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How to Deal With Your Stepmother When Your Father Dies

by Maura Banar

The death of a father can be devastating for the children who are left behind. Even if those children are adults, they may feel alone, abandoned and lost. Stepfamilies are unique in that they are a merging of two families. This merging may be challenging as individual members work toward finding their place in the new family structure. The subsequent stepfamily may never quite mesh in the way that the previous family of origin did, and this can lead to conflicted feelings. The death of a father, leaving behind children and their stepmother, can further increase conflict and animosity.

Seek legal counsel, if necessary. The death of your father may leave behind unanswered questions, particularly if the death was unexpected. In these cases, documents that define the wishes of your father may not have been created. The increased emotional energy that surrounds the death of a father combined with the uncertainty for the future of the remaining family members can lead individuals to become defensive. This can increase the distance, and discord between you and your stepmother and may not be an intentional act of aggressiveness. Legal counsel can act as a mediator between the remaining members of the family and can determine the distribution of your father's estate under the protection of the law.

Recognize and respect the process of grief for yourself and your stepmother. Although both you and your stepmother have unique experiences that include your father, each of you will grieve his passing at your own pace. If you are close with your stepmother, understand that you may need each other for support. If you aren't particularly close to your stepmother, allowing her the time to grieve and refraining from confrontation can provide her with the time and space to process her husband's loss.

Don't allow personal attacks or confrontation to impair your grieving. Even if you and your stepmother had a close relationship prior to your father's passing, anger and confrontation may develop. Keep in mind that denial and anger are a normal part of the process of grief, and although you may feel like your stepmother's target, it's likely that she simply feels most comfortable expressing her frustrations with you. At times, this may occur in the form of blame or anger, however it's equally important that you are assertive and defend your need and right to process your loss.

Spend time in the support of friends and family members. If you have siblings, aunts, uncles or other immediate relatives, providing mutual support can be critical for the grieving process. If your stepmother has also grown close to your family of origin, consider including her as a part of the grieving immediate family. Having someone to talk to about your father can be therapeutic for you and your stepmother. Although your stepmother may also have to share the loss of your father with his previous partner and their children, she also is experiencing a significant emotional impact.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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