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Cultivating Chosen Family and THE CELEBRANTS by Stephen Rowley

Jordan, Jordy, Marielle, Naomi, Alec, and Craig met in college. They bonded over first loves and heartbreaks, growing into their skin and finding themselves. When Alec died just before graduation, the remaining friends worried he had felt unsupported. The friends made a pact to ensure history did not repeat itself; when things got rough, each was entitled to gather the group for a living funeral.

Cover of the book THE CELEBRANTS by Stephen Rowley, used to describe the concept of Chosen Family

They saw each other through marriage, divorce, cancer, and a prison sentence. Over almost thirty years, Jordan, Jordy, Marielle, Naomi, and Craig became a chosen family.

The concept of the chosen family originated in the LGBTQIA+ community, born out of the heartbreaking need for support many people faced after being rejected by their family of origin. Over time, the concept gained a mainstream following. Now, chosen families are viewed as kinship bonds that may or may not be legally or biologically defined, providing love and mutual support.

Who could benefit from a chosen family? Anyone. But, in particular, people who:

  • Experience negative or non-existent relationships with their family of origin.

  • Face geographic or other impediments from actively engaging with their family of origin.

  • Have emotional needs that are unmet by their family of origin.

Have an awesome immediate family? Great! You can have a chosen family and be close to your family of origin. One need not replace the other, and being part of a chosen family is not a negative commentary on anyone in your life. More support is only a good thing! With a chosen family, you’re adding and augmenting.

Specific things people in chosen families can do for each other include:

  • Provide a safe and trusting environment

  • Help in times of emergency or crisis

  • Celebrate things big and small – holidays, birthdays, promotions, graduations…

  • Validate, affirm, and cheer each other up.

  • Provide day-to-day touchpoints and check-ins.

Thinking you would benefit from cultivating a chosen family and wondering where to begin? Try these steps:

  • Identify The Right People: Think about friends who are trustworthy, reliable, consistent, and caring. These people should make you feel prized even when they provide constructive feedback.

  • Prioritize: Once you have a sense of the right people, put specific effort into building those relationships. Actively seek ways to show that you support them and invite them to be there for you.

  • Develop Traditions: Rituals have immense comfort – no matter what they are! It can be weekly pizza nights, annual camping trips, or monthly book clubs.

  • Practice Patience: These are deep relationships that are built over time. Mentally prepare yourself for a long-term emotional investment, a true gift to your future self.

Jordan, Jordy, Marielle, Naomi, and Craig each benefitted from the support they received from their chosen family. Knowing that their four best friends were always a phone call away from reuniting gave each the strength to face daily life, knowing that they and their loved ones would always be cared for – no matter what.


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