What I Learned About Losing a Step-Child

May 7, 2015

The article “What I Wish More People Understood About Losing a Child” by Paula Stephens caught my attention on my friend’s Facebook page the other day. Unfortunately, I know this type of loss…but from the unique and often forgotten perspective of the step-parent.

My tendency is to begin with “My husband, Besh, lost his son in 2012 due to a motorbike accident” but what I’d really like to say, for the purpose of this article, is “I lost my 30-year-old step-son, Carl, in 2012.”

Since that awful day in September I have been on the wildest roller coaster ride of my life. I know I will never be able to completely get over the shock and Besh will never be the same again. The “new normal” as they call it. And that’s the closest description there is.

I wasn’t fond of the term “step-parent” from the minute I married into my two “kids”, Carl (20) and Tiffany (16) – flashbacks to Disney movies with evil step-mothers or something. I had always said I wanted kids who were already born, could take care of themselves and we could hang around, have a drink and a laugh. And that’s exactly what I got. These kids were already cool independent people who didn’t need a step-mother and I wasn’t looking to be a mother either so it was a perfect match!

So for almost 10 years, these 2 kids became a big part of my life equation without me even realizing what had developed along the way.

Then when we got the call late one Saturday night on Labour Day weekend, I automatically and instinctively went into support mode for Besh and Tiffany. I just needed to make sure they were okay. That was all I could concentrate on and that was my sole purpose through all this. It helped me survive the shock, I realize now.

The hardest part is to just be with someone while they’re falling apart without trying to make them better.

I hadn’t noticed that in this process I had put my own feelings of loss on the back burner. This was the ‘for better or for worse’ situation at its finest. I needed to be strong. How could I be a wreck on a day where Besh was feeling good? I just couldn’t do it to him…or me. Those happy moments are so precious after a life shock that we have to let them happen as long as they can…before reality and sadness hits again.

That being said, I still had/have my moments of tears and Besh has said many times, “It’s okay for you to be sad too.” And I know it’s true but it’s still difficult sometimes. I have cried and do cry, but it would usually be while I was talking about Besh and Tiffany’s loss. Their loss makes me the saddest – even more than my own.

The awareness of my unique position came to me awhile after Carl passed away when my longtime friend asked me one day how Besh was doing and out of my mouth fired “What about how I’m doing?!” I shocked myself! Her eyes filled up with tears because she realized she hadn’t even asked about me all this time. We both cried and I talked about how hard it is to juggle all these things at once – being strong, holding the space, hoping with all my heart that Besh is going to survive and practically praying for Tiffany to find her happiness and live a good life…and experiencing my personal loss. Besides losing Carl, I wondered if Besh and I would make it.

Sometimes I felt guilty talking about my grief even when the time was right. I thought ‘How can you talk about your pain when it wasn’t even your son?’ It was a self-imposed comparative dialogue in my head that I just couldn’t shake.

2 ½ years later, having done a lot of inner work and accepting that Besh and Tiffany are okay and they will survive, I’m finding I can feel and talk about my own pain a little more, with less guilt and hesitation. I believe that if they can survive this then I certainly can too.

What I have also learned through this process is that the grief of a step-parent is under-acknowledged and has to wait its turn sometimes. It’s just the way it is and it makes sense, but we can’t completely bury our own feelings in the process.

Even though you may feel very alone, know you are not alone (read the comments below). The feelings you are experiencing are real and crazy. There’s not much support out there for step-parents in particular, but your position in this crazy time is very important. You are the glue when your family’s world has been turned upside down. You may even have to work with/around your partner’s ex (your step-child’s other biological parent) which can mean biting your tongue to help make things happen as smooth as possible. It’s a tough road.

And sometimes you’re not going to have enough energy to be of any help. Take a deep breath, express with patience and love, and forgive yourself when you skip those reminders. You’re only human. Take good care of yourself: Go for walks, cry in the woods, stretch, get lost in making healthy food, and include your partner and family when possible. Keeping in mind every person needs to go at their own pace, no matter how much we want and encourage them to do things that are good for themselves. But at the very least, do it for yourself.

On a final note, if you who know a step-parent who has lost one of their kids – from time to time, ask them how they are doing and just let them cry and spill if they break down in front of you. Just be there and listen. Don’t fill the space with a related story of someone else’s loss. It doesn’t help. Stay with them knowing there is nothing you can do to make them feel better. Just asking them how they are doing acknowledges their loss. And that helps to mend the wound.


