Grieving for Something You Never Had

When I was growing up I imagined getting older, getting married and having children. I imagined visiting my parents on a Sunday and spending Christmas at their house – recreating the amazing Christmases of my childhood.

But then, when I was a teenager, my parents split up and shortly afterwards I found myself living independently, working full time and paying rent. I had a few years of strange Christmases. Ones where I would work as much as possible over the festive period, and ones that I spent in houses with people who weren’t really family. Christmas was fine but it wasn’t the way it should have been.

But then I met my Husband and had some of the best family Christmases over the years. Spending Christmas day with his parents and then Boxing Day with my Dad and his new partner. Alternating those days each Christmas as the years went by.

This is how I saw life continuing when we had our own family. That we would spend Christmas at home, inviting family to have Christmas at our house whilst the kids played with their gifts before going to the other side of the family for Boxing Day and repeating the Christmas experience, the children dragging their favourite toys along with them.

But a few years ago my family situation changed and aside from my Husband’s wonderful family we were left with only a couple of other family members on my side – my Dad and brother – and nowhere that we could go to spend Christmas, or any other occasion, with my family members outside of our own home. Nowhere we could spend Boxing Day – or a random Sunday. Nowhere that I could even remotely think of as home.

Don’t get me wrong, Dave’s parents are lovely and they live in such a homely house and the same one Dave grew up in. Their house is full of happy memories and it’s a place I love to spend time but it isn’t a house that holds memories for me, of my childhood. A house like that no longer exists for me and that is something I find quite hard.

Friends mostly have a family home. Somewhere that they go to on a Sunday, for Christmas or for Easter. Somewhere they may not have grown up but somewhere that has childhood photos on the wall and familiar pieces of furniture, bedding or just a blanket that make them feel nostalgic and make thoughts of their childhood come flooding back. They’re houses that have room for them, where they can stay overnight or for a few days and where they can instantly feel at home.

But it’s not just a family home that I don’t have. It’s also everything that comes with it. Parents to spend quality lengths of time with, chatting late into the night over a bottle of wine. Another set of grandparents for the children, ones to have sleepovers with and go on days out. Somewhere to go for no reason at all and somewhere to spend time with the children. A home from home.

Every so often I get swept up in thoughts of what could have been, if a different path had been travelled. A family home to go back to at weekends, another Christmas tree to sit around on Boxing Day and somewhere to sit in my pyjamas whilst the kids sleep upstairs. Somewhere the kids could play, and other people the kids could get to know. Tales of my childhood told to the children by someone other than me and a whole set of family photographs that the children wouldn’t have seen before – each one holding a story to be told.

But the children won’t have that. They won’t experience another set of grandparents or the excitement of having another grandparents’ house to go to. They won’t have that consistency of somewhere so familiar to spend time at or somewhere else to have sleepovers.

But then I think of everything the children do have. The children have an amazing set of grandparents who see them every single week, often a few times in the week too. They have quality time with them and they know where their Nanny and Yar-Yar live. They love going to their house and seeing them is one of their favourite things, getting them excited like nothing else. Apart from Dave and I, Nanny and Yar-Yar are their favourite people in the world.

Then the children have all of our close friends, friends who are better than family. They have their Uncle Trevor and a couple more Grandads too. The only thing they are missing is that other place to go, the other family home. But really are they missing it at all?

The children have a life full of people that love them and so many homes to go to and play. They have so many friends and family and really don’t need any more. They are not missing out on anything and don’t have a gap in their lives where another set of grandparents and an extended family home should be.

That really is my gap. I have that gap and it’s a gap that cannot be filled. It’s a gap that leaves me with a sense of loss at what could have been but knowing that it can never be the way I had always imagined. But I know that my sense of loss is not the children’s loss. In having that gap in my life I have done everything I can to give the children a life that is full – full of people, places and love – with no real gap at all.

