Expanding the Definition of Family

by Dr. Susan Burger

I remember the first Christmas eve that I spent without my kids. That night before Christmas was always my favorite part of the holiday when I was a kid. Neighbors would drop by, we’d have yummy snacks, and after Dad put the lights on we would decorate the tree.
This tradition continued when I got married and had my own children, until it didn’t. After my divorce, with 50/50 custody, there came that Christmas eve my boys were at their Dad’s. I just stayed home that night, and I remember what a strange feeling it was.

We had gone through mediation for our divorce and fortunately within a year or two found ourselves open to gathering together on the holidays, so we could both be with the kids at times. For me this meant keeping things in perspective, and finding gratitude for all I realized I had learned from my marriage and from my divorce. It meant taking responsibility.

As the years went on it also meant creating new traditions and expanding my definition of family. One year I sent out an e-mail invitation to some friends the afternoon of the winter solstice (December 21st). It was a beautiful but chilly day, and the boys and I decided we’d have a fire in the pit outside that night. We would talk about the year ahead, our dreams and intentions, and tell funny stories. The invitation was sent out last minute, and yet 4 delightful friends showed up to join us. We shared a beautiful evening around the fire, and they became family

As life changes, as it always will, we can choose to find joy in our lives in creative ways. The challenges that seem to be in our way, sometimes ARE the way. They can be the opening and opportunity for finding the next grandest version of ourselves! We can be bold enough to expand our definition of family, create new traditions, start new ventures, and listen within to what our heart is really yearning for.

All of it is a blessing. I have learned not to judge things as good or bad. I know that if we love ourselves and honor the journey that we will become more of who we can be. And aren’t the holidays really about love anyway?


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