Dealing With Heartbreak on a Familial Level

by Bailey Powell

Family-related heartbreak is a peculiar thing in that it is both inescapable and inevitable, and despite different circumstances and varying degrees of severity everyone deals with it. Things that make up a typical day in one home could be seen as a cake walk or nightmare in another. Divorce, untimely death, undiagnosed or unacknowledged mental incapacity, financial woes, a rogue sibling, abuse in the shape of emotional, physical, or substance, chronic or terminal illness, you name it- everyone has a unique combination of familial issues, the residue of which seems to follow you around long after your 18th birthday. No matter if you perceive it as having been more positive or negative, home life has a direct correlation to our ability (or lack thereof) to relate to and empathize with people in general.

As a child you have no choice in the matter of whether or not you are a part of family drama. Your home life is the only one you know, your awareness extending solely to the fictional families displayed on television. It’s not until you get older that you can take a step back and see how your family dynamic molded and influenced you, which is oft an assessment that unearths a lot of realizations and feelings. You start to see your parents as regular, flawed people opposed to someone whose sole purpose in life is to be your mother or father. You begin to understand sacrifices that have been made in your name and as you compare your situation to those around you, circumstances that might be considered abnormal to the general population are identified or magnified.

So, where does your family as a whole end and you as an separate entity begin? How much is home life allowed to infiltrate your being, altering your decision-making and thought processes? Conversely, when does a “healthy distance” become denial or selfishness? Where do you draw the line? Where is your rightful place?

Because I think family deserves special treatment these are really tough questions to answer. Your fuse should be longer and your patience tempered to last. Your love should be unconditional while remaining assertive enough to intervene when necessary. You must take note to be giving without crossing the line of enabling.

Relatives possess an immunity by default, providing them more get-out-of-jail-free cards than the average person in your life. Sometimes a family member unconsciously drains your provisional patience, but most of the time it just feels as if they’re taking advantage of it. As they thoughtlessly exhaust the last of your emotional endurance you are left evermore weary, wary, and at a loss.

I realize that this is a risky topic for me to address, and I’m not just posting to lament. Although it is compromising in nature and hardly a fairy tale ending, I have a solution to pose: There comes a time when it is not only possible but acceptable to detach yourself from negative happenings at home. This doesn’t necessarily mean physically removing yourself from a situation or “giving up” on a person. This is a mental state composed of acceptance and lacking denial. You acknowledge what has happened or is happening and make a conscious effort to emotionally detach yourself from it, no longer permitting it to permeate your psyche and drag you down. It is not to be equated with disowning where you come from or sweeping things under the rug but with a determination to have a healthy outlook.

Learning that there are some things in life that won’t ever be resolved and embracing that heartbreak is a very adult thing to undertake. It shatters innocence to an extent and indeed creates a scar that you will never be able to ignore completely. A protective mindset, however, is your best friend. If implemented, healing will begin and soon enough only the occasional phantom pain will serve as a reminder of the way things once were.