As I sit to write this I can feel that sense of ‘do you have a right?’ sitting in the far reaches of the right side of my head. Crazy right? I’m a counsellor; feelings just are. But it really, really, really is never that simple. (Lots of ‘reallys’ and I meant every one).
You would gather that parts of me are in this story. And parts are clients. And parts are family – in all it’s forms.
When we think of step parents and blended families our mind goes to the two ‘parents’ in a home with children. But there are many far reaching effects of blended families for years to come . This short post is about one seldom thought of.
Imagine you have a step-dad from the age of 4 until you are 19 (when he leaves and starts another family). And imagine you are older and it is some 30-40 years later and he dies. My question is – what is your allocation of ‘ the right to grieve’?
If it’s your Mum or your Dad, your allocation of the right to grieve is obvious; it is not questioned. Or at least it’s not questioned if your Mum and Dad are still together.
If it is your step parent (and your parents stayed together until that step parent died) then a little nudge for allocation might be needed – like ‘He was my Dad from when I was 11 to now’. And Voila! – its kind of explainable and your grief is recognized; some may even say – understood.
But if your Step Dad or your Dad went on to have a whole new family the displacement is surreal. Funerals are organized by his ‘now family. And you watch the forward motion of social grief, with all it’s condolences and photographs and memories, steadfastly roll forward with little or no recognition of the 10 or 15 years of his life that you were pivotal in.
This displacement comes up in lots of situations but sadly (and understandably) those at the front of the line in the ‘right to grieve’ are tied up in their own grief – they may even feel they have more ownership of that grief.
So spare a thought for the son in law who only came on the scene 10 years ago when the rest of the family have been around for 40 years and gets none of the ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’…. Or for the daughter who sits at her fathers funeral, where she knows no-one and listens to stories all about her fathers new life and nothing about herself in his old.
If you are lucky – someone in their new life lets you in….just a little. It doesn’t stop the feeling of displacement. It doesn’t stop the questions about the ‘right to grieve’. But it helps.
Look around at Funerals. It takes nothing away from you to acknowledge those left holding she shortest ‘right to grieve’ straw.