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Full time parent after the death of mum

(14 Posts)
Rie482 Thu 20-Oct-16 10:21:24


I'm 29 years old and I have a stunning step daughter who is 16 who I've known since she was 8. Her dad had her when he was young and I've been lucky because we have always been close and I will do absolutely anything for her.

Things the last couple of months have been super hard. Back in April her Mum had a mental breakdown and we had her move in with us while she was doing her GCSEs to give her some much needed stability. She was doing well and seemed a lot happier and relaxed with us so there was an assumption/possibility that she would come and live with us. I was up for that and there was a lot of conversation between me and my fiancé about it.

Then, just after her last exam, her mum committed suicide in her own mothers home with her 10 year old niece downstairs. She left behind horrible perfectly written notes to everyone close to her, telling my step daughter that she was happier with us so she didn't need to be around any more. I cannot think how her mum was feeling and what she was going through to do that to herself. Knowing mental illness, as it is runs through my family, I know we will never truly know what led her down that path and I feel so sorry for her because she saw that as the only path out.

I'm heart broken to think that her mum won't be there this Christmas, and her next birthday. She will never be at her wedding, meet the love of her life and meet her children. She won't see how amazing she will be when she grows up.

But now we are dealing with the aftermath of her decision and it's hard. My step daughter is in denial - she isn't talking to anyone from her mums side of the family, she spends all her time with us and she doesn't really seem to be grieving when you talk to her. she has just started counselling that we have arranged for her but she is already starting to fight that saying she doesn't know how long she is going to go for.

I understand she just doesn't want to confront the pain but it needs to come out because her avoidance techniques are getting to me. This is where I feel horrible for getting incredibly frustrated.

She won't go out and see her friends because apparently we live too far away (one 10 min bus journey from where she used to live). Whenever we go out somewhere with our friends she is always asking if she has been invited too. We don't go out often but when we do she makes us feel guilty by jokingly saying that we are abandoning her. We had a trip already planned and payed for before the death of her mum and she is still telling people now that we abandoned her when we bring it up in conversation with people. We were gone a week and she was with her grandparents!

My main thing is that I'm not a much of a hugger at all. My fiancé is the only one I really like to show affection to and even then it's not too smothering. When my Step daughter used to stay with us once a week, I wouldn't mind lounging on the sofa and have a hug but now she is with us permanently it as if I have turned into a on tap hug monster. A couple of weeks ago I was ill with labyrinthis, unable to move without feeling like the world was spinning, and she'd come into the lounge and announce 'hugs'. She asked me repeatedly what's for dinner and sit all over me while I'm stuck on the sofa. I do tell her to stop it when it gets to much but I think her mum was super affectionate and I'm just not. While I've been writing this she has come into my bedroom twice just to complain to me that she doesn't want to go out and see her boyfriend or friends today. 'Why can't I have a lazy day'. 'Ugh, I don't want to have to walk.'

I need my space. So much much more space than she is giving me and I feel horrible because I am starting to crack under the strain. I don't feel like I can talk to my other half about it because he is stressed out about how she is coping and with the pressures of a new job. At the end of the day, it's his daughter and she is grieving. It's not a usual situation that I can just talk my way through and I'm left feeling like I have absolutely no control over my own life.

Wdigin2this Thu 20-Oct-16 11:08:21

OMGoodness, what a situation for all of you!
Looks like she's transferred her feelings for her DM onto you, and is trying to block out reality. She doesn't want to go out, because again, that's reality. She doesn't want you to go anywhere without her, because she's already been abandoned by her mum.....the poor girl!!!
However, your needs and emotions come into this too, so I think I'd have a serious talk with your DP about sharing the responsibility more , encouraging her to look to her dad for comfort, and to continue counceling....but really this is a waiting game which will take time and careful management, from you and your DP. flowers

pugsake Thu 20-Oct-16 11:17:04

Christ op I'm so sorry it all sounds dreadful.

