Family Reunion

Hi Brooke,

I’m the oldest of 4 children. My Mom died when I was a teen and my father remarried soon after so I also have a stepsister close in age to me. My family was very shut down when it came to dealing with grief , my Mom’s death was virtually never mentioned. I did not click with my step-Mom and handled the turmoil at home mainly by moving out and on with my own life. Later I moved overseas and tried to keep up a positive relationship, regular calls, sending birthday and Christmas gifts, a visit every couple of years etc. but communication was more civil than truly warm.

Recently I’ve moved back home after 20 years living on the other side of the world. Naturally everyone’s lives and relationships have moved on while I was away and they’ve built a new family dynamic without us. For me right now everything just feels awkward. I have a surface-level relationship with the people in my family. It doesn’t help that I’m naturally shy and most of my family are extrovert; I don’t feel that skilled in reforming those relationships.

Also I can see I’m hesitant to take those relationships forward because in the past, including recent past, I’ve often felt let down, even shocked by some of their choices. The thought that they are flawed human beings, exactly as I am has helped a lot. I also understand I’m a very different personality to others in my family- for sure I’m that peach in a family who prefers apples – and that’s OK. I think I’m at a place of forgiveness and acceptance, but I’m not to a place where I can feel trust.

Although I still live several hours away, being in the same country has raised this work. Now and then there is a family get together. There is an active family group chat. I spend way time thinking about it that I would like to, trying to figure out why it can be upsetting and how to interact in a positive healthy way.

Part of me just wants to opt out – accept it’s not to be and get on with my own life rather than investing the energy and anxiety around this. Something tells me this is not the work 😉

There are a lot of thoughts here but a main unintentional model is:
C family
T loving them is draining/unrewarding but I should keep trying
F resentful, conflicted
A try to show up and act in a loving generous way (fake it til you make it) while inside wishing I was somewhere else, likely doesn’t come over well 😉
R Draining and unrewarding. Increasingly don’t want to participate in family life.

C family
T being myself for sure means being rejected/criticised, and that’s ok
F isolated, some self-pity/compassion
A avoidance or trying to be someone I’m not
R loose self-respect – so rejecting/criticising myself

How can I loosen this up without turning away from my family? We have a reunion upcoming and I’m trying to come to it from a clean place.
My best thoughts so far are:
“We are all flawed and that’s OK”
“It takes time”
“I can do B- family work”
“How they think/feel about me is about them, not me”

Perhaps even more importantly I’m trying to figure out how I want to act – do I want to keep trying to act loving and generous or try to be more honest about my discomfort and difficulty fitting in? Can I overcome shyness to find more common ground?

Thank you so much for any thoughts.