Sunday, August 24, 2008

Good Grief!

As stepmums we often find ourselves on an emotional roller coaster. So, what's new? you might ask.
Experiencing roller coaster-like emotions on our stepmothering journey isn't always the result of our current situation. It can also be connected to our past, especially if we haven't quite come to terms with the life we may have physically left behind, but from which we haven't divorced on an emotional level.

Ideally we will have said all our good-byes before we leapt into stepfamily living. If we haven't, however, it's never too late but the sooner we attend to this task, the better off we, our partners and our collective children will be.

If you've lost your partner through death or a divorce (especially if the divorce was not of your choosing) you need to expect that you will experience grief. The grieving process, as identified by Kuebler Ross, is made up of a number of stages.

Denial - "This isn't be happening! It's just a nightmare but I will wake up!".
Anger - Screaming:g "Why the hell is this happening to me"?
Bargaining - "I'll do anything - just don't leave me!"
Depression - "I can't go on like this. My life is over".
Acceptance - "It's not as bad as I thought, life does go on".

If you are stepping into a relationship where it's your partner who's got the baggage - an ex and kids from the previous relationship - you'll still be subject to some grief, which might look something like this:

Denial - "We won't let anyone interfere with our new life together, least of all the ex or the kids!"
Anger - "Why won't his/her ex just leave us alone?! S/he is such a pain and I can't stand him/her!"
Bargaining - "If I don't hate the ex as much will s/he go away?"
Depression - "I didn't sign up for this, it's never ending and I can't handle it any longer."
Acceptance - "Well, time does seem to make all the difference".

You need to be aware that these stages don't occur in neat time frames or in the listed order. Additionally, no-one can predict how long or how short the grieving process might be. Grieving, however, is an essential part of healing and whilst it is an unpleasant valley to walk through, it is an important one that must be crossed if you are to - in time - get to a peaceful place within yourself and with your circumstance.

So, if you frequently find yourself "flying off the handle", sad and/or depressed, irritated and/or frustrated without any apparent reason, ask yourself: "Could it be that I am grieving?" If that's what it is, just go with the flow and remember that there is a light at the end of that tunnel!

The 'how to' of effective grieving is covered in my book "Hell...p, I'm a stepmother".

Don't give up!

We learn more from ten days of agony than from ten years of content. (Sally Jessie Raphael)

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