Families and letting go


a simpler time?!...the Muncil family 52 years ago


Of all the subjects that seem to cause  pain for us, family relationships are right at the top. So many of us have been raised with the notion that our support, love and encouragement will (and must) come from this group of humans (all too human humans!) and if it doesn’t, which by my experience, and that of most of the people that I talk with, is much more common, there is something wrong with us….or them.

I know this in my head, but am always surprised when I feel the little sting from lack of support or interest from them. This blog has been a teacher … no one in my family (siblings or parents) reads it…in one way it is a great freedom (I can share this with you!), in another, it is a definite hit to the ego. One of my sibs said, when I told her I was writing this,”Oh, that’s nice. I hate the word blog. Where did that come from?” I didn’t know where the word came from…didn’t care…that wasn’t the point! At that moment, I felt like I was about 10 years old saying to her, “Don’t you like my new dress?” and her saying “It’s ok…makes you look sort of fat.”

I used to lament that I wanted to live in a Norman Rockwell family (in simpler times with happier families)…until someone said that his family was also “messed up”.  Jack Canfield was talking about families, and letting go of the belief that we cannot fully move into our lives until we get their approval, and he said, “Researchers say that 85% of families are dysfunctional so this becomes ‘so what’.”

It shouldn’t, but it does, come as a surprise that family members can be the last ones that want to see us change, move, grow….and maybe we don’t want to see them change either…one thing I do know is that I cannot hold onto to petty hurt feelings or resentments and expect my life to expand. I have lived long enough to realize that I cannot change anyone else so this is a lesson for me. I am committed to loving my family and to letting them go with as much support as I can muster, and when I cannot feel that support for them, I hope that they will go (grow, change, move) anyway and not hold it against me…after all, I too am one of those “all too human humans” at times.

20 thoughts on “Families and letting go”

  1. Hi Mary,
    Your sib doesn’t get it…she wasn’t interested in your news…didn’t graciously inquire about your blog and congratulate you…shame on her…and sad that she has so little awareness. I know YOU (of all people) would know this (that’s a compliment): people are who they are…not who we’d like them to be. To limit our hurt/disappointment it behooves us to keep our expectations (of that person) realistic.
    Well I read your blog and forward your wisdom to family and friends when I feel they can benefit from a particular message. And I ALWAYS benefit.
    Spring has almost sprung…have a lovely day, Kay

  2. As a few week old child of white feather farm blog. I am glad you are willing to cut loose the apron strings of family. I choose to not live life wearing rose colored glasses. My life is full when I have emotion. When I feel anger, hurt, pain, and sadness. Then I appreciate a smile, a nod, or a pat on the back. Am I the dysfunctional child in dire need of spirtual counseling? Or just an all to human human.
    As always thanks for making me think.

  3. I, also, have had painful family relationships and used to beat myself up for this. I didn’t want to be stuck in that place. I wanted to be able to grow. I have finally learned that it is not worth it and have let go. They say that if you could pick your family members as your friends, you then wouldn’t have anything to do with them. Painful? yes, realistic? yes. As a dear old friend who has since passed away used to say to me, “Carry on!”

  4. I always want to thank you first for sharing! We always seem to think family should be supportive. When my husband was dying of cancer only one Aunt was kind enough to send me Emails and encourange me. No one in my family came to his funeral. I realized I didn’t get much support from my family and wondered . . . how many times had I failed them? Yes, I say we must “Carry On”!

  5. Mary – we must have a psychic connection. I went to bed last night thinking of emailing you and asking you to write something on “Sibling Rivalry”! The first sentence of this blog jumped off the page at me . More later, rushing off to a meeting in Greenwich; then to “The Dish” for coffee & food. Love from your cyber sister. Remember to SMILE!

  6. Mary, you are wise beyond your years as there are people who never seem to come to this realization about themselves and their families. Here are a few facts I’d like to share with you. A fact…all families are dysfunctional, just to different degrees. (ps..some families hide their dysfunctions better than others) A fact…you can deal with anything someone says or does to you because you can control the way you react to them. I love Joyce Meyer’s opinion on this subject, she says: you can be screaming at your spouse, children, whoever, and if someone comes to the front door, you answer it with a friendly HELLO, like nothing was going on a few seconds ago. You can control your emotions even if you have to fake it in the beginning. Fake it until it becomes real. Once I embraced this idea, I’m so much more at peace. We can’t control what others say or do that affect us but we can work to control how we react to them. One last fact… I love you and if you had asked me how that dress looked on you, I would have told you you looked fabulous! Have a great day!!