Grieving for Something You Never Had


  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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  1. So sorry you feel like that, I totally understand why you do. I suppose everybody has a different family set up, there’s no such thing as the perfect family. It sounds like you’ve done an amazing job in making sure the children have a brilliant childhood regardless of your own family situation.x

  2. Nobody’s family is perfect, we have both sets of grandparents that live within 20 minutes of us but I would say your children have a much closer bond with one set, it’s heartbreaking that neither of mine really don’t have much time for them, which is why I have vowed to be the best nanny ever!

  3. Such a heartfelt post, I am lucky enough to have my family home and my family there and I do appreciate this so much. I can completely understand why you feel a loss. I guess all that you can do is ensure that your Children will always have their family home filled with lots of special memories. X

  4. I really empathise with this so much, I am sorry you don’t have that and I believe it is ok to feel sad, acknowledge and move on with what you do have. And the hope your children will have that when they grow too. You sound like you are doing that perfectly.A lovely heartfelt post X

  5. It’s true the kids know no different. All they see is what they have – loving parents, caring grandparents and a life full of fun and laughter. My kids only really have one set of grandparents too and my husband feels the same as you do, in many ways. The important thing is that the kids don’t feel the loss. Beautiful and insightful post hon x

  6. Your beautiful kids are definitely missing nothing – it sounds to me like that have a wonderfully supportive and loving family around them and you’ve made that possible for them 🙂 It’s such a shame when families break up or parts of the family disappear on one hand but at the same time, it’s better to be without negativity sometimes too – I’m talking about my own experience rather than yours here. I can definitely understand a bit of what you’re feeling here x x

  7. This is so sad but so uplifting all at once Donna. I can see why you would feel sad about the gap in your life and why you would want that for your kids too, of course who wouldn’t!?
    But it’s really nice that you have recognised all the love and support you guys do get and that’s definitely a lovely thing to focus on. It’s something I can relate to quite strongly seeing as we so rarely get to see our family, of course the difference is that this is a choice we made, but the feelings are still there.

  8. You know my own family situation, so this post hits home for me as well. All I can say is that anyone who was stupid enough not to want to be a part of your life, really doesn’t deserve to be and you are an amazing Mum, your children have everything they need.

    Stevie xx

  9. It’s definitely a hard feeling. You always imagine you’ll have home to go back to. The 4 of you have your family now, and while your in laws aren’t yours, they and friends are going to give you and the kids all the love you could ever want.

    My situation was different to yours, but similarly I only have my brother (and cousins up north who we talk to via FB but only see every couple of years when I’m up that way) but the OH’s family are brilliant with 15 of them all within 2 miles – including the in laws next door. I would say going to meet my best friend up at her parents’ farm – we try and do that every couple of years – feels almost like home. Weirdly because I only met her in the 3rd year at uni, and we’ve never lived nearby since graduating, but her parents just love to see us, look after us and make us feel like we’re at home when we visit.

  10. I can’t even remotely tell you how much I feel the same.
    My parents did not divorce, they did far worse- therfor I stopped seeing them to keep myself sane. It broke my heart, but it was the solution to all of my problems. They didn’t try to get in touch, neither they tried to know how I was doing or where I lived. This was now I think almost 6 years ago, I’m about to get 27.
    Four years ago I met my fiance, two years ago I learned that I was pregnant. I have the same aching feelings, heartbreaking thoughts, what if I would take them in again, will it change? Are they changed? Did they learn from their mistakes? I don’t know and yet it hurts so much…. I know all my friends, my family in law makes up for it… but I miss it… thank you, for writing this down, it helped me, so much. Xx

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Families are often really difficult and sometimes it doesn’t feel like anyone understands. I’m glad you know you’re not alone. For what it’s worth, I doubt they have learnt or changed, often it is easier for people to just carry on as they are x

  11. Ha this just came up as I was stumbling my way through Stumbleupon (which I really don’t get so I’m glad to come across someone “I know”!). Lovely post. I never thought of this as my parents are a) together and b) in the same house since 1975. Sweet words.

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