Family: Not by Blood Alone

BY IN Healing 3 COMMENTS , , , , , , , ,

What makes a family a family? Some would stick with the traditional definition: persons closely related by blood. I refer to that as a biological family. For me family encompasses so much more, sometimes not including the “related by blood”component.

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The two elements I consider crucial to defining family are; unconditional love and emotional support. Unconditional love is love that is not dependent on certain qualities or actions. Having a child who wraps their arms around you or wants to snuggle in your lap are wonderful perks but wouldn’t you love your child still if they were not the affectionate type?

Providing emotional support is also a key factor defining family. When we fully understand a family member’s struggle its easy to provide that support. Its when we haven’t experienced the same trauma that it becomes more difficult. Difficult but necessary. The support you provide must come from love and trust, not from empathy. If you had a brother battling an addiction that didn’t plague you, wouldn’t you still support him in his fight?

You see, being a family member isn’t about you and what you receive. Its all about what you give and when you can give unconditional love and emotional support you will receive the gift of family in return.

My family is made up of people who are biologically connected to me like my children, aunt and cousin and those who have no biological connection like my husband and a few people who I choose to call family rather than friend. I know that they love me unconditionally as I do them and we’ve supported each other through the emotional highs and lows of life regardless of whether we’ve shared the same experience.

So what brings this topic of family to my post today? Recently I read an excellent book, Breathe, by author Kelly Kittel. In her tragic story of losing two children in nine months, she shares the reaction to their loss by her husband’s “family”. Without saying too much–I want you all to read the book, we learn of their betrayal and the lack of their support. It would seem unbelievable to some but it touched a sensitive spot for me. When I broke my silence, disclosing the abuse I endured by my biological parents, I too lost the support of some family members. I’m sure this has happened to many survivors of abuse who expose the truth.

Initially it was devastating but having a broader view of what makes a family a family truly eases the pain. I have “family” who have betrayed me, and I have others who have blessed me with their love and support. I still have a family, the composition has just changed.

My thought for you today is this: Look at those who surround you, love you unconditionally and offer you emotional support. Hold them close to your heart and know that whatever your circumstance, if you’ve shared the Kittels experience, mine or one similar, you are not alone and not without family.

What makes a family a family? Take a minute to answer that for yourself. I think it will warm your heart on this cold winter day. Roberta

You can find Breathe by Kelly Kittel at


  1. Karen Z |

    On this cold winter night in Maine, I just read your post aloud to Annie. We are sobbing. Despite that, you have warmed our hearts.