We are family! Blood has nothing to do with it.
Twelve hundred miles from home, I left my extended family. My four sisters, mom and dad were no longer part of my daily routine. At first it didn’t matter, I was young and free and could easily fly home for family events or the holidays. At least a few times a year, I could bask in the warmth and chaos of my extended family.
And later, I had my own little family in Maine: husband, three little boys, Grammy and Poppa. Not a large family, since the boys’ dad was an only child, but there were aunts and uncles around for gatherings and holiday celebrations. My blended family was becoming abundant.
But then, even that small family shrunk — diminished by divorce. I worried over the consequences of a broken family and what it meant to my three small sons. How would they feel secure with a separate mom and dad and where would they find the loving support from that extended family and the fun times of those big family events that were so important to me? Holidays felt dismal; the same three of us for every event and even my most creative holidays felt like a sham. All I could see ahead were years and years of these lonely, holiday charades.
And now 20 years later, my three sons are one of fourteen step-cousins celebrating a family wedding. And, that’s not all. They are step-brothers to 2 new brothers and 2 new sisters. They are uncles to 3 nephews and 5 nieces. They are nephews to 2 uncles and 1 aunt. And none of this new family even includes my side still 1200 miles away. Clearly tiny family gatherings are a thing of the past.
And that’s not all, these same family gatherings includes the exes — all of them. Husband and new wives, wives and new husbands along with new grandparents. Instead of hosting separate birthday or graduation parties we do them together and that’s where we see the network of support that’s waiting for everyone when we focus on family and the love we all have for our children.
Here’s my truth — In spite of 41 percent of first marriages ending in divorce and 60% of second marriages ending in divorce and 73 percent of third marriages ending in divorce, there is stigma and shame of divorce for all of us who make up this statistic. We’re conditioned to carry the shame and guilt because we believed that marriage is forever and that we divorced people are less than. I see it every day when a new coaching client reluctantly tells me they’ve been married before.
That shame and guilt keeps us from the loving, supportive network of this new extended family. When we get out of our own way and move beyond that outdated fairy tale, we remember that before divorce there was love. When we do, we find a new extended family — one that’s a true blessing to our children and proof that love can indeed, conquer all.
Originally published on YourTango.com.