Depending how you count it, because we lost him on a Friday, today marks one month since my physical separation from Henry. I haven’t felt him for a full 1/12 of a year. But this loss feels eternal.
Even before losing Henry, I was never a particularly patient person. My tolerance for listening to complaining, blaming others when “you” should just grow a pair and own up to something, passing the buck because you’re too lazy, unwilling, or don’t care to do something that you just need to do generally ignites my short fuse.
Unfortunately, children are experts at all of the above. And mega-unfortunately, on a good day, it’s really difficult for step-parents to be an all-encompassing bucket of love when it comes to raising a kid – full time – that’s not your own, especially when the ‘ex’ is less than inspiring, making home life with the step-kid more challenging.
So take a big salad bowl and mix in one part grieving impatient me, one part cute but bossy know-it-all 10-year-old boy who isn’t my kid, and one part amazing yet lenient father and partner, and you have a messy explosion-salad. I wrote an article last year for Montreal Families Magazine on the challenges of step-parenting, and that was before the life-shattering changes losing a child brings.
I make myself sparse at home when I know I’m having a bad day. That comes with a frequency of about once or twice a week – days where I spend a large portion of my time crying in bed, skipping supper, etc. On these days, I hide in my pottery studio, go for walks or find something to do, essentially removing myself from the picture, which is *cue sarcasm* totally awesome.
It’s hard to feel like I’m allowed the space to mourn at my own pace when my step-son is home which, with full custody, is nearly all the time. He is a good kid, but he’s high-energy, demanding and, let’s call it something that sounds fun and politically correct, spirited. Since losing Henry, I have had a hard time being his step-mom.
Apparently, he has been telling people that he’s proud of the way he’s been supporting me by being less argumentative than usual (read: still argumentative, just a pinch less). I know I have to praise these small efforts, and I do, but that just makes me laugh. And it leads to rifts between my partner and I.
The last month can be distilled to days of empty silence while my step-son is at school, then around 4 p.m., when the bus drops him off, I morph into a cranky lady that wants to hide.
On days where I feel like a functioning human being, I put a big effort in being with my little family, but that doesn’t often last long before the shadow of grief stretches over me and I must retreat before my raw nerves feel chomped on, or before I might say something I regret. And I’m already usually the bad guy at home just because I am a step-mom, and I am who I am.
I’m not looking for pity or to be reprimanded – this has just been a really challenging part of my grieving process. Are there any other step-parents out there who have also lost their own child? Have you also felt a little bitter that you’re helping raise someone else’s kid while yours lays dead? What the hell am I supposed to do? Me, my partner, and my step-son don’t deserve to live in this uncomfortable and eggshell-laden home life, but most days, that’s how it feels.