Last weekend a very dear friend of mine and I spent time on the phone trying to answer the question, “What is family?” Chances are you’ve tried to answer the same question at some point in your life. Often, our answer defines our happiness and the course of our days.
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We were provoked into the conversation by her recent experience providing round-the-clock care for her terminally-ill sister and brother-in-law. As you can imagine, emotions ran high, and the dysfunctional elements in the various relationships became more apparent – and damaging. She came back home, emotionally battered and physically exhausted.
I was the only child of an alcoholic mother and a philandering father. In truth, the story of my family-of-origin is nothing, if not a tale of dysfunction. Ultimately, my parents stopped speaking to me. Mom died in 1988, Dad in 2014. The last time I saw him, in 1992, we stood in the driveway of his home and he told me I’d never see him again; and he meant it. Today, they are both little more than ghosts from my past. While they may be my genetic origin, these two people were by no means, ‘family.’
15 Thought-Provoking Quotes about Family
Both she and I decided the topic was large enough – and important enough – to investigate further. To me, that meant seeing what “great minds” have said about the true meaning of family – a task which led me to look for pithy, thought-provoking quotes about family, with you here as “food for thought” in your quest for a very personal answer to the question “what is family?”
“Perhaps nothing so accurately characterizes dysfunctional families as denial.” ~John Bradshaw, Bradshaw on the Family: A New Way of Creating
“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.” ~ Barbara Bush
“A family can be the bane of one’s existence. A family can also be most of the meaning of one’s existence. I don’t know whether my family is bane or meaning, but they have surely gone away and left a large hole in my heart.” ~Keri Hulme, The Bone People
“Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.” ~ Brad Henry
“As I was growing up, no one in my family got their needs met through respectful negotiation and compromise. The only victories I had ever seen my mom achieve were small, and she had accomplished them through manipulation, which was one of the few techniques she had for surviving her relationship with my father.” ~Olga Trujillo, The Sum of My Parts: A Survivor’s Story of Dissociative Identity Disorder
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
“Sadly, no one in our family ever said, ‘I love you.’ Do you realize that? The truth is, I think we were all frightened of saying it, since the obvious reply would’ve been. “Well, if this is love, what is hate like?” ~Louie Anderson, Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child
The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” – George Santana
“The happy family is a myth for many.” ~Carolyn Spring
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” ~Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.” ~Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society
“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” ~ David Ogden Stiers
“There is no such thing as a ‘broken family.’ Family is family, and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart. The only time family becomes null is when those ties in the heart are cut. If you cut those ties, those people are not your family. If you make those ties, those people are your family. ~C. JoyBell C.
“Family isn’t an important thing. It’s everything.” ~ Michael J. Fox
If you’ve now got the true meaning of family on your mind, you may also enjoy reading the August family-oriented post, “No Funeral, No Flowers: What I Learned Planning a Memorial Service.” And, if you’d like some insight into how I redefined family back in 2012 when my ex-husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, and how the decision affected me, in “Anticipatory Grief: One Woman’s Story.”
What’s Up Next
Often people tell us “my pets are my family.” Certainly, I’ve felt that way many times in my life and feel, like Anatole France, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” If you feel the same way, you’ll appreciate my next post which is a light-hearted look at celebrity pets. It’s the first of 11 focusing on pet love, and pet loss.
Goodreads: Quotes about Families
Goodreads: Quotes about Dysfunctional Families
Goodreads: Quotes about Pets