I’m not close to my extended family. I used to be, but the familial unit decided to be silent after the birth of my special-needs son. I was heartbroken and their silence was deafening. I’m aware my family didn’t intend to overlook my new stressful reality, but no one was brave enough to step into the unknown to provide emotional support. All felt ill-equipped to help, so everyone stayed in the shadows wringing their hands. I didn’t know what to do either, and I was forced to figure things out on my own. This was a curse and a blessing all wrapped into one. I thought family would have my back during my darkest moments. However, my family’s inaction made a way for a blessing to emerge. I learned I was strong enough, with God’s help, to create a new life with my disabled child and husband.

A few cousins did emerge a little later, despite my efforts to sweep them back into the shadows. I was emotionally injured and determined I didn’t need any support from my bloodline. I succeeded without their help, so why now? They didn’t go away. These relatives persisted. They loved on me. I hadn’t felt this type of love from family members in years. They rallied for me. I didn’t realize how broken I was until I experienced the support of my cousins. Despite having supportive friends, husband, and in-laws, I’ve discovered that nothing can truly replace the love from a biological family member. An individual can be successful and thrive without it, but I can’t deny how meaningful it is to have their love. It felt so good to be affirmed and accepted.

A psychologist, at a speaking engagement, asked me if I ever planned to interact with my extended family again. I paused to reflect because my experience with family was different now. I said, “I plan to only engage in win-win family relationships, which means the engagement must be mutually beneficial. I will love other family members from afar when exchanges feel burdensome or one-sided.” In my new life configuration, I don’t have time to invest in anyone that doesn’t contribute to the betterment of this world. There is enough negativity in it already.