Longing for Belonging

Longing for Belonging

Ever since I was a child, I’ve searched for my true family, my tribe, my place in the world. I’ve yearned for a loving fortress to protect me from harm, and a place where I could find safety and sustenance. I’ve had many relationships, friendships, and families to which I could turn. But, because I didn’t understand the nature of life, I was blown around like tumbleweed, a woman without a safe haven. When my son and his wife estranged me, I was completely unmoored. I kept clinging to the hope of reclaiming an honored place in my family. I searched everywhere for comfort. Finally, out of desperation, I looked within, to all the levels of my being that called out for healing.

Our culture is obsessed with “family.” Our society revolves around the nuclear family, which can offer an insulated, self-important, wholesome and solid sense of belonging. I’ve heard it said many times that “Family is everything.” When my mother-in-law was hospitalized shortly before her death at 97, she was lovingly surrounded by her grown kids and grandkids. Her roommate was an old woman, sick and alone. At one point, my mother-in-law turned to her roommate and said, “I’m so lucky, because I have family.” She meant no harm, she was simply expressing her love for her kids. But I felt very sad for the poor woman who was alone.

Talk of family is often a trigger for me. It seems that family is glorified: holidays revolve around family as do religions, neighborhoods, discounts, schools, even greeting cards. While I’m certainly not denigrating “family,” I do wonder where someone who has been estranged, abused, neglected, and mistreated by family is supposed to turn.

The truth is that belonging to any system, group, family, tribe, cult, team, class, or party is always temporary and tenuous. Life is fleeting and so are families and organizations. People may hurt you, anger you, leave you, move away, ghost you, have a change of heart, get ill, or die. There is no permanent situation; everything dissolves. We tend to believe that our families and relationships are forever and reliable and we dread the loss of these relationships. Now, whenever I see someone I love, I celebrate and cherish them because I know that one day we will have to say good-bye.

So, where is my family? Where do I belong? Where is my home, my fortress, my safe place? My home is and always has been right here, in my own being. I belong to everything and nothing; to everyone and no-one. I belong to this earth, to the sky above and to the dirt beneath my feet. I belong to the critters – human and otherwise – that flow in and out of my life, like birds that fly overhead with ease and grace. I work on being balanced in all things and I no longer push or force anything. I’m content with who I am, what I’ve accomplished and how deeply I have loved.

Things are the way they are and knowing this, accepting this, finally feels like  home.

17 thoughts on “Longing for Belonging”

  • Dear Nancy, I just wanted you to know how wonderful and helpful your book was. I’m actually not much of a book reader but at this stage, I’m willing to try anything. I have been estranged with my son, dtr in law and grandson for almost 2 years. I decided a long time ago that I was not going to be that mother in law that was controlling because my mom was that way with my relationships and was very difficult. Unfortunately that didn’t work out because by deciding that early on, I took 7 years of abuse by my dtr in law. She only accepted me if I bought them things or became my grandson;s babysitter. My son ended up cheating on her and I was made to be the scapegoat because she felt I didn’t support her enough. And of course, my son through guilt needed to choose her, even if it meant leaving his mom. I tried to call him a couple of times and he did take my call but was very cold and unfeeling. I knew then that our relationship was over, at least for now. I miss my grandson so much and took care of him the first 2 years of his life to help out. Recently, my dtr in law sent me a long , very condescending , emotionally extorted text. I was proud of myself and didn’t respond back. I don’t cry in the middle of the night anymore and think about it a little less each day. My grandson will be 5yr this year. I think that I’m glad that he’s too young to remember me and maybe thats for the best. I’m not on facebook so I don’t have any temptation . I’ve been focusing on me and each day is new start. Thanks again Nancy!!

    • Hello, Jana –
      Thanks so much for writing and I’m so sorry for the estrangement you’re experiencing . I’m glad my book helped you – that means so much to me.
      It sounds like you’re on the right track and doing some good healing work.
      Sending you blessings,

    • I’m so sorry. I’m going thru the exact same thing. So I understand how devastating u must feel. This is my first time to post or reach out to anyone. I am going to get this book I’m so sad all the time. It’s going on seven years now I can’t hardly type when I’m fighting back tears but at my age I consider that multi tasking Not my strong suit anymore lol