PS: I wanted to add that this article applies to step-parents who have lost their step-children to divorce and other circumstances. I didn’t think of those angles when I wrote this article but I have received so many heartfelt stories of legal and physical separation from step-children, that I felt I should acknowledge it here. Yes, the child hasn’t passed away, but they are gone from your life. That’s a tough pill to swallow when you have loved them all those years. My heart goes out to you.



2018 (6 years almost to the day): I’m happy to say that we all survived this horrible time in our life. Tiffany has taken life by the reigns and is doing well travelling the world. Besh lives a full life for Tiffany and because Carl would want him to. I’m still in shock but am putting the pieces back together. Of course, the sadness still lingers and it always will, especially Labour Day Weekend, but we always spend that weekend with family and friends to get a good dose of love. We still cry and we talk about it when those feelings bubble to the surface. Time (and acceptance of those things you cannot change) has helped immensely.

2020: Turns out the saying is true, time is a healer. Things aren’t so raw now. We can usually tell stories about the times we all had together without falling apart…in fact, we can laugh at some of the funny memories now. I would not have thought that possible even a few years ago. And we still cry. Besh and I are stronger as a couple than we’ve ever been. We worked hard for that.



People trying to console can and do say the dumbest things during horrible life events. I’ve heard a ton of doozies since 2012, but I keep in mind they are only trying to connect or relate. They are nervous and frantic, trying their best in an awful situation (I’ve heard some epic fails). At least they are trying, is what I tell myself. I’ve been on the other side of the fence grasping to say something worthwhile to console someone else. I have become way more patient with people. I have chuckled in my head quite a few times over the years which makes me not want to punch them in the face…I’d call that a success!


Feel free to tell your story in the comments below. Perhaps it can help your healing by telling your story outside of friends and family. And it helps others in similar situations. Post any articles or support groups you have found in this process.  Much love to you!

kapb_headshot_-_rounded_cornersArtist Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara – Experience Newfoundland & life through my artist eyes. Born and raised here on this big rock in the Atlantic Ocean. After my Fine Arts degree and Interior Decorating, lived away for ages. In 2009 moved back with new appreciation for this place. Come hang out and explore with me. Sign up for your Piece of Pye newsletter & art prizes!


  1. Wow…thank you for writing this. It really is a new perspective and made me emotional to read. So many times we don’t know how or what to say to our friends and family in these terrible times of loss. I truly appreciate having this new way of seeing it. So honest and real. Thank you.

  2. What a wonderful article about a perspective that is more common than ever but never discussed. I too have stepkids who came to live with us when they were teenagers. I was as worried and afraid when one of my stepkids went through a health crisis, as I was when my daughter did, which was compounded by my concern for my partner. The relationship of step-parent can be complex and fraught with missteps on others’ toes and figuring out where you ‘fit’. It would be much easier if we all just understood that these are merely loving relationships, without need for labels or hierarchy. I am sorry for the loss you ALL underwent, and am inspired by how you all came through it together. Thanks for this.

  3. Beautifully, wholeheartedly and lovingly written, darling.
    So? Very sincerely, how are you doing, KA? Can’t wait to hug you again in two weeks. <3

  4. Pi –

    This is beautifully written and a really important story to share. Thank you so much for articulating your journey and your healing. You have well described the challenge and blessing of being a step-parent in any circumstance, let alone in such an emotional time. You, once again, inspire me. xo


  5. Keli-Ann,
    This article had me in tears. I “lost” m step-daughters when my ex-boyfriend and I broke up. I know it doesn’t compare to what you and Besh have gone through, but I feel your pain. My cousin who lives in California quoted Marianne Williamson to help me through: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” My heart goes out to you and Besh, and I hope we’ll get a chance to chat a little on May 21 in Ottawa. XOXO
    P.S. I love my card prints of your art! You are an amazing artist!

  6. Keli-Ann,

    While I have not experienced personally, the loss that you address in this article. It does take me back to a time when I was living in Nova Scotia. At my job, I had a regular customer who became pregnant. Every week we’s have a little discussion about her pregnancy, how excited she and her significant other were at the prospect of becoming parents. Her delivery date arrived and I hadn’t seen her in a couple of weeks. When she arrived in front of me again, I asked how she was. She told me her baby had died during delivery. It took my breath away. I took a pause and asked her, what she had. She smiled and said it was a little girl. She told me how much she weighed and how long she’d been in labour, and how beautiful she was. Then she told me that they had to choose a name right away, because the minister had stopped by to christen her before they took her away. She showed me a picture and that little girl looked gorgeous~a little angel. I commented on how pretty she was, I helped my customer and then…she looked me in the eye and told me “thank you, for asking about my baby, no one else has”. These are the tender issues that surround life and death! Do you ask or not? Compassion, can be expressed in many different ways. I am emotionally moved by the picture that accompanies this article. You my darling have represented yourself in the background, when actually~ I believe you may have been the grounding post, front and centre. I love you!

