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Discovering Found Families

by Jennifer M. Ward 3 months ago in values / literature / grief / extended family / advice
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One of Life's Hidden Treasures

Discovering Found Families
Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

“But none of that really mattered. I had found my tribe. It felt like a family reunion for the family I'd never really known, a homecoming at the place where I was always meant to be but hadn't known how to find.” – David Levithan, Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story

We’ve often heard we can’t choose our own families…but what if we could? What would that found family look like? Well, according to the San Diego Writers Blog, “A found family is exactly what it sounds like: a group of (mostly) unrelated people form their own family based on shared experiences and understanding of each other rather than the blood ties that would dictate a biological family,” (Buhbe). Here’s my similar but shorter definition: People you meet and grow to love who feel like family. Found families are incredible and liberating if you think about it. If you are lucky enough to have one, it can enable you to take control of your life and find lasting happiness.

Thinking about this concept made me reflect on my experiences with losing my own family. When I was in high school, my father died a few years after my parents divorced. Although that was a long time ago, the pain has never seemed to leave me. I’m recently divorced with no children, and I am estranged from my mother and sister. The distance from my remaining immediate family is tough, but at times, seems like the healthiest way to live. Even if there is a chance of reconciliation in the future, it isn’t the unconditional love and acceptance I want or need. So, where do I go from here?

Loneliness is universal. We know, at some point, most of us will feel it. Even when we’re not isolated in a physical sense, the loneliness can be palpable. Anyone who has found themselves in an unfulfilling marriage can attest to that. Loneliness isn’t an easy thing to overcome—especially when you don’t have a lot of people in your life. But if we believe in finding others and opening ourselves up, we can forge our own paths and build new families whom we love and accept us unconditionally in return. I think it just takes time.

Found families are not only part of real life; it’s a trope we’ve seen a lot in fiction. And it’s a trope I happen to love. Over the years, I’ve gravitated toward stories featuring found families while reading, writing, and teaching--from children’s books to YA, all the way through adulthood. A few of my favorite picks are The Story of Holly & Ivy, The Outsiders, A Long Walk to Water, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (I haven’t read the last one yet, but I’ve heard it’s amazing). What can I say? Lonesome fictional characters have always brought me some comfort.

I recently started working on a novel (also my thesis) about two young women living in New York City. Both are dealing with a great amount of grief and tragedy, in the past and in the present. Through their encounters, they unexpectedly begin to form a bond, which is the beginning of a sisterhood of their own.

I am, by no means, an expert on relationships. I have a few friends that are my family, and I’m very grateful for them. I am still searching to expand my group because there’s always room for more people. I would like to share some final thoughts I keep in mind as I continue my search. I hope you will find them helpful too.

A few final thoughts…

Be open to possibilities. You never know what’s out there unless you believe in the chance of finding someone or something. It’s okay to give others the benefit of the doubt sometimes.

Be social and leave the couch. I don’t leave my house for days at a time. There, I said it. It’s so easy to fall into this unhealthy pattern, and I’m thinking I’m not the only one who struggles with it. But life and relationships are an endless balancing act, and not leaving your house, isn’t it.

Look for others who ‘get it’ and surround yourself with them. Whether you are grieving the loss of a deceased relative, or your family has rejected you, finding other people who are going through the same things is crucial.



valuesliteraturegriefextended familyadvice

About the author

Jennifer M. Ward

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I write contemporary fiction, nonfiction stories, and blog posts about life, books, and creativity. Connect with me on Twitter @jennwardwrites or find me here: https://jennifermarieward.com/

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