Thursday, July 7, 2011

Making Pain Work For You -Part 2 - A Stepmum's Story

Here is the continuation, and final chapter of the article 'Making Pain Work For You. I hope that, apart from helping you realise that you most certainly are NOT THE ONLY ONE who feels pain in the process of stepparenting, it also provides encouragement and hope that things WILL get better in the long run.

DO WHAT IT TAKES – for me there was no choice. Because my elbow was broken in a complicated fashion it had to be pinned and wired back into place which meant an ambulance ride to hospital, 8 hours of waiting in the emergency ward and finally, surgery.

Some step-situations can be resolved easily, others may be helped through support, yet others require more expert help and then there are those that need to undergo surgery. As you are no doubt aware, surgery always comes with a risk. That’s why you have to sign numerous bits of paper so that if something did go wrong you cannot blame the surgeon, anesthetist, hospital etc. But if there is no other way for you to get better you will need surgery despite all the risks. If your marriage (partnership) requires surgery, go for it! Get the best surgeon you know, trust that the outcome is going to be right for you…and get it over and done with. Putting it off because you’re scared of what might happen or because you fear even greater pain or because you are so used to living in pain that you cannot imagine a different way of being, is not going to solve anything, it just prolongs the agony!

REMEMBER THAT HEALING TAKES TIME – I’ve been told that I’ll need to have my plaster cast on my 'poor old broken arm' for numerous weeks and that I’ll be quite incapacitated for a long time afterwards. This, of course, is terribly inconvenient!I cannot drive. Showering is a difficult process. Getting dressed is a challenge. Everything that used to be easy is now difficult. Oh darn!!

If your relationship requires more than just casual help it may take some time to heal. During this time you probably won’t feel too great. When things that used to work for you don’t work any more, you might no longer feel like yourself. This can be frustrating, even scary. You may feel helpless, impatient and might be wondering: Why did this happen to ME?

Rather than driving yourself crazy with questions that don’t have an easy answer, remember that all this will pass in time. In the meantime the best you can do is just go with the flow.

ACCEPT THAT HEALING TAKES HARD WORK – I’ve also been told that I’ll have to have extensive physiotherapy in order to get my arm functioning normally again. This will be time-consuming, costly, inconvenient and not least of all, painful.

For you (or your step-situation) to heal it will also require hard work. You may need to do things or to put up with things that are time-consuming, costly and painful. You’ll probably encounter times when it will all seem too hard or too painful and you’ll want to give up. Don’t despair, all of that is part of the process! Going through the healing process is rarely fun, but the ultimate outcome will be worth it.

FIND THE SILVER LINING – it is said that every cloud has a silver lining. Whilst lying in a hospital bed nursing a throbbing arm that now contains enough hardware to set off every airport security system, finding the proverbial silver lining isn’t all that easy.

When you encounter your first stepfamily trauma it may seem like the end of the world, the end of your marriage, the end of all your hopes, desires and dreams – it may be like walking straight into the midst of a big, black, threatening cloud. When this happens it is important to look for the silver lining, which sometimes can be hard to find.

After 22 years of living in a stepfamily and numerous years of dealing with stepfamily issues professionally, I can assure you that there isn’t a cloud that does not have a silver lining, you just have to look for it and be patient if you don’t discover it straight away. My stepfamily journey, as those of you who’ve read my book will know, was a rather cloudy affair but the silver lining that I ultimately discovered was pretty spectacular. Hanging in when the going seemed more than tough, doing whatever it took, being willing to do the hard work, being patient (which doesn’t come easily to me) has paid off in a thousand different ways:

I have a wonderful relationship with my husband;

the strongest marriage I know;

a great relationship with the boys who made my life so challenging years ago;

a satisfying profession (which came about as the result of my personal journey);

many opportunities to share my hard-won wisdom;

and the pleasure and privilege of witnessing people turn their life’s tests into encouraging testimonies and their messes into empowering messages.

What more could I want? I love it…but I wouldn’t be in this place had I not persevered with my journey.

If you thought that I might truly need my head examined when you first read my comparison between our step-journies and my unfortunate fall, I hope that by now you’ve changed your mind. My wish for you is:

- That you will appropriate whatever you have at your disposal to get through your tough times,
- That you make your pain work for you not against you, and
- that when you get through the tough stuff, you’ll discover that the hardest things you’ve encountered
through your step-journey turn out to be your greatest blessings.


The following is an excerpt from the introduction to my book “Hell…p! I’m a Stepmother.

….There are many different facets to stepfamily life. However, the major focus of this book is the gamut of feelings that are prevalent in the experiences of most stepfamilies. In order to illustrate the crippling effect these feelings can have on family members and the freedom and personal growth that can be gained as a result of understanding and learning to deal with those emotions, I have chosen to share portions of my own step-parenting journey with you. Although my situation may be quite different from yours, you are no doubt intimately acquainted with many of the feelings that often caused my life to be a misery. The reason I have chosen this focus is that these painful emotions usually accompany the most difficult stages of our step-parenting experience, and frequently are the cause of yet another family separation. It was the hard-won recognition that my ‘awful feelings’ were normal in my circumstance that not only saved my marriage, my sanity and my self-respect, but also set me on a path to personal development and growth. I have found the same to be true for many clients who have sought my help in their stepfamily struggles….…..

....When we long for a life without difficulties, remember that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. (Peter Marshall)

For more info and to purchase “Hell…p, I’m a stepmother” click here.

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