I was once told that being a mother, although very rewarding, is a thankless role. From my experience, there is probably only one thing more thankless than being a mother and that is being a stepmother. Being the “other mother” is far from easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest roles to ever take on. But what if you are the step parent of a child who has lost one of their biological parents, like I am?
Your Relationship with your Stepchild
If your stepchild already lives with you before their parent passed away, as was my case, this in many respects helps. You have had time to form a bond with them. You will have an idea of their moods, habits and their way of dealing with things. More than likely, you will be able to pick up if something isn’t quite right.
If they do not live with you or if you came into their lives after the fact, it will be more difficult for you. You will need to get to know them and earn their trust and respect. I won’t lie: you have your work cut out for you. Not only do you need to support the child through their grief but you also need to gain their trust so they feel they can come to you. This will take a lot of time, energy, and strength. It may cause a strain on the relationship with your partner and will often affect the entire family, but with a lot of effort it can be done.
Supporting Your Stepchild
Show your stepchild that you are there for them. Offer your shoulder for them to cry on (this will happen a lot). Tell them they can talk to you about anything, any time. Encourage them to talk about the good times with their parent. Reassure them they can express their grief how they want to because everybody grieves differently. Make sure they know you don’t intend on replacing their parent but you will play an important role in their life. It is crucial that you follow through on these promises or they will simply be empty words.
You will not be able to do this on your own. Make sure you communicate to your partner about the obstacles you face. Keep the deceased parent’s family involved in the child’s life as this is a vital part of the grieving process.
Professional counselling is a must for any child who has lost their parent. This will reassure them their emotions are normal and will equip them with skills to work through their grief. Seek professional help for yourself if you need it.
Remembering Their Parent
When it comes around to birthdays, the anniversary of their parent’s passing; Mothers Day or Fathers Day, a flurry of emotions will be stirred. There are a number of things you can do with your stepchild to honour their parent.
- Light a candle and leave it lit all day
- Spread flower petals at the beach or at a special place
- Have your step child write their parent a letter
- Release a helium balloon somewhere of significance
- Go out for lunch or dinner to a special restaurant
The most important thing you can do is be there for them and be kind to yourself.
Are you a step parent of a child who has lost their parent? How did you support your step child? What did you do to remember their parent?