Friday, November 25, 2011

Stepkids can help healing process with comforting words and gestures at stepparent death

When a stepparent dies it is sometimes difficult for stepkids to know how to react, or what role to take in the mourning process. When stepkids have moved out of the house and started their own families it can be even more complicated. Blended family members who see each other only at holidays or special events will face different expectations from the stepfamily, than those who are bonded and share a close relationship.

Step-siblings appreciate comforting words and gestures at stepparent death
Whether or not a stepchild attends a stepparent’s funeral depends upon the level of blending in the stepfamily. If there are strained relations between step-siblings or if the adult stepkid has not spent a lot of time participating in family events, then it is perfectly acceptable to make a phone call to the family and share your condolences, send flowers and follow-up with a heartfelt card. However, if the family is close and the adult stepkid is able and welcome to attend, then by all means be there for the blended family. Letting step-siblings know that your heart is with them at their time of loss, whether you attend the funeral or not, is always a comforting gesture.

Funerals a time for honesty and open hearts
Sometimes, conflicts arise and even the closest of family members are unable to attend a loved one’s funeral. If a stepfamily has a close relationship and stepkids wish to honor their stepparent by attending the funeral, then that is wonderful! If, on the other hand, stepkids are not close to the blended family or there is animosity between step-siblings, then it may be best to not attend the funeral as it can only add to anxiety. If you are an adult stepkid who is part of a well-blended family, but a scheduling conflict with work or military service, or illness prevents you from attending, don’t be too hard on yourself. Conflicts happen, and people will understand. Make sure to phone step-siblings well in advance to let them know you are unable to attend, but mention that your heart is with them at this difficult time, then follow-up with a card or flowers. Opening our hearts when a stepparent dies can heal animosities and mend old grudges, and bring much-needed comfort during this sad and stressful time.

Stepparent death is as difficult to deal with as any other loss, sometimes even more so, but it need not create more stress than necessary. If adult stepkids don’t see the blended family more than a few times a year at holidays or special get-togethers, then it probably is okay to not attend the funeral. However, you should phone step-siblings and follow-up with a card or flowers for the funeral, or even make a donation to the stepparent’s favorite charity. Reaching out beyond the physical and emotional distance in a blended family, while keeping in mind that funerals are as much for the living as it is about those who have passed, will help you know which choice to make in the event of stepparent death.

For additional information about issues with your blended and step family, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is willing to share advice and useful tips to help you deal with various situations relating to your blended family.

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