  7. I told my son about your article, then I read him my comment. He said “the grounding post, is usually mom”. So there you are “mom”!

  8. Thank you for sharing that KA. I can now see where you are coming from. I too was a step mother and never really felt sure about where I fit in the whole picture. That can be difficult in joyous times such as birthdays and Christmas and I can’t begin to imagine how much more complicated it can be at a time of tragedy. I feel for you and I Love You! xo

  9. Keli-Ann life can be so hard. I can never compare anything I have gone through in my life with that of losing a child. Losing a child has to be the hardest thing to endure for the parent or step-parent! Thank you for sharing such a personal and emotionally raw event. Yours and Beshes story will surely be of benefit to others. I wish you both peace and contentment as you continue to walk the journey of life. God bless!

  10. The funny thing about grief is that it has the patience of Job. It will wait until one is ready to deal with it. I am glad to see this article – not the reason for the article, but the fact you are writing about your pain. It is good, it is healing. The more you can talk about it, the better. Unfortunately, those left behind usually have to be the one to let others know it’s okay to talk about how you are feeling and it’s okay to say the person’s name who has passed. Your grief is not less because you are a step parent, it is different. And for every individual, grief is different. Please know that I am here for you to talk to anytime and that I have always carried you and Besh in the same place – my heart. Much healing Love to you both.

  11. Brave and beautiful, like you. This was so tough. I remember when dad died and thinking about Krista and Robin. Having been in our family for more than a decade, the loss was tough for them too, but similar to this, they took a back burner to caring for their spouses and children who lost their dad and pop. We all still miss him and I hope they were able to find peace as you did with Carl. Miss you!! xx

  12. Hi Keli-Ann,
    I can’t even begin to imagine the emotions and changes that come about when you suffer the loss of a stepson, but your beautifully written article gives me a sweet and loving insite into how you were affected by this devastating loss. With all your own feelings of loss and confusion you were still able to handle it with grace, compassion and thoughtfulness. You are a strong person and that is an asset that many do not have. Brent and his family are blessed to have you.

  13. Such an amazing and insightful article! I hope it helped your healing as I’m sure it will help many others.

  14. So heartfelt and beautifully written. Everyone should read the article with or without loss. Thank you.

  15. Thank you for writing this, KA. I have experienced the loss of my only child, my daughter Niki. I raised her as a single parent and after tumultuous teenage years we were finally coming to an understanding of expectations. She was in her first year of university – happy, dating, having all the dreams like every young person when diagnosed with terminal untreatable cancer. 18 months later, in August 2002 just shy of her 21st birthday, she left this world for the next. I “died” with her. Dispite days of laying in bed and willing myself not to breathe, my body breathed anyway…fighting my mind’s desire to end my heartache. It is the single most profound loss a human can endure…losing Niki shattered by spirit and changed my very soul. In time, I have been able to live my changed life. Changed because we are not meant to outlive our offspring. Time will heal the wound somewhat, but the huge scar that is left behind is a daily reminder of her loss of her future. Time has allowed me to again be happy – to live for her because she cannot. I stick my tongue out to try tasting snowflakes for her; I let the rain fall on my upturned face because she can no longer feel the wetness; I laugh because she loved to laugh and when the wind blows in my face (everyday almost here in Newfoundland!) I love it – reminds me that I am alive and, once upon a time, I had this little baby girl, she was so cute and happy…and I smile, for Niki.

    1. You are welcome. It is amazing we figure out how to find happiness again when it seems impossible.

  16. It’s 3 am and this is something I really needed to see… Just under 2 months ago We lost my step-son and I have been dealing with how I feel alone for all the reasons you stated here. It is so hard to be the strong one and surpress your feeling when all you want to do is break down and just have someone reassure you that you too will be fine. Faking a smile when you want to cry just so his dad doesn’t breakdown on his good days… And hiding in the bathroom at 3am to cry!!! Thank you for this article to let us know we are not alone!

