The definition of family is up for endless interpretations. To sophomore Katelyn Manzo, it means sticking together through thick and thin; families do not get to pick and choose their experiences. Even when faced with an especially tough situation, Manzo’s family did their best to support one another.
At seven years old, Manzo had to deal with the devastation of her mother’s death. Losing a loved one, she was approached by relatives who hoped to relieve her pain by comforting her. However, too much comfort was overwhelming.
“A bunch of relatives just kept asking me if I wanted to talk and I got so tired of talking that I just stopped talking completely,” Manzo said. “I shut down and became really shy.”
Taking its toll on Manzo, this loss also impacted her entire family. Her once strong relationship with her dad became strained.
“After my mom passed away, my relationship with my dad changed,” Manzo said. “We stopped being so close. It’s getting better, but it’s still not the best. I don’t know if we just clash since we are so alike or that I remind him too much of my mom.”
Still slowly rebuilding their relationship, Manzo knew from a young age that the loss of her mother “happened for a reason.” Even with her dad’s efforts of putting her into therapy, it took time for her and her family to work it out together.
“I didn’t really take it as a bad thing,” Manzo said. “I never really asked myself why it happened or why to me.”
Her whole family continued to look out for one another, relying on each other during difficult times. As someone who had gone through similar experiences, Manzo’s stepmom significantly helped, acting like a “best friend through everything.”
“She’s really open and shares her experiences with me,” Manzo said. “She gives me a lot of advice and really helped me get through things.”
As a family, they have not completely recovered from their loss, but time has enabled them to heal.
“I overcame it by not being ashamed,” Manzo said. “My whole family just accepted that it happened.”
Even until this day, communication and trust remain vital in Manzo’s household. Her parents are strict, “but they are also friends when [the kids] need it.”
“We’re all really open,” Manzo said. “My stepmom knew my mom [and she] doesn’t hide memories of [her.] My siblings and I didn’t really get to know [our mom], so she keeps memories of her alive with us. There’s a lot of trust in our family.”
Manzo firmly credits her family for getting through this together. She said that family should do that, supporting each other through everything.
“You’ll know who’s family when they are with you through everything, thick and thin, your highs and your lows,” Manzo said.