Making Sense of Step- Family Life: Loss
Something that really spoke to me at the time that I was just beginning the step-parent/ blended family journey was the notion that almost every step-family came into existence after a significant loss. Some come after a death, and some after a divorce. And it made so much sense to me that a big factor in how the journey of the step-family evolved was how that loss had impacted everyone in the family. And of course, where each person was in their journey with the grief around that loss.
As I work with people in newly blended families, I often see struggles coming from unresolved anger and hurt with an ex, or fear and uncertainty about creating a new vision for the future after the loss of another vision. When people divorce, there is this profound sense of loss—not necessarily of the marriage as it actually was, but of the marriage that was at one time hoped for.
Children of the divorce are affected by changes. What they have come to know as “how things are and how things work” is no longer the same. Often their parents’ discord was troublesome before the divorce. The changes that come after their parents split , even though they may hold the potential for something better, is scary because it is unknown—and so much is just different. What is lost is simply the predictability that life once had. So the union of a new couple in aftermath of such a loss brings even more change, even more uncertainty.
Certainly, the length of time since a death or divorce has happened can impact the ease of the transition, but if a divorce or death was truly difficult or traumatic, the impact on the expectations and fears around that can be seen even years later. Understanding and processing the losses can help enormously with the journey to a great step-coupling and blended family life.
If you need some help in your step-family journey, contact Claire Zimmerman, LCSW at [email protected]