    1. I too lost my step son one month ago ! I was sitting last night wondering if there was something out there like this ! I miss him so much and he left behind a beautiful wife and two beautiful girls and two brothers and little sister ! I am so lucky to have theses amazing step sons in my life ! My younger son and daughter are spitting images of their older brothers so he lives on in them and his little girls ! ❤️ Love to all ❤️

  17. I have been searching for several weeks for some information on this hoping I would find the answers to help me. I amy not have found any answers, but at least I am not alone. I lost my stepson tragically in October. He was my husband’s only child. His son was part of our family’s life for just over 15 years (since he was 3 years old). My daughter’s thought of him as nothing less than their little brother. He actually lived with us for the last 13 months of his life. Since losing him, I have had to deal with most people casting me aside because I was only a “stepmother”. His mom, who used to be very friendly, now makes me feel like I am an intruder. She wants everything of his that is in our home and has chosen to leave me out of all communication. Everyone I run into asks me how his Dad is. It’s as though I cannot possibly feel or struggle as badly. I have kept all of my feelings bottled inside for a couple of months now in fear of what I am feeling is considered selfish. I have focused on making sure my husband and daughters are fine and now they seem to be doing a bit better, I have crumbled. I am trying desperately to find some kind of happiness but for now, it seems to be forced smiles and a hollow heart.

  18. I lost my stepson three months ago, he was only 28. He had been my stepson since he was 8. I’ve since split up with his father but he still used to stay with me and his brothers, not his Dad. I always saw him as one of my own. The hurt and pain I am going through of losing him is not the same as what his poor mum is going through losing her only child. My pain consists of feeling so hopeless and unable to help his pain and suffering towards the end of his fight. Having to explain to my sons that they were going to lose their older brother. Watching my (young) adult sons carry their brother into his funeral. Then trying to help them with their loss both physical and mental needs whilst trying to stay strong. I also have feelings of guilt that I have three sons when my stepsons mum now has none and I worry a lot if something will happen to them. Thankfully I have a good relationship with his Mum and will always stay close to her, I made a promise to my stepson to ensure me and his brothers stay in touch and look out for her which I intend to fulfil. My Mum tells me I need to try and park my grief and start to try move on. To be quite honest I feel as though any moment now I may crack but I just can’t.
    Thank you for writing this, we as step-parents do sometimes get forgotten but also feel guilty to grief because we are not their biological parents.

    1. Hi Sue – so sorry to hear about your son. Sounds like you are one of those special stepmoms and that is exactly what your family needs. Sending you much love ❤️

  19. OMG…I so relate! It’s been 7 years since my 16 yr old step-son passed. You were writing my story! Is there anyway i can email you? I have felt so alone. NO ONE gets how this has affected me…or asks. If we could connect that would be amazing. Thank you ?

  20. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. My husband lost his 42 year old daughter who he adored/I lost my lovely step-daughter. She was in the hospital for 17 days before her passing which gave us some precious time with her. As step-moms we can sometimes struggle to find a comfortable way to fit in during difficult times. Like you, I’ve tried to be a loving, caring support for my husband. Your story and the comments from others is encouraging to me. It is a loss that we don’t expect to have to bear. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Beautiful. Grief is grief. We hold our space everyday in this world, while hopefully moving forward as we fill our own “joy jugs”. The pain of loss leaves scars on our hearts, but our jugs are able to hold the precious memories of joy.

  22. Thanks for writing your article. I lost my stepson 4 years ago, he was 36. I’m always there for my husband, supporting him at moments he needs it the most. The article made me realize that no one ever really asked how I was doing. His son did not live with us, but he was close to our family. To complicate things he committed suicide after years of suffering from mental illness. I found most folks don’t engage in any type of discussion with me because of the stigma mental illness carries (to them). I tend to bury my feelings and the article has helped me to realize, they are still fresh and I need to stop burying them, and work them out.

    1. OMG Cindy we are doing it now, stepson to both of us but the pain is severe. We thought he was doing so much better for 2 years. But in end he forsake his own
      family, us, his brothers. You cannot yell at a dead person with much satisfaction, It is horrible. We feel we are in death cult without our permission every 6 months, with many outliers. WTF is this my death cult life now?

  23. hi there, this did help, I am struggling feeling guilty for my pain, for my spouse lost his 21 yr old daughter a month from today in a boating accident. Her dad and I have been together going on 5 1/2 yrs and I feel guilty for my sadness since she was not in my life as long. I have to realize that yes I am sad but I need to be patient and set my feelings aside and be there for him and his ex and two other children. I am still in denial that she is really gone and try to be there to listen , help and give comfort when he or her family needs it. I know it will be an never ending pain he will have and that loss will always be with him. I just want to make sure I am being there in every possibly way to help him get through this tragedy . I am surprised that there are not many or any at all support groups for “step mom or dads” on how to help your spouse through losing a child.