  • Hi Nancy. I find unity in your writing of this story. You are not alone. I too have searched my entire life for family and inclusion and belonging. Even when, I was raised by a family who I was raised to be a part of. UnImaginably , there was this odd feeling that I really wasnt wanted there, really didn’t belong. I remember as a child, adolescent and young woman in my teens- I would go to bed each night with a deep ache in my heart of feeling unwanted and unloved. When I was 50 y/o I found out my parents weren’t even my parents at all. (now I don’t even know who is) All the light bulbs of my imaginations came on all at once. I realized the ache was real, and even tho it was stabbing me in the heart, I felt like I had an answer finally. Yet right in the middle of all this new knowledge , as a divorcee living alone -But , the family that raised me has pushed me aside( and it finally makes sense as to why ) In the middle of this knowledge, I was already dealing with the weight of my only ( adult) child and his wife. who had declared a few years before , they were estranging from me, upon their wedding day. Now I am 10 years into a devastating estrangement that appears to have no end. It is difficult to even make friends. Everyone says to move on, move valiantly forward. But it is not that easy . Im rejected by everyone once they discover my only child has rejected me and never let me see or even meet my 3 Grandchildren. I honestly don’t even know why. But everyone wants to know why, so that in a matter of a few minutes they size it all up, declare a conclusion, and a solution. It’s like a slap in my face. As if I haven’t tried everything and haven’t realized or considered everything I have ever done as wrong. I’ve made friends with the alone-ness, made peace with God and Befriended Jesus as my only Hope and Saviour, He has walked me through this life since I knew His name. This is such an unbearable pain, I know you understand, and I am undone by it on different levels- each day. So much of life, and so many facets of living include family, and I have absolutely not one family member. I am embarrassed to need to choose long time known work associates as my only emergency contacts. It seems this nightmare will never end until death. I understand you Nancy. You aren’t in this whole crazy world alone in this. There are many more of us than you and I even realize. We see each-others pain and know it full well. It Ebbs and flows and somewhere in it. I honestly think I have become a better person. A more compassionate heart and a deeper soul. Bless you Nancy you are loved so deeply by God, you are His Treasure and His Jewel.

    • Dear Esther,
      Consider that here you are not judged, but instead, deeply held in tender hands of the compassionate souls who share your loss, know your pain, value your knowledge and experience and hold your courageous tired heart up to the light.
      I cried to read your post.
      You are not alone. Please know that. There are so many now who share your pain. We are the Family of Lost Grandmas belonging to The Society of Tears, living in the Land of Estrangement. If we were on a map I bet we would cover a large amount of land in the Territory of Grief. While we belong to this family, we must also remember that we are also bigger than this.
      We cannot LIVE in a Country of Despair. Yes, we can exist there –that is true. But if we are to truly Live, as our Creator intended–with joy, faith, love, we must remember that we are bigger than this pain. With the strength of all the other grandmas, (who know our pain and loss), we can gain comfort to step out of the pain -if only for a moment -and remember the one who made us, the one who loves us and the one who knows us and wants all things good for us. These moments are our Pearls of Peace that we can knot and string together to create a precious necklace of beauty that we can wear as our badge of honor for this horrendousness that we endure. Our talisman of courage.
      Whatever comfort this can give you, let it bring it to your soul. Find one beautiful thing today to contemplate and value. Look into the mirror…you will see that beautiful thing that is gazing back as YOU. Know the treasure that you are and know that you are not without love–love to give and love to have.

      • Linda; Thank you from One Grandma to Another. Our Hearts know each-other due to our pain. You are so eloquent and wise sister.
        I wear 3 rings , 3 gold birthstone rings I bought with each of my Grand childrens’ Birth-Stones , They remind me that they are alive and have my blood. They are Gold to me.
        I don’t believe in Talismans, But I do believe in God. Jesus, and my relationship with him, is the only reason I am surviving this. His words and His Truths, are all I have to hold on to. And it Truly is a lighter burden when He carries it for me. Blessings to you ! We are all in this together. Please share pain and joy, for these are both substances of the road we travel. Our Emmaus Road.

        • Dear Esther,
          Wear your rings with pride. Regardless if you are invisible, you ARE on the family tree. God knows in many ways you Are the tree! And that is something that is impossible for anything or anyone to change, remember that.
          Only foolish children refuse to awaken to love.
          Wear your rings. Love yourself deeply. Write your family history. Leave something behind that is more than the pain.
          My heart is grateful to you.

