How to let go of the life you thought you would live and embrace the one you are living
Dear Grieving Stepmom,
As a little girl, you dreamt of finding the person of your dreams, getting married, buying a house, and starting a family.
You dreamt of life in a nuclear family, of being a mom in a nuclear family.
You took for granted the luxury of having a few years alone with your partner before children were involved, Time to align your values and parenting philosophies. Time to plan how you want to raise your kids and discuss how many you want to have.
Many of these were pre-determined for you.
You stepped into the role of “bonus mom” and now have children living under your roof who did not come from you. Children who were not created out of the love between you and your partner, but from the love between your partner and another person. Children who have values, habits, and rules instilled in them from birth, a time before you were even a thought in your partner’s mind.
You are suddenly faced with the fact that your life will never look exactly how you imagined it would. The realization that much of your day-to-day will be dictated by an ex-partner, children’s needs, and custody schedules, hits you like a ton of bricks.
You start to compare your life with friends who are starting families of their own. You become hyper-aware of the unique stressors that you are facing in your blended family.
You start to become jealous of the fact that your friends don’t have to deal with the financial struggles that come with alimony payments, the flux of conflict from an ex-partner, or the feelings of helplessness associated with parenting a child that is not yours.
The pain and sacrifices that you are enduring feel unjust.
Flooded with anger, resentment, and sadness, you may even imagine what your life would have been like if you didn’t marry a person with kids.
You are grieving, my dear Stepmom, and this is a normal and surmountable stage of the stepmom journey.
We tend to think of grief as associated with death, but the truth is, grief is a human experience that can occur when facing any type of loss.
You ARE facing a loss, Stepmom. You are facing the loss of the life you thought you would live. Maybe it’s the loss of the possibility of having children of your own. Maybe it’s the loss of the dreams you had to travel the world with your future partner. Maybe it’s the loss of getting to live in the neighbourhood you’d always dreamt of starting a family in.
The good news my dear stepmama friend, is that you can mourn these losses and come to fully embrace the life that you have.
First off, stepmom, you must allow yourself to feel.
Give yourself permission to truly experience those sentiments that you are burying deep inside of you. Don’t berate yourself for feeling sadness, disappointment, or frustration. Don’t feel ashamed of the thoughts that cross your mind.
You are allowed to be grateful for your life and crazy-in-love with your partner while still mourning the loss of dreams that will never be.
Journaling can help with this process and is a great way to validate your feelings while releasing them simultaneously. You can even try designating a specific amount of time each day to “feel” or to journal about these emotions. It’s important to not let them take over your life. Honour them and feel them but allow them to move on once you’ve acknowledged them.
Next, try to keep your eye on the present and future. I know it can be hard to not dwell on the past. It’s normal human behaviour to ruminate on past experiences, regret things we’ve done, or think about how things would be different “if”.
As a stepmom, you are faced with constant reminders of your partner’s previous life, but the fact is, dwelling on these will get you nowhere.
Conserve your energy to think about your future with your partner and all of the things you have planned together. Contemplate your own self-development, your own personal goals, and how far you’ve come in your own journey.
Maintain a focus on the present, as well. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude can be great ways to become at peace with the “now” and experience that this is truly the only place where pure happiness can occur. Keep your head up, and forward, Stepmom.
Mourning is not an easy process, nor is it always an enjoyable one. But the weight that will be lifted from your shoulders once you acknowledge and manage the painful emotions that are holding you back from living your life to the fullest, will forever change you for the best.
A stepmom who has mourned
Caitlin McKitterick (M.Sc, BA) is a Canadian-based stepmom coach, teacher, wife, and stepmom of a four-year-old boy. On her blog www.bubblytobedtimestories.com, you will find the ramblings of a bachelorette-turned-stepmom on how she strives to live a balanced, inspired, and fulfilled life amidst the chaos of a blended family.