  7. …one more thing…I certainly don’t mean that you should bottle up hurt, resentment, etc. What I mean is that you control how you react and you CHOOSE not to be hurt, or whatever the emotion would have been.
    I have lived years of my life feeling hurt, sad, wishing people were different (nicer, more understanding, supportive) … I think in my case it’s a bit of a control thing, I wish I could change them into being more like I would like them to be, but guess what? The only person we can control in this whole wide world is ourselves, NO ONE ELSE. So again, we need to learn how to deal with others by not letting them bring us down. Anytime my family points out one of my (apparently) many faults, my response is always, “I have a lot of good qualities too!!” Smile, today is a new day and a new beginning xoxo

  8. Mary – I have the same issues with my family. I have such a call on my life to record it through my journals and photographs and really, no one cares. My daughter does not care about the journals I wrote for her when she was a baby, my husband does not care about the one I wrote for him (15 years ago now – he didn’t care then and he doesn’t care now).

    I have a need to record and share my life – that is my artistic vision. But I have accepted that it won’t be with my family. It’s still hard some days though.

    Right now, I’m putting together a photo album of my in-laws family pictures. They care so little – even my husband & daughter don’t care. On the other hand, they took so few pictures, it is a small and easily containable project that when it’s done, it’s over.

    But it’s important to me that they know who they are and where they came from. And I love the old photos – if I don’t take care of them, at some point they will be ruined.

    Thanks for dragging this one out into the light and putting it in its place. Great topic for a Monday!

      1. Your beagle is adorable! Was he/she a little devil as a puppy? My Mom’s is, and I’m amazed the two of them haven’t killed each other yet! 🙂

  9. I have to admit, it was a shock when I learned, just over two years ago, just how human my Mom is, and I went through a grieving process over it, too. Of course it came at the worst time – my Dad’s death – when we were all going through a grieving process that we had never known before. And these past two years have been quite a challenge, learning how to live without the Mom I knew; learning how to live with this new Mom who emerged. I still struggle, and I guess I may always, but one thing I’ve learned for sure – I have to stop living my life to please her and others in my family, and start living my life to please me. Not at their expense, but for my own benefit and sanity. It’s a fine line we walk, to keep relationships with our family members as we each grow and move in different directions. I haven’t been as successful as I’d like, and I don’t know that I ever will. But I do have to let that go… I have to let them live their lives, and I have to take mine from them. I’ll be 42 next month. It’s time.

  10. When I was growing up, it was not okay to talk about what happened behind closed doors. I felt like my family must be freaks and the only people in my world who had problems. It was a lonely place to be. As an adult, I joined a womans discussion group where it was okay to share the real experiences. What an eye opener! It was there that I developed my own personal philosophy. “Every person has problems. It was my choice….be an unhappy person with problems or be a happy person with problems.” I chose happiness.

  11. For years I said in jest that, as children, we were always looking for the ‘fun’ in a turbulent dys’fun’ctional family. As a child of the 1950’s, it was stated or at least inferred that family matters were always kept hidden, never aired shamefully in public. As good little soldiers, we kept the lid on it all.
    What I would have given for a BLOG back then!! Because we would have realized that the vast majority of families indeed have some level of dysfunction. And the blessing now is that we can all share our stories, feelings, setbacks and triumphs with others who want to move forward to a different ending. Thank you, Mary, for the light you shine every day.

  12. The thought crossed my mind this weekend, that perhaps you might write about families, relationships and how to let go..then today came your message. You must have picked up on by vibes My family exhausts me with the amount of negative energy they put out and trying to keep track of who no longer is speaking to who.
    Let me tell you Mary, that if I could pick a sister (I only have brothers) you would be the first on that list. Your thoughts, inspiration and honesty speak volumes. Each blog hits home and I feel incredibly fortunate to have discovered you.
    I now smile and praise myself during the work day because nobody else does it. Sounds crazy but it works!! My outlook is improving since reading your blog so please keep at it. I appreciate the hard work that goes into it.
    Your soul sister. Jean

  13. So much food for thought…thanks all for writing.
    My mom could be a grouch and tyrant at times….now she is in a nursing home, can’t walk, talk …other than repetitive sounds…, feed herself or really move. I’ve found that she is now a different person…her smile lights up the room…she is valued where she is, even tho it takes 2 people to move her etc. There’s less “stuff” between us and I just talk and love her (& lift my dog up to give her chin kisses).
    But sometimes I get envious of other family members who seldom see Mom, they are well off, get to travel much more etc.
    Then I “talk to myself” and get back to genuine acceptance of where I am at this time and believe in the goodness of God…and that He truly loves me…even when I’m not valued by others.
    I work on expressing gratitude to God more…to hopefully squelch any envy. Acceptance, love…gratitude…all so important…

  14. I think a lot of people can relate to this. I’m pretty sure that nobody in my family reads my blog. They don’t read any thing I have in print. They’ve never attended any of my art shows. I think friends have made up for the family foibles. There is too much energy involved in trying to get some family member to like something I’ve done, or even supporting me. I decided long ago that I’ll just please myself.

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