By Brianna Patton
In a technical sense, blood is thicker than water. In reality however, that is not the case for many people. Who an individual considers family is ultimately up to the connection made with another person; just because you are born within a household does not mean you were born into a home.
Dr. Moody at Grand Valley State University explains that there is no clear-cut definition of family because of the diversity of family foundations across the nation. At the end of the day forgiveness, support, honesty, and comfort make up a true family. People’s definitions of family like that of Rachel Murphy are very different from the norm.
“If someone were to look at my family, they would be fooled,” says Murphy. “On the surface we appear to be what everyone thinks they aspire to want, have, and seem like.”
Personal experiences shape our mindsets and our outlooks on how a family is suppose to function. From an outsider looking in, Rachel has the perfect life.
After her father passed away at a young age, her mother immersed herself into her work, became successful, and eventually remarried. Rachel lives a comfortable life from the illusion made up about her family.
“Family is people who would never hurt you,” said Murphy. “They don’t think twice about putting you first and they always believe you.”
After hearing this response I began to wonder if Rachel was implying that she went through something that persuaded her towards this answer. She went on to explain how everyone thinks she has it all but in reality, her mother gives her everything she wants except a home and attention which are essential things needed within a family unit.
Rachel experienced psychological neglect, which the American Human Association defines as an ongoing maltreatment from a parent towards a child that is a necessity for supported growth in developing years. Now why would someone not feel at home with the people directly kin to them?
“After they (her mom and new husband) got married, she changed,” said Murphy. “My mom became this person I’ve never met before. She worked longer nights and argued more with her new husband. I guess that’s why he took an interest in me.”
Rachel’s stepfather invaded what was most sacred to Rachel. He took her dignity and pride.
“It started when I was about fourteen years old. He did whatever he wanted, and told me that he loved me. He said he was my new father and he would always take care of me. I actually remember telling my mother about it and she gave me a puzzled look and immediately changed the subject.”
Rachel never went to anyone else. She ever told anyone her story. Rachel gave a different perspective on the complexity of who she thought was her family.
“I truly don’t think my mother believed me, or if she did, she didn’t care enough to do anything about it like a mother should have.”
After asking whom Rachel considers family, she went on to describe her best friend Stacy. She met Stacy her junior year in high school. Rachel had endured pain for 2 years until she met Stacy.
“Stacy has always been there for me. Her family has welcomed me into their home like I was one of them. I get invited on family trips and I am treated like a daughter who is loved. After school I can just walk into her house without knocking like it’s my family. We are just so close. Honest and trust are never questioned between us.”
Stacy proved to be one of the main people Rachel could rely on to talk to and be herself with. Stacy was apart of Rachel’s healing process and gave her the strength and courage to leave her abusive home and move on with her life.
This is just one situation of many where blood is not always thicker than water. According to University of California Davis student affairs, there are many scenarios as to why families can become dysfunctional which leads to individuals feeling closer to people outside of their family.
Whether it is through personal experiences or just an individual’s feelings, someone can grow closer within friendships or with other people outside of their household that they consider family.
Family is about feeling peace of mind with someone and knowing that you are safe and can always be yourself around them.
“This friendship was a blessing and something that I can say showed me what family actually means,” said Rachel.
Family is love. Family is loyalty. Family is sacred.