back. He had been trying to balance on a ball while standing on a plank of wood. Eventually, he fell off that ball and hit the ground hard. From then until now, he has been struggling with how the fall has affected him and how it’s changed his life. Seeing him with his mum on Sunday filled me with the faith that they will have a long lasting close relationship from here on in. I can hear in his voice how happy he is and his excitement grows every day at having his mum back in his life, and soon his brother.
When my boyfriend had no association with the family of his blood, he lost security, a place to belong, a sense of who he was and where he’s from, he felt rejected, alone and that he was better off without them. Despite all the trauma and hurt, he still longed for his family. Now that my boyfriend and his mum have started to heal their relationship, the cracks and holes which once were filled with anger and grudges, are now being replaced with love and forgiveness.
With my dad, it had been his cousin who inflicted the pain. Despite that, he felt cast out for no reason by close family. He was unbalanced in his relationship with his cousin until it was restored through the conversation he had with her ten years after the incident.
It’s so sad. Far too much wasted time on negative energy, all round.
Family is the heart of our soul, the foundation from which we start life, an essence of our being. Yes, we can live without them, but we can never be whole without them.