Several months ago, we moved across the country. Among our myriad reasons for moving, we wanted to be closer to my cousin; my child's legal guardian should the unthinkable happen to my husband and me. It's important for my child to know this family well. We need each other; this familial connection.
My daughter knows this cousin of mine is the closest thing I'll ever have, at least biologically, to a sibling. We both love this human deeply and were floored by the amount of gratitude we felt to finally, after all these years, be able to fully embrace family, literally and figuratively. This was a connection for which we've always longed. My daughter felt it as much as I did.
Just weeks after our move, however, my cousin unexpectedly had to move far away to care for a very sick family member on her husband's side.
My child, being an only child just like I was, was devastated. We're not exactly overflowing in the family department.
Of course my daughter has my husband and me, but there's nothing like having someone besides your parents love you and give you a sense of greater community. We need each other. We're designed to thrive among one another.
We need each other.
For weeks after they moved away, my daughter would wake and call for me at night. She'd lean her tear-soaked face into my pajamas and choke out, "Why did they leave us?"
She felt deserted. Abandoned. Isolated and confused.
Seven years wise and an old soul, she's young enough to still be innocent and hopeful, but old enough to know that this life doesn't last forever. She knows that, oftentimes, we need each other urgently when someone's time on Earth is coming to an end.
Although she understood the reason they left, the "logic" wasn't speaking to her gentle heart.
Logic rarely speaks directly to the heart.
As it turns out, the "surface" question of why they had to leave was the easy one to answer -- but there was more work to do.
I realized I had to address what was underneath her question: her deeper and unanswered hurts. Her feelings of being left by these wonderful people whom she loves so dearly. Her stress of making many moves in her short seven years, never being able to fully "settle into connection" -- and having this hope evaporate once again before her beautiful blue eyes.
She learned the hard truth that it's much easier to leave than to be left.
The deeper questions she was subconsciously asking were these:
"Am I not worthy of someone I love staying with me?"
"Do I not matter as much?"
"Am I truly lovable to anyone besides you and Daddy?"
These are not the questions she needs to take into adolescence or adulthood; to absorb into the fiber of her self-worth.
She won't "grow into" loving herself if she measures her value on whether others stick around.
Resultantly, we talked every day about how deeply she matters; how much my cousin would love to be here with us if she could. I helped her internalize the sadness that my cousin must be feeling having to leave under these circumstances. I helped her see their perspectives.
To replace hurt with empathy.
I reiterated that truly, we need each other. They need us, as much as we do, them.
Further, I knew the importance of letting her watch me grieve -- and to accept the change without resentment.
I wanted her to see that this type of pain could be a peaceful companion until it moved on.
She heard me say that I felt sad; that I sincerely miss my cousin. I modeled how to move through sadness and to return to the faith that love isn't about physical distance or geography.
We showed her that love doesn't care how many miles it is between our hearts. We need each other, and it's healthy that we need each other.
More than anything, though, it was important that she start to feel a sense of cohesiveness in her new reality; to release the belief that others' actions determine her worth.
To do that, she also has to give. To put herself out there. To keep trying.
We found online groups she could join; we established routines and found ways to spread kindness our new town.
We nurtured her sense of intrinsic value; her sense of belonging.
We wanted her to know that her worth comes in equal parts from what she gives and what she allows herself to receive.
Indeed, we need each other. When we're suffering, however, it's tempting to morph our sadness into a belief that others "should" need us more than they do; that they "should" seek us out.
It's an emotional fallacy.
It's actually a two-way street. We need each other because the very definition of community is mutual togetherness; mutual giving-ness.
We keep giving anyway. And if someone leaves, our questions can be these:
"Will we allow ourselves to feel gratitude for what we did, and do, have?"
"Can we embrace the joy that still surrounds us and spill it out onto others?"
"Will we allow ourselves to receive what IS, even if the gifts that await aren't what we envisioned?"
"Are we any less whole because of someone else's choices?"
She matters simply because she IS. Her roots don't grow from someone else's tree.
After all, it's never just about "Why have I been hurt" -- it's also about "What can I do to grow and heal? What can I offer?"
Someday, someone else my child loves will leave her. That's how life works, even when it's not a departure by choice.
When it happens, though, she does not need to leave herself behind, too. Self-abandonment is far worse than watching someone go.
She belongs. She always belongs. Her roots don't grow from someone else's tree.
Yes, we need each other. We need each other to see our already present wholeness.
Disclaimer: All advice and guidance offered on this site is not medical guidance and should not be interpreted as such, and the owner of this site is not responsible for individual outcomes.
I am not a physician, psychologist, or counselor, nor am I licensed to offer therapy or medical advice of any kind. I am a certified conscious parenting coach and my courses, blog posts, and all other guidance are based on my training and experience. If you are having an emergency or are in crisis please call 911, or the National Suicide Prevention Line (800-273-8255), or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Sarah R. Moore
Sarah R. Moore is a certified Master Parenting Trainer, an author (book coming soon), an armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a Mama. She's a lifelong learner with formal training in child development, improv comedy, trauma recovery, and interpersonal neurobiology. She offers a popular series of mini-courses (including her FREE video, Three Keys to Positive Parenting). She helps bring JOY, EASE, and CONNECTION back to families.
You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family.