Hayley Matthews: How I've tried to make the best of my broken family

My topic this week is one I haven't talked about publicly until appearing on Kaye Adams' BBC Radio Scotland show earlier in the week. I was discussing estranged siblings.

Friday, 8th December 2017, 6:00 am
Kaye Adams

My parents have always had an “eventful” relationship which impacted on me and my younger sister massively.

From the age of 14 I’ve sought counselling and can confidently say, at 37, I’ve made peace with the earlier troubles. My sister, however, has never been a “talker” so counselling wasn’t an option. Now, when someone who doesn’t find it easy to talk, cuts off all communication with their family, it’s impossible to repair. I’ll spare you the details as I only have 600 words. I sent 5,000 words in an email to her, begging for us to talk. I never got a reply to that mini-novel. It declared my love for her, and begged her to talk, but my choosing to speak to our parents was something she saw as unforgivable. To say the communication over the years has been absent would be an understatement. I felt like she’d died and that’s how I dealt with it, a death.

She was gone and I couldn’t reach her, no matter how hard I tried. She’s never met her only nephew, but I’m ok with it now, I’ve grieved, accepted and moved on and I only want positive influences in our lives. I surround myself with people who show us kindness and focus on making a happy atmosphere. I was relieved to hear the sibling counsellor on Kaye’s Show say how I seemed to have dealt with it all well. I don’t wish my estranged sister harm, I just choose to focus my energies on those who love me, instead of those who cause me pain.

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This time of year can be especially difficult for many broken families. However, I try not to dwell on the past. I’m determined to make sure the family that I’ve created is happy and a kickass-strong unit. We’re not perfect but I try hard to make sure we’re content. I’m close to my dad and he has a wonderful relationship with my son. It’s very healing to see. I’m determined to bring the good memories I had when I was younger full circle by building on them while making happy memories for my son.

If I can do this, then I’ve overcome the bad memories. As a child, I was always very fond of Dalkeith Country Park, and have happy memories of the place in the 80s. I wanted to take my dad and son out for a festive afternoon to build the happy memory bank. We walked around Fort Douglas, threw pennies in the wishing well at the Restoration Yard, and enjoyed each other’s company over a festive lunch in the cafe. The Restoration Yard is aptly named, as I always feel repaired after spending time there. I think my family do too.

I sat feeling very lucky that I have a strong relationship with my dad and that my son enjoys a good relationship with his grandad, all this despite our earlier family woes. The two of them sat telling jokes that they’d pulled out of Christmas crackers while tucking into a Christmas dinner in the café. I watched them giggling while eating ice cream and mince pies. The atmosphere was festive and cosy, making it the perfect place for me to make new happy Christmas memories with my own family. I might not have a textbook family to invite over on Christmas Day but, taking two of my most special people out for an afternoon of festive cheer, helps replace those sad family memories with amazing ones that I’ll cherish forever.