Broke-Ass Tag: family affairs



It was winter in Portland, 2007. I was 22 years old, single, working 2 great paying jobs and living a relatively care-free life. I sold my car for a bike and lived off of deli sandwiches and PBR. I had just finished a shift at the vintage store I ran with my two best friends and was getting pumped for an all nighter of Rock Band, beers, oven-pizza, and fun. My phone rang, it was my mother, she was distraught. She asked if I was with my friends, and then told me she had something to tell me. In a split second my life went from everything I wanted to pure misery: my mother had cancer. It was spreading rapidly and they hadn’t pinpointed where it had started. I was the last of 4 children and pretty much my entire family to know. “You’re going to be alright though, right?” I asked her after the initial period of shock subsided and my heaping sobs leveled out. She couldn’t answer me, she handed the phone to my older brother. “She is okay,” he told me. I believed him.

I fought hard to keep my life the same but the truth is, it never got back to “normal” for me. After months of treatments, it was decided I was to move back home to help with her “end of life care” while our family transitioned into this extremely trying time. I watched my mother, once full of life and energy, slowly fade away in every sense.

It has been 5 years since she passed, and though I have been on the long, winding road of healing and rediscovery of myself, or who I am without a mother, or what that means to me; nothing has been more trying on this journey than planning a wedding without her. She never actually got to meet Andrew even though we were already dating when she was sick. It just happened too quickly and, to be honest, I didn’t know how I would come out on the other side.

Some people have to do this without their family, without their mothers or sisters or grandparents for many reasons. The most common reason is distance but no matter, it’s not easy. Looking for dresses was like pouring salt into open wounds, it stung pretty badly to stand there alone.

I’ve found comfort in those around me, people have played more than one role and it’s been the biggest blessing of my entire life. My maid of honor lost her mother when she was 16, her experience combined with being my wedding buddy has been more valuable than anything else. My future mother in law has stepped in with so much grace and love that, at times, I almost forget a huge part of my heart is missing.

Still, the days when I’m just working on the small details, or thinking about the way the ceremony might play out, I get a wave of sadness realizing that not only am I going to have to do this without her, but I am going to have to hold it together for the rest of my family who hasn’t quite reached the place of acceptance that I have.

I’ve always been a great griever, and some days I catch myself grieving myself for the sadness I have to endure on my own wedding day. I hope that by the time that day comes, in just a few months now, I have reached a place where I can embrace my blessings, my wonderful fiance, his exceptional family, my exceptional family and friends, and realize that though she is gone, she is not absent from my life completely.

  • 11/23

    Got a question for Liz? Go to contact page and let us know what’s up!

    So, how was YOUR family gathering on Thanksgiving?

    All I’m saying is, you know, I’m just sayin’…

    Dear Liz,

    I’m getting married in June and need advice about a guest list dilemma.
    My father has two sisters and a brother we’ll call Bill. Dad doesn’t speak to any of them unless it’s unavoidable and would prefer if none of them were invited to my wedding. I have better relations with them than he does and am definitely inviting his two sisters and their families; the problem lies with Bill’s family. My dad and Bill had a falling out about five years ago, and long before that things were tense – despite living not that far away, we stopped visiting Bill’s family 12-15 years ago. I’m 28, and I think I was in late elementary school or junior high when we last spent any amount of time together.

    My sister and I have made some efforts at reconnecting with Bill’s two daughters over the past couple of years but literally haven’t seen his two sons for over a decade. This past summer one of Bill’s daughters got married; my sister and I were invited to her bridal shower (though neither of us was able to go) and my whole immediate family was invited to her wedding (which my parents and sister attended; I live across the country and couldn’t go, but sent a card, which my cousin thanked me for.) Up to this point, all of the first cousins have always been invited to each other’s weddings. I would hate to be the person that further deteriorated relations in our family by not inviting Bill’s family. On the other hand, numbers are tight (Bill’s family, all-included, makes 12), I don’t know any of them very well compared with our other guests, and none of them has thus far acknowledged my engagement – plus, my father can be difficult in a lot of social situations and I can’t imagine that having Bill’s family around would lead to him being very agreeable at the wedding. In a recent conversation with my mother it became clear that she also thinks it would make more sense not to invite them. Most of Bill’s family lives near where we’re getting married, so there’s a good chance they’d be able to come. Oh, and my mother also doesn’t think it’s OK to invite only Bill’s daughters and not his sons (and, reluctantly, I tend to agree). 


    Family Fracas-ed Out

    Dear Fracas,

    Your Dad and Bill do not get along, but his family has obviously tried to reach out and establish a relationship with you, as part of their family. You want to invite them, but the big sticker is Bill and Dad’s feud, which is why you hope that they won’t come.  I get that you’re afraid of the tension, but here’s the thing:  If your Dad went to his niece’s wedding, then they’ve already had to deal with each other, and quite recently. They are grown, and they will get through it. And, if you invite them all, some of them will come.

    That being said, if you really don’t want to deal with the possible stress on your wedding day, then don’t invite any of Bill’s family. Making his daughters choose between you and their Dad isn’t fair…sort of like how your parents making you choose between them and Bill’s daughters isn’t fair. There is room for all, or there is room for none. I’m just saying.

    What do you think? Should her Dad suck it up, or should she just give it up? Let me know in the comments below!

    And HEY, are you in Los Angeles? I have a great Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday Wedding deal for you – $500 off Day-Of Coordination. You get me, my lovely assistant, and all the joy and peace we’re going to bring to your wedding day. But, only if you book online by Monday.  There’s some other lovely discounts to get you down the aisle too, so GO.

    See you at the end of the aisle,