Growing up, I was always surrounded by family. I must preface this by sharing that my mother had 23 brothers and sisters. 14 girls and 9 boys. There were aunts and uncles, cousins, and more cousins, that I grew up around. Our family expanded every year, and it was a constant celebration of life and growth for our family.
At our family reunions we all had to wear name tags because with all that extended family it was hard to keep everyone straight. And as the younger ones grew up and had families of their own, it became even more confusing; the family tree grew larger and larger.
But then, some reunions we skipped out on, or some family members stopped coming around. I was younger then, more upset that favorite cousins weren’t around to play with and didn’t understand why. Why family left and why we let them go so easily. Shouldn’t we fight for them? Ask where they are? In my young mind, saying sorry would make it all better.
As I got older, I began to understand the dynamics of family and that sorry wasn’t always enough. Not everything is so simple and complex at the same time. We hear that “family always comes first,” “honor thy mother and father,” and “always respect your elders.” While there is truth to these, I realized that sometimes it isn’t so simple.
Even family can cause heartache, pain, and have major disagreements. Some of these require space and time to heal; others may call for something more drastic, like letting that family member go.
It’s not easy saying goodbye to someone you thought would always be in your life. But pain, stress, disrespect—it doesn’t matter who it comes from, it is our job to protect ourselves from these things, even if it comes from family.
The thing is that the loyalty to family for many is deeply rooted, making us willing to put up with mental hardships, abuse, and what, for much less important reasons, we would cut others out of our life for. The truth is that it doesn’t matter where the abuse comes from, from whom or why, we are our own protectors. As we grow and expand our own families, we must realize that sometimes, letting people go from our lives is protecting those we love. The families we create. The families we grow.
So, as I think back to my younger years and wonder where family disappeared to, or why suddenly someone was uninvited to parties and events, I realize that my parents were protecting our peace, and for that I am thankful.
Family will always be family, but it is okay to let them go. It’s okay to save your peace, to embrace your happiness, and do what is needed to preserve it.