Nowhere near the same level but DD2 has just had her contact stopped with her dad. She's being ridiculously clingy with DH (her stepdad)

I think it may be a transference thing. Not a profession it's just my opinion.

I'm so sorry for your SD and all your family's loss flowers

Cel982 Thu 20-Oct-16 11:29:36

It sounds very difficult for all of you, but I think you will just have to suck it up to a certain extent. She's very young, and she's just lost her mother in an incredibly traumatic way. You say she's in denial, but actually her behaviour sounds pretty typical for someone after a significant bereavement - she's clinging to those she has left. What she needs now is security, and stability, and the knowledge that she's not going to be abandoned by anyone else. (I'm afraid I'm on her side about you and her father going away on holiday in the aftermath of her mum's death - it does seem insensitive.)

She will come out of this eventually, and take an interest in other things again, but for now she just needs to feel safe. By all means talk to your DP about how difficult you're finding it all - he may need to put in some more dedicated time with her.

Lunar1 Thu 20-Oct-16 12:48:04

Can you take some time away for yourself with friends and family to get the space you need. Her dad is going to have to be around. For the foreseeable future.

Him going on holiday for a week after all she has been through was abandoning her when she desperately needed him to be around, it's not surprising she is clinging on now.

viques Thu 20-Oct-16 13:10:32

What a dreadful situation for you all.I feel for your stepdaughter, her mother's death is so recent and raw, as you say she hasn't even been through all the first special' times like her birthday/ Christmas yet.

I think you all have to go slowly, she may not be ready to grieve openly yet, but be prepared for a trigger moment which might unleash a backlog of emotions, could be anything too, a film, a book, a scent.... I think you will also have to be the bigger person and do the hugs, you never know, you might even get to like them, but asking for them is a sign of trust and love towards you so well done.

With regards to the counselling, tell her she can do the counselling for as long as she thinks she needs it, might also be worth trying to find her some peer to peer bereavement groups to go to as well, teens often find it easier to talk to their peers and to know that other people have suffered parental bereavement as well might help, I think the fact that her mum committed suicide must be especially difficult for all of you especially her, firstly there is always a lot of sympathy for death from illness or accident but many people are awkward around suicide and don't know what to say, and secondly she must find it hard to understand why her mum 'abandoned' her in such a way, and will not really grasp the despair and confusion her mum would have been in. Teens are very self centred (it is the way they are) and are more likely to see a suicide as a personal rejection not as an act of despair.

Stay strong, she is lucky to have you and all of you together will get through the beginning of this sad time and help her to move on with her life as a loving and secure young woman.

viques Thu 20-Oct-16 13:15:36

I meant to say take some time for yourself with friends and family who you trust and can unload your feelings on, I think ATM your partner is not in a position to support you and your stepdaughter so don't push him to support you too much , her needs must come first.

selfishcrab Thu 20-Oct-16 13:21:18

She's lost, and it sounds like she is very, very unsure and insecure, she may be very scared about losing you so clings to you. Completely understandable.
As for counselling it may be to soon for her, to raw so you need to listen and be lead by her, we don't always know best. What may help is letting her lead talks and if/when she wants to talk about her Mum let her and just really listen.
You can always reassure her that you are going no where, that she is loved and she has a home with you.
Keep the same routine as you have always had at your home and try to keep life as 'normal' as possible whilst encouraging (gently) to talk about her Mum, let her rant, scream, cry as these feelings can cause problems later if they can't be voiced.
I also think that telling her it's ok to voice ALL feelings about Mum may help, even angry feelings.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Thu 20-Oct-16 19:44:23

I do think that painful as it may be for your DSD, you need to get some space from her, both as a good example to her and to try to prevent the creeping suffocation that will damage your relationship with her.

I'd focus on what you need at the moment, as your DSD will take a long time to come around to what she needs. There will be some difficult moments, some kickback, some tears perhaps. However if you can be more normal with her, but constant and reassuring, it should help. Grieving is a marathon, not a sprint. flowers

Somerville Fri 21-Oct-16 00:39:07

I was widowed 2 years ago so my DC have been through some of what your DSD is going through.

