Unfortunately, being in a stepfamily means mourning many losses. As a stepmom, I have found many losses that I have to mourn. Some of the losses I knew about before I got married--such as not being my husband's first bride or sharing the experience of being a first time parent with him. Just because I knew about those losses prior to getting married hasn't made mourning them any easier. When I was a little girl I always dreamed about my husband and family, and none of my dreams EVER included an ex-wife and stepchildren. In fact, I had always sworn to myself that I would never marry a man with kids...then, I fell in love with my Mr. Charming and the rest you know. I've had to mourn part of my dreams even though he has in many way made my dreams come true.
But most of the losses that I have had to mourn have not been anything that I was able to forsee. I did not give up these dreams willing before getting married. I have had to deal with mourning these losses against my will. Things such as my husband's ex trying to control the events that go on in MY house whether her daughter is with us or not. Things such as my husband giving into his ex's outrageous demands and expecting me to just go along for the ride. Things such as my stepdaughter turning against me after the marriage and pitting me against my husband. My husband siding with his ex, his daughter, his mother, anybody that was in his life before I came along instead of siding with me. My husband deciding after we were married that he wasn't so sure anymore about having more kids. Us moving closer to his family and farther from mine. Spending less time with my parents and more with his because that is what "was best" for his daughter. The time, money and stress dealing with lawyers and the court system because his ex refuses to follow the parenting order. All the extra driving because his ex moved out of the area she agreed to in the parenting order. Less time to spend with my husband because he works long hours the days that he doesn't drive to see his daughter, and I hardly see him at all on the days that he drives to see her or pick her up. Having boxes of memorabilia of his first marriage in my house because my stepdaughter my want to have it or see it some day. Forever being referred to as the "new wife" even though my marriage to him has outlasted her marriage to him by five times...she was only married to him for a year! I think that you get the point. I could certainly make this list much longer, but I will keep it short. These are all dreams that I have had to mourn and never had any idea that I would ever have to mourn.
Some of the losses that I have to mourn pop up at the strangest times and surprise me. I will be happily enjoying life and then...wham! Out of nowhere something reminds me of a lost dream and I suddenly full of sadness. A good example is the other night I was watching a tv show where one guy's ex-wife was killed. His brother made a comment about all the good things that would come out of the ex's death. The first guy said to his brother, "The mother of my children was just killed...and you are talking to me about the benefits of her death?!" That was all that it took for me to be sad and depressed all night and even into the next morning. You might be wondering why that line would send me into such a state. First off, it reminded me of an argument that I had with my husband in the past where he was defending his ex and he was throwing it in my face that she is the mother of his child and always would be. Secondly, I want so badly to be a mother and I am not. It saddens me and angers me that he shares that with another woman and not me, his wife. It upsets me greatly that I am not the mother of any of his children--I really want to have a child with him.
But one thing that I have been thinking about recently is that even though I have given up so much for the man that I love I am not the only one who is experiencing loss as a result of being in a stepfamily. My husband has to live with the constant reminder of a failed marriage when he has to drop off his daughter and when he has to drive so far to pick her up. He misses out on a lot of her life because his ex has decided to move so far away. As hard as he tries to find out about parent nights and other school events his ex usually keeps him in the dark about such things and he doesn't usually find out about these things until after the fact. It upsets him to miss those things because he truly wants to be there for those events. He doesn't have as much time or money to spend on our house because he has to work such long hours on the days that he doesn't drive so far to see his daughter. (He works long hours 3 days a week and drives to visit or pick her up 2 nights a week.) He has to deal with the manipulations of his ex trying to keep his daughter from him on a regular basis. He has no say as to what his daughter is exposed to her mother's house. Her mother has let her watch R rated movies since she was 4 years old and has even let her see X rated movies since she was 8 years old! All of these things I know make him sad and if I had children I would be upset over these things, too.
My stepdaughter, too, has to mourn losses from her parents divorce. It is hard on her not being able to her dad all of the time, she says that she misses him a lot when she is with her mom. She says that sometimes she misses her mom when she is with us, but since she sees her mom so much more it isn't as hard to be apart. She deals with a stepfather who doesn't care about her and blatantly favors his children to her. She misses a lot of her friends birthday parties and other activities near her mom's house since her mom moved so far away. We would take her to those activities if we could, but we can't feasibly make the drive. She misses out on activities and birthday parties of her friends that she has here near our house. She has to spend a lot of time in the car and doesn't get a lot of time to relax. She has to deal with her mom putting her in the middle of a lot of things so that she (her mom) can manipulate and try to control my husband. I know that these things are hard on her, too. She didn't ask for any of these things any more than I asked for the things that I have given up
Honestly, it does help me to think about how my husband and his daughter also have losses that they have to deal with. Not that I am a cruel person, but it is so easy to get so focused on my own problems and losses that I don't take the time to really look at what the members of my family are thinking about and dealing with. It really is relieving to know that I am not the only one who is making sacrifices for our family, to know that it is not particularly easy on any of us. I spent too much time focused on my losses and resenting the members of my family for "giving" them to me and not appreciating what they are going through or looking at how I was adding to their losses as well. When you find that you are having a hard time dealing with the losses that you have given up, try to think about what your family is dealing with and it might help your losses seem so overwhelming.
We are all living with losses, but we can make the best of our situations if we are able to accept the fact that our situations are not ideal, but that they are reality. Trying to change reality, or resenting the reality, will do nothing except to frustrate us and those closest to us. The best that we can do is to take what we have and decide to make the best of it. We can even do a lot to help our family members to move beyond their losses and change negatives into positives. That is the best way to mourn our losses. I have been able to mourn my losses and move on, although obviously there are triggers--such as a tv show--that remind me of my losses. Sometimes we have to mourn in stages, as the losses come to our attention. We don't have any losses that we can't overcome.
Here are steps that I have found to be the best way mourn our losses:
1.) Awknowledge the loss to yourself--admit that you have given something up, whether you knew you were going to or not.
2.) Allow yourself to feel the pain of losing part of your dreams and hopes. But, don't allow yourself to feel bitter or blame others for it. Blaming and bitterness will only lead to more problems in the marriage and family.
3.) Accept the situation as reality and try to figure out what you can do to make the best of the situation. Sometimes you can't do anything, focus on what you CAN change! Don't try to change reality, change your expectations.
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