You Asked: How Do You Get Over the Loss of Not Having the Perfect Family?

One single mom asked: 

How do you get over the loss of not having that perfect family? 

It’s not what we dreamed of as little girls. 

When we thought of the ideal family situation—our perfect future family—we imagined things so differently. Parents who were deeply in love. Children who were happy and respectful. A home that was filled with laughter and close relationships. 

That dream is something many of us held onto for most of our lives. If our family of origin was a difficult one to be a part of, that dreamed probably kept us going through our childhood. So when it is taken from us—it can be crushing. 

It is essentially a death in our lives. Something we built everything upon, only to have it stripped from us way too soon. We can get mired down in the grief of losing it. We can give up on ever having anything quite as good as we imagined. We can allow bitterness and resentment to enter. 

We can do those things because those things are a choice. But, they’re aren’t the right choice. 

We’ve suffered a great loss. A huge loss. 

But it’s not the end of our story. 

When I was in the first grade—about seven years old—my family moved from Georgia to South Carolina for my dad’s job. We moved a lot when I was young, so leaving friends and our home behind was something I was used to. I learned that my things would follow, we’d set up a new home, and life would get back to normal pretty quickly. 

But, our moving van caught fire as it drove between those states and we lost everything. Every. Last. Thing. 

We moved right after Christmas. There was a gift I’d gotten that year that I loved more than anything I think I’d ever gotten. A plastic doll house with furry little animals that were set into motion when placed in certain parts of the house. It was a gift I wanted for quite some time, and I spent hours and hours playing with it. When my mother broke the news to me and handed me a brand new stuffed kangaroo (which I still have to this day), I remember panicking over my lost doll house. Even our Christmas gifts? I asked her as her eyes welled up with tears. 

We moved in with my grandparents for a year in North Carolina with only the things that we’d worn and carried in the car the day we moved. Can you even imagine that? We lost every toy, every article of clothing, every picture of our lives, every memento. We lost every piece of furniture, every dish, every part of every single room that would make us feel at home in our new location. 

We were left with almost nothing. 

I remember listening to my mother crying about how people had pilfered through the burnt moving van and stolen my great-grandmother’s jewelry that had been given to her as a gift. I was so very sad for her and all the things she had lost. It was the very worst part of the tragedy, even worse than losing the items I held most dear. I would have willingly thrown every toy I owned into a fire to spare my mother the pain I could see in her eyes, in the way she held herself up, in the new way she talked about our future. 

Because that’s how much children love their moms. 

There was nothing we could do about our loss. Even when they discovered the cause was a lit cigarette left by one of the movers. We were paid pennies on the dollar for everything we’d gathered in a lifetime. Everything we knew was destroyed by a selfish, careless act. As if nothing mattered. And there was no choice but to move on. 

That’s the same choice we’ve been given as single moms, sweet friends. 

Is it a monumental loss? Yes. But, we have to grieve it. And then we have to leave it. For the sake of our children. 

Because as much as we’ve lost in all of this, they’ve lost more. Whether we can see that or not. Whether we believe that or not. Whether we can accept that or not. As adults, we have the gift of experience to tell us that we will eventually be okay. As Christians we have intimate knowledge of how God works and trust that He will redeem our loss. 

But our kids? This is all new to them. 

And they are watching it happen to the most precious person in their lives: You. 

While our new version of family may not fall into the perfect ideal we imagined, it’s not a broken home—because we removed them from that broken situation. We are building a strong home. A place where everyone is accepted. A place where love reigns. A place where God is the leader. 

It’s completely possible to move on from divorce. To let go of the dream we once had for our family. And to build a new one. A happy one. A supporting and loving one. 

But it takes a set determination by the leader in the family: By you. 

  • To choose to look forward instead of back. 
  • To mourn the loss, but not become bitter because of it. 
  • To learn from what’s happened and make better choices for our future. 

Because really, there’s more. 

We will overcome it. 

If we choose to. 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power,love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 

Step over the pain of your past to the starting line of your future family, and shake the dust off of your feet. Start dreaming again. About what you want your family to look like. Of the love you want to fill your home. Of the closeness of relationships you’ve longed for. Of the joyful memories you worried had been taken from you. 

They haven’t been. 

This is your chance. Make it whatever you want. You don’t have to double check with someone or ask permission. Dream big dreams for your new version of family. It can still be a wonderfully supportive place for your children to long to come home to. It can be the family you dreamed of with love, and joy, and good memories. 

But the way they look at it, and the way they’ll remember it is largely based on how you envision it. 

Dream big. 

That’s how you give up the dream of the perfect family you feel you’ve just lost. You build a new dream. A better dream. A dream that is more of your dream than the broken one you just left behind and tried to force into what you wanted it to be

This is your opportunity to have what you truly, deeply, longed for. 

Don’t miss out because you are clinging to the broken pieces of your past. Shake the dust off of your feet as you leave behind a place that in reality, also wasn’t what you hoped it would be. So that you can step toward the true desires of your heart instead. And the God that longs to take you there.