Blended families are becoming the norm for a growing number of households, and oftentimes they face unexpected challenges that aren’t experienced in first time relationships.
Speaker, author, and step-mom Laura Petherbridge says that one of top challenges that step-families face today is the reality of grief.
“All step-families are birthed out of loss. Now, a lot of people get mad at me when I say that because they think I’m saying their step-family isn’t founded on love. That’s not what I’m saying. I am saying that a death, a divorce, or the breakup of a relationship had to have occurred to create a step-family; there is no step-family that has formed without those things as a precursor.”
“You have a lot of emotion that goes into a second relationship, or a remarriage, that you didn’t have in a first time relationship. That’s why it’s complicated.”
Laura adds that family members who are grieving, either from a death or a divorce, have painful emotions that need to be identified and worked through.
“Most people assume that it’s going to be worse if it’s a divorce. I get so many couples that I do life coaching with where their spouse died and they are absolutely astounded. They assumed because all the fighting of the divorce, the money issues, the visitation, and the co-parenting, etc., there isn’t any of that when there’s a death. They assume that the new family is going to form much more easily, but that is rarely the case.”
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t more complexities with divorce on the aspect of co-parenting, financial issues, the child being torn between two homes, etc., that of course brings complexities and brings anxiety. Anytime you’re coping with two homes, that brings a level of confusion and grief that isn’t there with a death.”
She speaks to some of the raw emotions that can be felt from a stepchild who is grieving a loss.
“There is this grief, this loss, this ‘you are not my mother, you are not my father. I don’t like you taking the place of my father, it feels disrespectful to them.’ Even if it’s a young child or an adult child, if the spouse has died, there’s a lot of emotions and sometimes the kid didn’t even know they had those emotions until the parent got remarried.”
“Christians, in particular, are shocked at how complicated it is when a parent has died. It is more complicated with a divorce, but not nearly as much as you would think.”
Grief is affecting step-families around the country on many different levels. It’s important for family members to identify the painful emotions that they are experiencing, and lovingly help each other handle them in a healthy way.
Laura Petherbridge serves couples and single adults with topics on spiritual growth, relationships, stepfamilies, co-parenting, single parenting, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is an international speaker and author of several books including 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom: Expert Advice From One Stepmom to Another.