  24. Thank you so much for this article. I lost both my stepsons in 3 1/2yrs. It is so true that we put our feelings aside to make sure that we give our love and support to our spouse, because at the end of the day we just need to know they are “ok”. We put on the back burner our own feelings, say “I’m fine” and hide our grief just so we don’t exasperate theirs. We keep it tucked away because of guilt but then the anger does come at times when you do want to scream when your feelings get discounted by others. We do hurt too, we feel the grief, and trust me, I know I don’t feel the hole that only a biological parent can feel, but we do hurt too and carry many burdens of being the strong one. God bless you on your journey with your “new normal”

    1. Hi Tammy – so sorry to hear…BOTH your stepsons. I don’t even know what to say. We do hurt. And it hurts a lot when we have to keep it in so make sure you find someone you can express your feelings to. And when it’s the right time (who knows when that is, right?), tell your hubby how you feel too. This is something you need to talk about together, as a couple 🙂 xo

  25. I lost my 29 year old stepson 4 months ago to cancer. I have felt so alone in that no one asks me how I am, only inquires about my husband. I am grateful that my husband is so loved and cared about but Sometimes I just want to scream from the top of my lungs “I LOVED HIM TOO!!! I’M SUFFERING TOO!!”. Thank you for this article, for the first time, I realize that I am not alone in my feelings.

    1. Hi Melissa – I hear ya. Friends and family are mainly concerned with the bio parents, for sure. It’s an odd position to be in when a child dies. I never thought I would ever have any insight into this situation and I still wish I didn’t, but here we are. I did figure out a way (without sounding like I was looking for sympathy) to answer “How is Besh doing?” I would say “We are getting through it. We have our really sad days and we have our better days” so at least I could relay that it has affected me too…without grabbing the spotlight and shining it on my sad head and saying “Pay attention to me too!!” I can see people’s faces when I would reply with that. That’s when they realize they didn’t ask about me at all. It’s a tough line to walk, but after 6 years, I feel I can express myself now in a way that’s not angry or bitter. Everyone is just trying their best to talk about a horrible situation and I appreciate anyone who is willing to bring it up to us since it is such a tough topic 🙂 xo

  26. Never thought of a step parents grief before. I lost my daughter 1 year ago in December to breast cancer. She was only 29 when diagnosed and died at 31. Devastating for our family. Your husband should be glad he has you to share grief with you. Of course you would have grief as well.

  27. It’s 4 AM and I’m hiding in the guestroom, crying my eyes out, because I don’t want to cause my husband anymore pain than what he’s already going through. My stepdaughter died unexpectedly just 1 week ago today, she was only 26. I am trying so hard to be strong. Strong for my husband, strong for my 3 stepsons, strong for my husbands exwife, who is lovely, but who I had little to no contact with before because the kids are adults, but who has now been thrust into our lives. Our whole lives have been turned upside down in the blink of an eye. Nothing will ever be the same again. I feel like I’m struggling to suppress my own grief because I am “only the stepmom” after all. And I need to be there for my husband. I don’t want to make it worse for him. But I am experiencing all kinds of feelings that I’m struggling with, including not knowing if I am helping him at all or not, trying to deal with the fact that he’s opened up communication with his ex-wife again (which logically makes sense because I know they need to grieve the loss of their daughter together, so many memories they share of her that I was never a part of, but I feel insecure about it I guess, which then makes me feel guilty and pathetic), and trying not to get resentful over that. And also struggling with feelings of being left out of decisions and conversations as the stepmother, but not breathing a word of my feelings to my husband for fear of adding any additional stress to him. I’m also worried that this will change my husband forever, and can’t stop wondering if it will affect our marriage, and what if I can’t bring him the comfort he needs? What’s going to happen to us? And then I feel guilty and selfish about feeling that way. I guess these are feelings and insecurities that I need to somehow work out without causing my husband anymore pain. Just putting it into words right now is a relief and is helping. I’m so glad and have some commfort in knowing that I’m not alone and that what I’m feeling is ok and normal. It’s going to be a long road ahead, but I know we’ll get through it together. Thanks for listening.

