Coping With Loss – Chapter 13 : Family

When faced with the loss of a family member, it isn’t unusual that the family bands together for a brief amount of time. While this isn’t a bad thing, it is also something I don’t necessarily care about. Having support from those you have familial ties to can bring comfort, but it can also become a problem if left unchecked.

My mother was a big proponent on being close to your family. To her, being apart of a family is what brings happiness. Her ideals were not at fault, growing up I was fortunate to have a family that was closely knit and were there for one another. She embodied the saying “blood is thicker than water” to a fault, and rarely felt a sense of annoyance when constantly dealing with those she was related to.

As I got older, I realized that while her ideals were respectable, I felt no similarity towards them. I don’t believe the idea that family is everything, especially when it hampers your own feelings. While I always tend to give priority to my family when it comes to most things, if it inhibits me from doing something I enjoy, I will graciously decline. Unlike my mother, taking care of others before myself is not a feeling I enjoy.

There were times that my mother argued with me on this. She would insist that she didn’t raise me to selfishly ignore my family, and she was right. What she didn’t understand was that the only difference between family and friends, is that with one, I was conditioned to trust, and the other, I trusted on my own accord. When growing up, a lot of people are subjected to the notion that since ‘Person A’ is family, they are someone you should trust. This isn’t always true, and is a terrible mindset to instill into a child.

There are family members I trust, but there are also family members who I cannot stand to look at either. So should I overlook my distain for them simply because we are family? In my mothers words “Yes”. It is no secret, especially to those it involves, that I am not too forthcoming to my fathers side of the family. There are a handful I actually harbor no ill will towards, but there are also plenty that I dislike. It doesn’t mean much, given that my encounters with them border on decades at a time, but never the less, there is family that I view as nobodies.

On my mother’s side, this is less common. Mostly in part because the only relatives I have are an aunt, grandparents, a sister, and a handful of cousins. I tend to keep most of them within arms reach, but I am also not very doting. If they ask for help, I will generally accept, but I will not go out of my way to interact with them either. I prefer to keep to myself, and for the most part, my family understands and respects that. Unlike my mother who felt the need to communicate often with family, I find no problem with going weeks without uttering so much as “hello”.

It is important to remember that family members are no different than some person on the street. Besides having a higher chance of being a matching organ donor, they are just regular people you’ve been raised to trust. There is no fault in removing family from your life if they are toxic, and there is no fault in keeping infrequent or rare communication with them. Not all families are the same, and not all family members are worth having. Just like friends, your family should be those who you truly trust and care about. Don’t merely call someone family because they are related to you; call them family because they have earned the title.

After my mother passed, a lot of family members began to come out of the woodwork to show their support. Some we had cut contact with decades ago, others we were glad to hear from. My stance for those who’ve lost has always been, regardless of their relationship or closeness to the deceased, if they wish to mourn or give regards, there is no harm in the words they say. However, some of my family weren’t as open to that idea, and felt slightly perturbed to hear from those who’d long since stopped talking to my mother.

Since I was in charge of the funeral, and based on my mother’s wishes, I enforced the policy that anyone and everyone was welcome. It was the basis for my suggestion on the livestream and why I feel the entire experience went as well as it did. Sure we were greeted by plenty of family we had no desire to see, but it wasn’t the time and place to have petty feelings come out. My only grievance was the lacking appearance of my father, who unbeknownst to me was informed not to show up on my account. I felt genuinely bad that her husband, and man that she conceived me with felt unwelcomed to pay his respects, even if I had personal distain for him.

In the end, once all was said and done, true family are the ones that stand by your side long after you deal with a loss, and fortunately I had plenty of family leftover once the dust cleared. Not everyone has what it takes to cut ties with those they’ve grown up with, and my viewpoint is certainly not the best way to deal with family either. All people start out the same to me, strangers who must prove themselves worth my time and trust. If they aren’t people I find to be a positive influence on my life, they will be gone and forgotten faster than it takes to tell them that. My mother loved her family, and she never regretted being as close as she was. I commend her for sticking it out through tough times, and always being there when she was needed. I do not know if I could live up to the teachings she instilled in me, but I certainly wont turn my back on those I call family should they ever need anything.