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Denise Shaw Coryea

Surrogate Sisters
by Denise Shaw Coryea

Several years ago, my husband called from work to ask what I thought about picking up our three children and moving five hundred miles away. He was offered a transfer.

Hmmm. Five hundred miles away from our parents and siblings… my heart did not give my head a chance to connect the dots about what this would mean to my world as I knew it. Every fiber of my being answered, "Yes!"

I researched towns, schools, churches and housing prices before he was home from work that afternoon.

I adore my parents and siblings. They are fun, funny, loving, intelligent and supportive people. Yet, I always felt like I didn’t fit in with them. I needed the space to find out who I was without the constraints of the tribe.

I learned later when reading Caroline Myss’ books that this is a stage of spiritual growth--leaving the tribal energy to expand your own spirit.

What I found when I landed in my new home in a different state was a kindred spirit. My neighbor, Louise, and I became the sisters neither of us had had before. Louise never had a sister, and I couldn’t seem to create this kind of relationship with the sisters I was born to. Louise’s parents and brother had moved to another state, leaving her behind feeling alone and abandoned.

We created a new extended family, without the shared history and baggage of years that trigger emotional roller coasters.

Louise’s son Ryan, an only child, was just old enough to act as a surrogate big brother to my three children. He was thrilled to have siblings who lived across the street and didn’t invade his space more than he wanted.

I knew there was a special bond between the kids, when I walked into my family room one summer afternoon to find my toddler daughter asleep with her head on Ryan’s snoozing chest, the television still playing a Winnie-the-Pooh video tape. It was the kind of scene I wished I had experienced with my older brother.

Louise taught me to appreciate the birth family I found myself resenting far too often. One summer, she and Ryan made the five-hundred-mile trek back to my native turf to visit my family.

I scolded my mother for pouring milk on my breakfast cereal telling her I was a responsible adult and could manage just fine on my own, thank you very much. Louise hugged my mother for pouring milk on her cereal. She saw it as a loving, nurturing gesture that she was starving for. Her own mother was wasting away in a nursing home. Louise would have given all that she owned to have her mother nurture her with a simple gesture one more time.

Over the years, Louise and I have supported each other through major life hurdles--our parents’ deaths (both of her parents and my father passed away in recent years), my divorce, Ryan’s adolescent rebellion, and her husband’s poor health. We just know what to do to help each other and step in without hesitation or missing a beat.

Louise helped me pack up and move out when my marriage ended. I helped her clean her house for her father’s funeral. We just do what needs to be done.

The depth of Louise’s and my sisterhood struck us when we took my mother and daughters to see the movie, "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," and realized that it was us. We have created a history, a support system and a spiritual/emotional bond with each other that defies time and space.

We are family—sisters--by conscious choice, rather than by birth. We help each other grow, through our life histories, in a way that could not be possible if we had shared the actual living of it.

Some level of distance is required for objectivity. To me, that is the crucial function of chosen family versus birth family.

On a spiritual level, I believe I chose my parents and siblings before I was born to help me create an environment I needed to experience. That environment had to have challenges to face to be effective. Louise helps me to grow beyond that environment into a grander, more glorious version of my life. For that, I am so very grateful.

 © Copyright 2002 Denise Shaw Coryea.  All Rights Reserved. 

Denise Shaw Coryea
Denise Shaw Coryea, M.Ed., is a health educator, Angel Coach, mother and author. She loves life and getting e-mail from people who read her articles. Denise lives in Connecticut. dcoryea@angel-hope.com

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