    1. Jennifer, I lost my step son in an accident 15 months ago. I always find myself coming back to this blog. Your words are everything I felt and still today. I have felt everything that you have said and still do at times but have been afraid to admit some of it or to express it as I felt it would make me seem selfish for feeling this way. A step parents loss is different than a parent. I still mourn the loss of my step son but I do it quietly to my self as i feel what business do I have feeling the way I do as it feels so insignificant to the loss that my husband is feeling and his ex wife. As a step parent I feel we not only mourn the loss of our step child but we also mourn the lose of our spouse. We do loose a part of them that we will never seem to get back. Thru all of this though I want you to know that my husband and I were already strong as a couple and this has made us even stronger together. There is still an emptiness that is there but that doesn’t change his love for me. It changes how he perceives things and life but doesn’t take away his love for me. It’s a new normal that I found I needed to adjust to, i have to adjust to the reconnection of he and his ex and understand that their bond together only is about their son. It takes patience and time. I was drawn to your post because you spoke every word that I have felt but I want you to know as hard as it is you need to stay patient and understand your husband’s grief does come first now as explained she also explains here. You will know when the moment is right to express how you feel to him. Your feelings are real and communication is important together but I found I had to wait before I shared those feelings with him. It has worked for us and we are strong together still today. I don’t doubt our love but I do miss the old Us. Its hard too cause most people do not really understand how we as a step parent and spouse feel in this. I hope to connect with you and others here. Stay strong and know you are not alone in this!

  28. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post and for updating how your family is doing. My 24 year old step-son died 5 weeks ago in a car accident on the way to work. He left behind 3 amazing children under the age of 3 the youngest only 4 weeks old at the time of the accident. Decoda was 15 when his dad and I married and lived with us until he graduated and got married. He farmed with my husband and lived next door to us until he passed away. I will never ever forget the knock on the door at 7:15 that ordinary boring Thursday morning Dec 6, 2018. My husband had 3 children from his first marriage, 2 sons 1 is 28 and Decoda who was 24 and a daughter who is 20, and I had a daughter who was only 4 when we married and my husband had raised as his own. We also have one daughter, who is 6, together. We are all extremely close and after we were told the news I sat with my husband while he called his oldest son and daughter and then I went and picked up our younger 2 girls and told them on the way back to the house that their brother was no longer with us. I couldn’t even say it out loud without almost hyperventilating I’d fee like I was going to pass out every time I tried to get the words out of my mouth. We all gathered at my mother in laws house including his ex wife whom had we have had a very rocky relationship with until now. I put myself on the back burner and allowed them to grieve in whatever way they needed to and I’m so blessed that I was raised in a stepfamily and had my momma as a wonderful example of a stepmom and 2nd wife. I knew that while my own pain was so profound my role was as supporter and nurterer to my family this was my time to be strong for them. Both of my parents passed away in the last 5 years and it was almost more than I could bear but for the love and grace of my husband children and his family as my parents were the only family I had other than them. By Gods grace and mercy and their unending support I pulled through the darkness and now I must help them while again battling the darkness that grief brings. I am blessed that unlike most I hear about my marriage has actually strengthened from this tragedy and my husbands bond with me is unwavering. I don’t hide my grief from him and he doesn’t hide his from me we are committed to sharing our grief and happiness together. And with prayer and love we are still facing each day with one goal only: we will survive today no matter what it brings. It’s only been 5 weeks I know our journey is still new and the road ahead is long. Please keep us updated on your own travels down this winding road, it is so encouraging to those of us that have just embarked that there are brighter days ahead where the light abounds and the darkness fades. God bless to you and family and thank you again for sharing.

    1. Hi Rikki – I have no words. I am so sorry for your loss. Glad this article helped a bit. Much love to you and your family ?

  29. Oh my gosh, this post is exactly what I was needing. We lost my 32 year old stepdaughter on January 11th in a horrible car accident. She left behind 4 amazing children, a wonderful husband, 4 grieving parents (mom, dad, stepmom, and stepdad), and 3 beautiful sisters. I have known my stepdaughter her whole life, we were friends before I married her father (he is 20 years older than I am). After she passed, I immediately launched into protective, nesting mode. We had all the daughters, their families, my son in law, and grandkids at our house for a week. And now every weekend after. I have held up well until today. The exhaustion, sadness, and grief finally hit me. I needed to read your awesome blog to help me realize, it is ok for me to finally break down. Thank you so much for writing this!

    1. Hi Jaymie – I am so sorry to hear the news of your step daughter. Her children, husband, 4 parents, and her sisters are all lucky to have each other especially at this time. Take good care of yourself and your family. xoxo

  30. I lost my only child 4 months ago, he was 21 and died suddenly in a car accident. My husband of 15 years has a 26 and 29 year old. We married in our forties and chose not to have a child together. My stepchildren’s Mom taught them that only “blood relatives” matter and it’s been an emotionally distant step relationship. I’m struggling with the children moving on as if nothing happened. His daughter just got pregnant and is due on the first anniversary of my child’s death. My husband knows I’ll never have the joy of a grandchild and I think he feels guilty that he is having one. He’s grieving my loss with me and maybe even the loss of the me that he married. I’ve been trying to find something like our situation as to how to deal with joy for stepchild while grieving loss of biological child.

