You may have heard of the Stages of Grief & Loss developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The stages are:
These stages are something we can encounter when we go through a variety of losses. For example: a loved one dies, we experience divorce, there is a diagnosis of a serious health issue, our company down-sizes and we lose a job, or we are in the messy process of a blended family. Everyone progresses through these stages in their own time, in their own order. We can’t hurry someone along, pushing them through the stages. There is no standard linear progression here. At one point you could be in Denial and then jump to Depression, then slide back to Anger. You (stepmom) could be in Denial while your husband is in Depression, and your stepkids could be in Anger. Sometimes I hear of families where the spouses have come to a place of Acceptance but the stepkids remain in Anger, Denial or Depression. Each person and each situation is different. No wonder it takes stepfamilies so long to “blend” or adjust.
Here are some stepmom examples:
- Denial (“This can’t be happening…this is not the marriage I signed up for!” or “I’m going to pretend our past marriages never happened, this is a new life and the old life doesn’t impact us.”)
- Anger (“I cannot believe my husband isn’t supporting me more, doesn’t he know what I’m going through?” or “I cannot believe how disrespectful my stepkids are to me, I don’t deserve this!” or “This isn’t fair!”)
- Bargaining (“If we can just make it through this court date, we will be ok.” “If I’m just nicer to my stepkids, surely they will love me and life will get easier.” or “If my stepchild moves out of our house, surely everything will be ok then.”)
- Depression (“Our marriage will never survive this stress. We are bound for another divorce, I just can’t take this stress any longer.” or “I can’t bear to be home when my stepkids are in my home, I have to walk on eggshells the whole time.”)
- Acceptance (“This may not be the marriage I envisioned, but it can be even better than what I hoped for because God has good plans for me.” or “My worth is not based on whether my stepkids or their mom like me.” or “My stepkids and their mom may choose to mistreat me, but I can still choose to love.” or “It’s not so much that my husband isn’t supporting or understanding me, but rather, he is trying to balance a lot of people, emotions, and consequences of whatever decision he makes.”)
Being in a stepfamily means that each person is inherently dealing with a loss of some kind, on their own time table. How can we give each other grace? Maybe the first step is acknowledging what a huge loss this can be for each person. For the kids: the loss of their family as they knew it. For Dad: maybe it’s the loss of the first family he had dreamed of, and the loss of influence as a parent. For stepmom: maybe it’s the loss of the idealized relationships she had dreamed of having with her stepkids, or the loss of the peaceful fairytale re-marriage she envisioned. For the bio mom: maybe it’s the deep loss of not seeing her children on a daily basis, and the loss of some parenting time to not only dad but also another woman.
Today I’m thankful that our Lord has given us such underserved grace so that we can try to extend grace to each other in the way He has done for us, time and time again (grace upon grace).
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) says, “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
What are you thankful for?
(for more info check out “On Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 1997).