        • yes, Jesus took all suffering upon himself. We in the natural feel the thrust of evil. We cannot wrap our brains around how our adult child could cut us out and deprive our grandchildren a grandparents love. It seems that a third party has swayed them to justify estrangement. I have leaned so deeply into the Word of God as this journey is a long and hard one. God gives me hope. He gives all of us hope if we lean on him. I said to my pastor why isn’t the churches offering parents of estranged adult child support groups as a ministry. I can’t be the only one in our church.
          Well, I’m praying for everyone here to find one min everyday to feel joy. One simple thing! And write it on a sticky , dare it and put it in a jar! That’s right and in a yr you, me, Will have 365 joyful moments. It can be anything that made you feel other then sad! Let’s do it friends!!! Let’s start today! Tonight!
          May Our Lord God , anoint you with his peace as you sleep.


          • Dear Hope,
            This idea of the pieces of joy, one each day, is wonderful. And putting them in a jar —like a jar to hold our joys –is healing and active, not passive. I like this very much.
            If at the end of each year, on New Years Eve, I was able to pour out onto my table my pieces of joy of the year…………. I think it would be a comfort and a strength. And a way to not only survive this daily pain, but also a way to thrive.
            For if I can recognize joy, and create it for myself or others, then I can live through this from strength, and not weakness. And god knows we need all the strength we can get.
            Thank you for this healing practice.
            I believe that joy is the comfort we are given to balance the scales of pain, and joy is within our reach. We just must open our eyes and brush away the tears. It might not be what we hoped for, it might be unexpected, but it is there. It is there for us, as it is there for all. I’m so happy you are finding yours. I’m starting now.

      • Linda, thank you for your words of wisdom. God has created us to have life and the journey we are traveling in is a tough one. But somehow each day HE gives us pearls that he can only provide. And the support of those around us, including this group is a gift. 💞Hope

  • Dearest Nancy,
    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. I myself have been struggling since Halloween with the longing to belong and the rejection of being excluded. I am OK, but then the monster raises its head when I realize that I have missed my grandbabies laughter, their pattycakes, their Halloween costumes, their delight at Christmas lights, another birthday, another holiday, snow men and snow angels, hot chocolate and cookies , and all there is to show for it on my side is more on the pile of loss. A mountain of pain.
    The thought of this never ending takes my breath away and then I am down, down into the pit again. I actually call it (to myself), “the pit of s###”. Not very nice, I know, but it is a relevant reference for the good it does , which of course is…….not a single good thing.
    However, once I hit bottom, at least I can rest, the sliding stops, and when I stop and look up through the stinky, slimy dark, I can see the deep dark silent sky, high above me, with its constant stars that mark the path of the movement of eternity and the comforting moon that lights the way towards peace , and I focus on THAT instead.
    Step by step I claw myself up and out, to the fresh air and clean water, the bath of tears washing away into a quiet lake of contemplation. It cannot be that this is all my life is meant to be. The stars and faith alone press me towards hope and understanding that my life too is meant to be bigger than these losses, this rejection, this terrible, lonely, cruel exclusion. Somewhere, somehow, joy is meant for me too, but it can only be if I choose it, if I refuse to live in the place of pain, and demand my rightful place in the light of the stars and propel myself forward to a greater good, a bigger peace, a larger -than-this-pain life.
    This is what I know for sure from all this–No one can save us from the pain of this cruel rejection. But as little bits of light, we can show the way to a brighter, better place for each other, and through our caring for each other, through our mutual understanding of the pain, we can create a path to a bigger place, a softer place, a larger space, where we belong in our rightful place, for a better purpose.
    We may have lost what we love, in a million ways, but we can still love what remains in us to live, and cherish the moments we can breathe and create, regardless. Life is ours, too , to love. Thank you Nancy, for reminding me and being a light of love, yourself.

    • Hi Linda,
      I saw myself in your amazing descriptions of your pain and process and I know that your words will help others who read this. Thanks so much for your input and I wish you a new season of love and strength.

      • Dear Other Grandmas,

        I have no idea what I would do without the ability to share hope, truth, pain, compassion and understanding here with others who share the same boat.
        Let us lift our sails and find a way to fly away, if only for a moment, from this awful loss. Make one moment into two. And find some way to breathe, to grow, to find the waters of peace. And rest.
        We are all mothers — with or without our children.
        Let’s remember that and not allow these days now to steal the joy of our memories, and the love we gave so freely .
        Thank you to everyone here whose expression touches my heart and moves my soul. You are all graceful souls.
        And graceful grandmas.

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