  31. Thank you for this article. I just lost my step-son yesterday, he was killed on an ATV, he was 39 and has six children. I’ve had all the thoughts you’ve described in the last 16 hours…almost identical thoughts. I knew I needed to hear how others who have lost step children cope. My wife lost her son and is inconsolable at this time and it feels so bad knowing there is little if anything I can do to help her through it. Now, we are just beginning the funeral preparations. Thank you for writing this and also thank you for the updates which give me hope; I’ve book-marked this story and will refer to it as needed. Life in this ‘new normal” will take some real effort.

  32. I lost my stepson almost one month ago. We are settling into this new-normal, and it has been absolutely terrible watching my husband fall apart, knowing I can’t do anything to help him. I keep getting these waves of disbelief, that he is actually gone, coupled with extreme sadness. Sadness for my husband, his ex-wife, their other children and our kids. He didn’t even get to meet my husband and I’s now 4 month old son. I keep replaying the day we found out. This is just so hard. I hope in time it gets easier.

  33. I really appreciate your article, thank you. My 21 year old stepson died of cancer in 2015. I didn’t realize it for 2 years, but I hadn’t allowed myself to grieve because I went into extreme support mode for my husband. When my dear family friend/mentor/father figure died in 2017, it opened up the floodgates of grief for both him and my stepson. I’m thankful to finally feel free to grieve such a tremendous loss. It’s rare for me to receive acknowledgment on the date of my stepson’s passing, but I do have the comfort in my heart, and the acknowledgement from my husband that my stepson loved me and I loved him dearly. The loss and grieving continues in expected and unexpected ways.

  34. My step children lived with us for years before becoming adults. This last December just a week before Christmas we lost the oldest of my husbands 3 children suddenly. He was only 26 years old. I am completely heartbroken. I didn’t realize how common my feelings are for a stepparent. I was allowed to help with the funeral arrangements. His mother was very generous to my feelings. I was in complete support mode until everything calmed down a little. Then I completely fell apart. I always said this is killing me and he wasn’t even my biological son. I can’t even imagine how my husband feels. I have been in my stepchildren’s lives almost their entire lives. It hasn’t been a year since he passed so I don’t expect to be better. I don’t expect my husband to be ok. But I’m so overwhelmed with grief and sadness. I purposely try to be alone all the time so no one will see me upset. I prefer to be alone. My husbands a musician. I use to go to his shows with him. I prefer to stay home now. A bed that has always been made every morning before I go to work stays unmade. There are a few dirty dishes in the sink from last night. That never happens. A beautiful back yard with hundreds of flowers and well maintained goes unmanicured. A swimming pool you couldn’t keep me out of during the summer just sat there alone this summer. I hardly opened the blinds to look outside. My stepson helped me with my backyard often. I have no ambition. No desire to be around family. I have never been further from my husband than I am now. We are still close. But not what I’m use to. We lack communication. I can’t talk to him because he doesn’t want to talk about anything. I’ve tried being there for him. He won’t talk about it. I’m sure this is the steps of grieving. I have felt alone until today when I read your article. It is exactly what I’ve been through. No compassion for what I’ve been going through from people/ friends comments. People seem so self absorbed. Thank you for this. I no longer feel alone.

  35. Losing someone we loved and who have been a part of our lives is really painful and difficult. I couldn’t imagine myself losing any of my two kids. I don’t think I can overcome it.

  36. My step son was an addict. Drugs, alcohol and gambling. It is extremely hard to remember any good times in the 14 years I was his step mom. In the last 4-5 years he was very violent and on two recent occasions he tried to kill his father he was so off his face on drugs.
    He was high on alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines, methamphetamine’s when he stepped out onto the highway and was hit by a van at 100km an hour.

    There was relief that we didn’t have to keep going over the same violent cycle but trying to understand why he didn’t wan to get better despite all of the opportunities handed to hi is very hard.
    No one asks how I am, no one understands what I have lost.

    I am angry that once again he has had the final and somehow on-going say into how life goes on.
    I have to somehow work through the anger of what he did to us before he died and what he continues to do to us now. I am angry at him for doing what he did to his dad who tried to give him everything and in the end we were the only ones that cared and tried to help, everyone else gave up on him.

