By Maud Purcell
From “The Cosby Show” to “The Sopranos,” Americans’ favorite TV shows revolve around family. Our cultural touch points reflect what’s important to us, and family certainly is. Family gives us a sense of connectedness. Family is where we go for support and assistance. But sometimes, our families of origin can’t provide the emotional support we need, and we must find that support elsewhere.
Many women have had painful and damaging experiences at the hands of their family members. As a practicing psychologist, I have clients who have never felt valued by their parents or siblings. Others come from abusive or alcoholic homes, and some of my clients have no families at all. Even if you have a supportive family, there are life-changing events that can make you feel like an orphan – such as moving across the country.
In cases where women haven’t had families, or where family relationships have been highly toxic, they’ve figured out how to create their own support networks or “families.” These women recognize that they are worthy of the love that families can provide.
If you want to create a happy “family,” consider following the steps they’ve taken:
-- First, find creative ways to integrate these people into your life. Volunteer, plant a garden, or exercise together. Invite them last minute for popcorn and videos, or for a come-as-you-are party. Use your imagination; the sky’s the limit.
-- Once you’ve established a connection, let these people know why they’re important to you. As you become comfortable, explain the specific kinds of support you’d like from each of them. They will feel valued and needed. And don’t forget to give back to them!
-- Overlook their faults. Even created family members aren’t perfect. Accept them and they are likely to do the same for you. Isn’t that what families are supposed to be about?
-- Develop unique rituals with your new family members. And whenever feasible, bring them all together. They may not feel an instant kinship with one another, but they will be joined together by their love for you!
Not having a loving family of origin will always be a source of sadness for you. However, the ability to form your own family, comprised of those you’ve hand-picked, can provide endless comfort.
Maud Purcell, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, is a skilled and seasoned psychotherapist, as well as a trained Coach and Corporate Consultant. She is the owner of Maud Purcell & Associates Inc., and she writes a regular column for The Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, The Danbury Times and CT Post Newspapers.
Do you have a surrogate family? Tell us about it, or about the “family” you plan to create, in the comments.