In this counseling answer:
• Love and appreciate yourself. Appreciate who you are and what you have accomplished. Appreciate your desire for healthy goals, and your piety and love for Allah.
• I urge you to reflect on the meaning of family, love, affection, and support. In fact, make a list containing these four words and write a paragraph on what each word means to you. Then I suggest, in sha’ Allah, you make a list of at least five ways in which your needs have been met under each category.
• Perhaps you can ask your grandparents to help you as you are with them and it is more feasible.
I am sorry to hear you feel you are not loved, sister. Often, it is a gnawing empty feeling that leaves us at loss of what to do or how to go about our lives, not feeling fully whole. The family is so important. However, due to either the death of one or both parents, divorce, adoption or any of the other numerous reasons why children grow up without parents and or siblings, it is difficult.
I want to ask you to reflect on your grandparents as they raised you. Was it a loving relationship? Did you feel it was your home? Did you feel valued and cared for?
Often, in families (and yes, your grandparents count as family) affection is expressed differently and in many ways. Perhaps, the affection your grandparents expressed towards you was not in the way you expected or needed, as you needed your parents.
However, if you look at how your grandparents sacrificed their lives to raise you, that in itself is a great love. Many children are raised by grandparents and never really got to know of their parents or other family members. Your situation is not uncommon, but it is unique because it is yours.
Perhaps, if you were raised by your parents back in Africa, it may not have been what you now hoped for. Perhaps, with other children and responsibilities, you may not have received the attention you desired.
I understand that while looking at your family back in Africa, you may feel like an “outsider” as you were not raised with them. However, you are part of them as well no matter the distance or time frame.
Families also differ on levels of closeness. No one’s family is exactly the same. When you see other families, who appear to be close and happy, they very well might be or they might not be, but present to the world that they are. Every family has its own issues, sister, and though we may long for a closeness we feel does not exist, it may exist, but in a different form.
While I do not know how often, if ever, you have the opportunity to go back home to see your family, perhaps spending more time with them now that you are older is an option. This will give you the opportunity to bond more with them and possibly see affection and closeness from a different perspective.
We must remember dear sister that not all affection is shown or expressed as we wished. Also, you may find that being raised by your grandparents was the best thing for you. You may discover that all the love, acceptance and nurturing you needed was right there all along.
You were sent to your grandparents to live, I suspect, out of a deep sense of love. Possibly, your parents wanted you to have a better life; perhaps they wanted more for you than they could give you at the time. That is a sacrifice which has immeasurable love, though we might not always see it as such.
Additionally, families and cultures differ in how they view their children as young adults or adults. Some parents view their child as very capable and intelligent and, therefore, expect them to do more for themselves independently. In fact, in many cultures, that is what young adults to – go to college, get a job, live on their own, and meet someone they like and marry.
Other parents want to choose their child’s school, spouse and control every aspect of their lives. Some young adults cannot even marry someone of their own choice because the parents chose for them. Often, young women have told me “my parents don’t love me, we argue all the time, they won’t let me make any decisions, and I can’t have a life of my own”.
Neither is exactly right or wrong as both types of families have much love. But again, it is just expressed differently. Some of my clients with their family were not that close as it causes a sense of dependency and inability to make decisions on their own. Some go through much pain as they must choose between pleasing their parents and marrying someone they truly care about, as not all parents will let their child make that choice.
So, dear sister, I urge you to reflect on the meaning of family, love, affection, and support. In fact, make a list containing these four words and write a paragraph on what each word means to you. Then I suggest, in sha’ Allah, you make a list of at least five ways in which your needs have been met under each category.
For instance, under family you might state “my grandparents hugged me” or “my grandparents took the time to make sure I was safe and well fed” or “my family ate dinner together every night”. Look for simple things sister, for often in our everyday interactions with family and people, it is the small things that carry great love.
After you have completed your lists, I want you to reflect on these things and compile a letter to your grandparents and a letter to your family in Africa. You can write your whole family or just your mom. Based on the themes of love, affection, family and support, express how you feel in detail, using your paragraphs and lists for reference. Approach both letters with love for that is what you are seeking, and sister, I can assure you that love is what you will find.
When you are finished writing the letters, you do not have to give them to your families. However, in sha’ Allah, I want you to read them often until you come to a secure place within yourself, that yes, you know you are loved by the entire family, but in different ways.
Your family may not be as close as you wish, but at the end of the day, they are your family and you belong to them. That in itself is a blessing as many children grow up with no one and just wander the streets or villages, or go from different family members and neighbors every few months.
While you may feel as a Muslim that the supports you desire are reasonable, which they are, your family may not feel so strongly about the supports that Muslim families provide for adult children who are ready to marry or go off into the world on their own. They may feel you are capable of doing these things on your own. It doesn’t mean they love you less; it just means they may feel you have the ability and make good decisions.
While you may need these supports, sister, we cannot change our families into something they are not used to – at least not overnight! However, if you have not done so yet, perhaps you can ask your grandparents to help you as you are with them and it is more feasible. If they cannot assist you for whatever reason, look to your sisters in Islam for support as well as your local masjid. The Muslim ummah (community) is your family as well sister.
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Lastly dear sister, love and appreciate yourself. Appreciate who you are and what you have accomplished. Appreciate your desire for healthy goals, and your piety and love for Allah. How you feel about yourself affects every aspect of your life including place of work, in a relationship and as a parent. It is the key to success or failure and instrumental in understanding yourself and others. Self-esteem has two components: a feeling of personal competence and a feeling of personal worth.
Dear sister, once you discover, cherish and embrace your own self-worth and love yourself for the wonderful person you are, in sha’ Allah, this love will fill the empty void you feel. It will set you free from the longing for a perfect family scenario, and it will help you realize that while you were not raised in the manner that you dreamed of, you were raised with love and affection which is illustrated through your life experiences, choices, and who you are now.
Look within your own heart and look to Allah (swt). Allah loves you very much. Seek Him (swt) in prayer and make du’aa’ for guidance as Allah (swt) genuinely cares, listens to desperate pleas, and grants generous help. Someone who is supported by Allah (swt) has a better chance of getting back on track much faster because there is a strong helping hand to reach for while dealing with life’s troubles.
By realizing the love and affection that you did grow up with, by loving yourself and relying on Allah (swt), you may feel loved and supported in your onward journey in life, in sha’ Allah.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.