    I am scared to tell the truth because of the affect that it may have on my relationship with his father an his mum just seems to use the situation as an event, and poor me situation rather than taking some responsibility in being an enable and always trying to buy her children’s love.

    I need to find some positive memories but at the moment, 9 months tomorrow since his death it is a real struggle.
    This blog has helped me feel not so alone.

  37. I lost my 33-year-old stepdaughter last week. It was sudden and she left behind 5 small children. I’ve been in her life for almost 20 years. Life feels destroyed. Life is now scary. My husband is devastated. I’m devastated and terrified our lives are now forever changed.

    We were planning our next phase of life. I don’t want us to spend years in pain and is that how the rest of our lives will be? Sadness and pain?
    I’m trying to be strong for my husband and allow him to grieve without worrying about my feelings which seem to be selfish about our future.

    This feels like we have a terminal illness…all consuming and no good outcome.

    People are definitely not worried how I am handling everything but it’s the least of my worries….

  38. Thank you for sharing. I was a MamaTwo (cool stepmother) to my husband’s 22 year old daughter, who we lost on Thanksgiving Day 2019 after a sixteen month battle with DIPG brain cancer. I met Dinsio when she was two. She signed our marriage certificate as a witness at six. Although we lived in different states, we spent lots of time together. Along with her mother’s husband, who Dinsio met at age six, we were referred to by her as The Parentals. She was our glue. Although I am experiencing the unspoken “don’t fall apart” from family and friends, I’m constantly reminding myself, and reevaluating what it means to practice self-care while being available and present for Dinsio’s parents. I know that the biggest lessons are love and patience.

  39. I have not lost a child through death, but I understand the grief of a step-parent. Me and my expartner (same sex couple) had a child togehter – and my ex was the biological parent. Our plan was always to have more children, including me giving birth to the next ones, but in the beginning it was “too soon” for my ex and then, when our daughter was a toddler,I had to have a hysterectomy. And two weeks later, while I was still recovering, I learned that my ex had had an affair with a man, was pregnant – and decided to get an abortion.

    We split up.
    The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I still remained as the primary parent. Our daughter still saw her other mum regularly, spending a night or two a week with her. This lasted for about four years…

    Then my ex met her new partner who thought it is “unnatural, that a child isn’t living with her real mother” and “there is no such thing as two mothers”.
    We tried 50/50 time split, it didn’t work (as my daughter wasn’t even allowed to mention my name in their house!!!).

    And then they decided to move about 1000 miles away and take our daughter with them… I tried to fight it, but it as a non-legal non-biological parent I had very little rights – even worse, I saw what it did to our daughter…
    So I chose not to let my child be hurt more than she already was, and to take what pain I could for her.

    They’ve since moved away even further.
    I see my daughter once a year. She is graduating from high-school and I won’t be there. She calls me by my first name, not “mum”. I have tried my best not to burden her with my love and grief. Every time we hug goodbye, I cry myself to sleep for weeks.
    The only reason I haven’t killed myself is because I would not want her ever to think that she may be somehow responsible.

    No-one gets it. Sorry for the long post, it is the first time I am sharing it… and I have felt so incredibly alone and isolated in my grief. There are days when I struggle to breathe. When I scream.

    My child is not dead. But there is a day when my child was taken from me. When the world stopped seeing me as a mum. And I have to say that every time I hear someone (including my own conservative christian family) being “grateful” that my daughter now has a “normal family” and “isn’t it great she is finally with her real mother?!” I feel like I am being ripped into thousand pieces…
    I don’t regret for a moment that I chose to put her needs ahead of mine. I am also OK living with this pain – if that’s the price it takes for her to be happy, it’s all worth it. It really is.

    But I feel so utterly alone.
    My pain is invisible. My love is invisible. My loss is invisible.
    And I’ve become invisible, too.

    I am also full of GUILT for having these feelings, because there are parents who would give anything to be able to hug their child once a year…
    So I feel like I could not ‘associate’ with ‘real grieving parents’ and yet there is no-one else I can think of who could share the feelings over loss of a child…

    1. Dear Sigrid, I want to reach out to you because I hear your pain. I am so very sorry that your child was taken from you and that no-one has ever acknowledged the terrible terrible pain you are feeling. I want you to know you are a brave and wonderful mother, your sacrifice of your relationship in order to protect your child is the most selfless act of love any parent could give. You are brave, your feelings are valid and they do not undermine anyone else’s experience. Do not feel guilty.
      I see you,
      keep breathing, please seek some support.

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