Stepparenting Heartache: Part Two

In continuing our focus on how to cope with the heartache that can accompany stepparenting, I offer two more suggestions to consider. (The first two suggestions can be seen here.)

When heartache strikes, stay in your normal routine as much as possible, knowing it will not feel normal. In Real Life, Dr. Phil McGraw shares thoughts on dealing with grief and heartache: “You have to continue carrying on with your life, because going MIA from your routine and support from friends and family will only magnify the grief you feel. You need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can’t just go into the fetal position and expect to emerge a year later all better.”

When you can’t get up in the morning because of your heartache, treat yourself to something special by arranging lunch with a friend or scheduling a massage as you start the day.

Another way to cope with heartache is to accept the reality you may never understand the “why” of your heartache, but you must try to get on with life anyway. When my stepson chose to continue living with his stepdad instead of immediately moving back with us after his mom died, I was angry and hurt. I didn’t understand his decision and analyzed his choice repeatedly, magnifying my pain in the process.

Searching for why events happen intensifies our feelings about the situation and leads to negative behavior. In Forgiving God, Carla McClafferty describes her resolve to quit questioning after losing her fourteen-month-old son, Corey. “I realized in this life, I would not know or understand why God allowed Corey to die. Somehow, when I accepted the fact that I would never know, I was able to stop searching for the answer.”

Inner peace comes as we accept the pain of our heartache, giving up the need to undertand why. It isn’t an easy choice, but one we can intentionally make if we choose to.

Stay tuned for two more suggesions on coping with heartache in my next post.

Stepparenting Heartache

In talking with a new stepmom this week-end, I was reminded of the heartache that can go along with stepparenting.

I reflected on some of my own pain that I experienced when my stepson chose to go live with his mother as an adolescent. During that time his mother became ill with colon cancer and died within the year. The most painful part , however, was a custody battle that ensued afterward when my stepson fought to continue to live with his stepdad and other siblings. There were a lot of hurtful things said in court that ring in my ears even today.

So, how do we cope with heartache that can accompany the stepparenting role? Over the next few days I want to offer a few suggestions.

First, recognize the pain of your heartache. Allow yourself to experience the difficult feelings which might include sadness, anger, denial, frustration, or fear. Try not to stuff your feelings or fall into addictive patterns to soothe the pain. Feelings eventually pass when we give ourselves permission to feel them.

Second, be gentle with yourself and expectations of what you can do on bad days. Lean on friends and family for strength and support. Accept their concern and care, even when they don’t know how to help or unintentionally say the wrong thing.

When I went through a difficult divorce, my sister came from out of town to go through the divorce proceedings with me and provide emotional support. Her hopeful attitude and encouraging words gave me the strength to make healthy decisions in the midst of heart-wrenching emotions.

Consider these suggestions today on coping with stepparenting heartache. I will offer two more tomorrow.