Bereaved children and young people need a lot of gentle, loving and consistent care from the main other people in their lives. This is hard to do, and time for self- care is essential. You need time off to offload on friends, to excercise and to relax and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Your fiancé is unlikely to be able to support anyone beyond her for the foreseeable future - you need to have other people to lean on. I'm engaged too and my fiancé offloads on a few trusted people when me or my kids are having a rough few days and he's been cried on a lot... this is good.

I'm in a bit of a rush but didn't want to read and run so apologies that this is a bit disjointed and if PP's have already said it.
-Cruse and Winston Wish are good charities that support bereaved children. There may well be a specialist one for children who's parent took their own life, too.
- plan ahead for difficult dates such as anniversary of her mother's death, Mothering Sunday, Christmas and birthdays. We spend part of these kind of occasions at the cemetery at my children's request. sad
- I'm sorry and I don't mean this as a dig but her father going on a week long holiday shortly after her mother died was probabaly inadvised. I'm sure he didn't realise that. Taking advice from the charities above would be really helpful for him (and you - you sound like a very loving step mother). It was nearly a year before my children could cope with being away from me overnight (with their loving grandparents) - it is entirely natural for bereaved young people to become very clingy to their remaining parent.
- Family grief therapy all together was how I got my children (and me) to start counselling. It helped a lot and we still go for sessions altogether occasionally.
- she sounds like she might not be ready for counselling yet. Better to leave it for a bit than force the issue.
-Accept help when people offer. If she doesn't want to be left with grandparents then accept that, but ask if they'll give her lifts/cook meals/do ironing or whatever will be helpful instead. She'll need so much gently care and attention that everything else can get so on top of you/her dad.

Finally; my fiancé knew what he was/is signing up for, taking on my brood as well as me. They call him Papa (DH was and always will be Daddy) and although he will never, ever replace my amazing husband, he has a very important place in their lives. You didn't know what you were signing up for and that makes it so much harder. Be kind to yourself. flowers

LucyBabs Fri 21-Oct-16 00:50:31

Sorry but I only feel empathy for your poor step daughter. My Mam died when I was 30, my whole life fell apart yet I was married with my own children. I just can't imagine losing my Mam so young and knowing i had to live somewhere else and on top of that feel unwelcome.
I would never expect anyone to accept physical touch when they really don't like it I was sexually abused for 3 years as a child, I struggle giving my dc affection sometimes however your step daughter has just lost her mother! Come on op can't you see how unreasonable you're being!

WannaBe Fri 21-Oct-16 21:21:46

What is her father doing in all this?

Slightly different but I was taken suddenly and very seriously ill recently with a very real possibility that I might not survive. I know that my xh looked into support straight away, to cover all eventualities, both if I hadn't survived but also to help DS with the trauma of having to see me on life support.

Her world has fallen apart. Her father needs to make her his priority for the foreseeable future, and frankly going away for a week and leaving her makes him an insensitive arsehole.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Fri 21-Oct-16 21:51:46

wannabe oh my so sorry to hear that, hope you are all recovered! What a trauma. shock

Backingvocals Fri 21-Oct-16 22:03:48

I'm sorry to hear this. Sounds really hard and you sound like a lovely stepmum.

This isn't meant as a criticism but I think the trip probably was ill-advised (obviously I don't know what it was for so sorry if that's off the mark). But it was ill-advised by her father rather than you. She needs to be his absolute focus now and for the foreseeable future.

It sounds as if at the moment you are doing the coping and the thinking and the worrying about this. Is he also on a parenting website at the moment asking how he can help her get through this? And asking how he can help his wife cope with this unexpected situation where she has suddenly become a mother figure?

I think you need a lengthy discussion with him. No doubt he's struggling too but he needs to take the lead here.

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