What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by Sarah.
On this blog, the conversation often turns to orphaned and abandoned children. What I want people to know is I consider myself both orphaned and abandoned. This is not to minimize those that have been abandoned or are truly orphaned by tragedy. But it is true that incest took away the only family I ever knew. While many survivors are left with a "non-offending parent" or other relative to care for them, every relative from my own mother, to my grandparents, to my aunts and uncles chose to turn away and not believe me. While my biological mother was not my abuser, she accused me of "stealing her man" and ruining her family. She cut me out of her life, unless I would recant my story and say it never happened. I wish people understood more that I can't just "reconcile" with my biological parents. It's not safe physically or psychologically for me to do so. Not only was I victimized before I became a legal adult, but when I tried to "bury the hatchet"and "put it behind me" I was attacked again at 22 years old. Incest took away my family. Now as a 30 year old, I wish people knew that I feel rootless in my life.I feel like I have no "soft place to fall" as people say when they think of "family"and "home".
Holidays are some of the worst. Despite the many people I know and interact with, most knowing my situation, I have almost never gotten an invitation to a holiday. On some level I even understand that. Nobody really wants an outsider at their table. Family is intimate. And there' that whole appropriate boundaries thing. This is one reason I've chosen a career that forces me to work on holidays, so I can keep busy and try not to think about it. It is hard for me to admit that at my age that I desperately want a family. I miss being told "I love you", or getting a regular hug. That phone call at the end of a long hard day of "how was your day?" Looking forward to going "home" for a college break or holiday. I desperately want that place to belong.To know that someone is waiting for me somewhere.
As I look to the future of starting my own family, I grieve that I will not have grandparents for my children. But I also want them to have a sense of family too. I want my child(ren) to have aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Sometimes I fantasize about who will play "adopted family" roles. However, will those people agree to fill that role? In dating relationships, I fear that the issue of "family" and my past will come up. Why I moved to one of the biggest cities in the US as a teenager, where I knew not a soul is already a complicated conversation. "How did you just wind up here?"" they ask. Forget about the "When do I meet your parents?" question. I anticipate my wedding looking very different than the traditional big family ceremony that they have in the movies.
Family is who you choose it to be. At least I believe this. I feel like people are still much too hyper-focused on needing to be related by blood and legal relationships.I know that my experiences have shaped who I am. Everyone that knows me understands I have an open door policy if we have a relationship. If you need food, I will feed you. If you are about to be homeless, as long as I have a roof over my head, I will be sure you are not on the streets. I think of it as treating others as I've hoped to be treated. To me, it is what Jesus would do.
People of faith need to understand that "forgiveness" is not the band-aid or the clean slate to start over. Recently I was told, "It's never too late to try again" in regard to a relationship with my mother. I have learned to believe that God does not want to see me be hurt. This is sometimes a daily affirmation that I have to say in the mirror Stuart Smalley style. I can love and honor her better at a distance then standing before her. Forgiveness is accepting that in her current state of brokenness, she cannot love, believe, protect me like she should have. It's not that she acting maliciously, she is simply not capable with her heart and soul in the state that it has been. I am not the enemy.
What I want you to know is when people say, "I don't have any family" perhaps think of how hard it is for them to say that. What deep pain led to that? There might be fear that you might assume they are perfectly happy being a "lone ranger", or judge them in some way. Instead, say, "I understand. Is there perhaps anything I can do for you?" I do not want anyone feeling sorry for me. My circumstances have made me the strong, brave woman that I am But I do want you to know that you can help ease the pain.
That a person can be 30 years old and still want to be part of a family.