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Coping With the Loss of My Stepdad

In this post, you’ll learn how learned to cope with the loss of my awesome stepdad, how I built resilience that led to forgiving her abusive biological dad, and how my widowed mum through her grief sacrificially helped us adjust to life after loss.

I can remember to a great depth, painful memories, where my mum suffered abuse at the hands of my biological dad. My siblings and I witnessed it as early as I was five years old.

At 11 years old, my mum had to seek a safe house for herself and her four children, separating from my dad and getting a restraining order against him, with hopes of being safe.

Part of me hated living with him, and I wish I could erase the memories. Eventually, my mum got her very own apartment, and life moved on one step, one day at a time.

Then, my stepdad, Wayne, came into the picture when I was 12 years old. Loving and fond memories completely replaced the hurt and pain we suffered.

Wayne replaced our memories of hurt and pain with fond memories of love, going to places we had never been before, family outings across the country, and celebratory moments of birthdays, holidays, and most exciting Christmas.

He made education a priority for us, sending us to the best schools and raising us with love, care, and discipline that grounded us all through high school. Most admirable was his love for my mum. He treated her like the queen she was and loved her unconditionally.

I grew up poor with my biological dad. Mum and dad struggled to put a proper meal on the table, talk less about buying books and shoes for school. Our home had no inside toilet and bath, and we caught rainwater to bathe or filled water from a standpipe less than a block away from home.

I remember the first time we went to live with our stepdad. The first thing Mom and us kids did was take a long warm shower. We never had hot water growing up. Ah, the sensation of warm water running on your skin. That was the longest bath we all ever had. It was joy, heaven on earth.

My stepdad brought joy to our lives. I felt like my memories of the past hurts and pain were erased. Every weekend he made time for us as a family.

I recalled my fondest memories, where we would all get dressed. As we were leaving home, he would reverse from the garage. He would cheekily slowly drive off as we were about to enter the car while we kids were running behind the car laughing hysterically.

It was always a fun start to our outings. We’d go for dinners and eat all the tastiest meals we loved. My stepdad was a lecturer at University briefly. He would lend support to addicts and mentor them. 

I felt biologically close to him, we enjoyed watching basketball together. He loved the Chicago Bulls and enjoyed watching old movies. We had never had television before my stepdad. Oh, how I relished the memories of watching movies with him.

His relationship with my mum taught me about true love. I witnessed true love for the first time. I saw how he poured love on my mum, which made her truly happy. I loved my stepdad as though he was my biological dad, and he loved me much the same.

We lived in bliss until the day before Christmas Eve, the 23rd of December 2000, when I found out that my superhero stepdad had died. My stomach churned with pain and disappointment of the unexpected Death of my Stepdad. I remember it like it was yesterday.

My stepdad lived a healthy lifestyle. He was in the best of health and always made his vegetable juice, which had become a part of my diet.

I remember my stepdad being ill briefly and making a speedy recovery. Then in the week leading up to Christmas, something seemed off, but mum didn’t share much with us.

It was around 3:00 pm in the afternoon.

I was painting the walkway at about 3:00 pm when I heard my mum call the ambulance. They arrived and hastily took my stepdad to the hospital. One hour after, to be exact, around 4 pm, my mum received a phone call which broke her heart. 

The person on the other side of the phone told her that her husband, my stepdad, had died. she was unable to hold back the hysteric cry that was accompanied by the endless flow of tears

Widowed Isha's mum as a guest at an evening event - coping with the loss of my stepdad

In shock, I broke down into tears as mum sacrificially held me in her loving arms to console me. I was fifteen years old at the time. Our world had shattered that afternoon. I went to my room and cried uncontrollably, with fear in my heart. I could say no words at all.

I was scared of life now. My siblings, mum, and I cried uncontrollably for a week, up until the day of the funeral when we said our final goodbyes. It was so weird that day. When we all got home, the tears no longer flowed.

A sense of peace prevailed in the almost sombre mood. All we could do was eat. That’s what we did together. There was no Christmas that year for us. We never opened the gifts. Some days we ate; other days, we stayed stuck in our room.

Relatives visited, but no one could speak. We wanted to be alone together. We wanted to grieve in our own space together as a family. We stayed locked up indoors all into the new year.

It crushed our spirits that year and many years to come. My mum mourned and grieved for years. She would play love songs that reminded her of him. I cried and cried until there were no more tears.

 Mum sacrificially made sure we celebrated every Christmas in the memorable way my Stepdad, Wayne, enjoyed spending with us as a complete family. We celebrated with lots of food, and secret Santa was the best, where we exchanged gifts with our secret angels.

He indeed was an angel in our life. Those new memories refilled my hourglass. Time and time again, I visited the fond memories of my stepdad and appreciated the opportunity I got to call him dad.

I’d like to give you an insight into the concept of grief and hourglass, which I first learned about when I was at college.

The shape of the hourglass tells us the passage of time.

I learned that the hourglass helps us through an emotional process, such as grief. When someone dies that we loved and cherished, it takes away a deep part we often feel we can never refill.

The hourglass tells us that time heals all wounds. We must give ourselves time in the grieving process to heal from that grief. Then, we start by accepting the process of grief. Then we forgive, then we practice love.

For some, it takes a short passage of time, but it may take a long time for others. For every passing time of the hourglass, we create moments that will give us courage. That lesson of the hourglass helped me heal from the grief of my stepdad over the years.

My mum made sure that every Christmas after that, every occasion was celebratory, with lots of food we loved, such as Barbecue, Curry, Pastilles, Sorrel Juice. We did it together and kept our love so strong through the years.

My siblings and I supported mum in her grief. She kept us close as a Support. To this day, we remain close always with the memories of the love from my stepdad. I will love him forever as my real dad.

 I feel like I now understand death more. Did I accept it then? Maybe I did, maybe not. I sure learned forgiveness. I began a journey of self-healing with myself and others I felt hurt about. I had to let go of the pain and find new ways to move forward with life.

I fasted and prayed intensely with my own Spiritual cleaning. Another important journey I felt I needed to undertake was to forgive my biological dad.

Then, I told myself that I had to have a conversation with my biological dad. Allow him to answer all the questions I wanted to ask. Where did he go? Why did he forget our birthdays? Why did he hurt mum all these years? Why am I so scared of being abused by others?

All the years I never saw him, and few good memories to recall made me feel lost after losing my stepdad. I wanted to fill those puzzles, that emptiness of losing my stepdad. He acknowledged not being there, and his own part he had chosen.

It took years to refill that hourglass with my biological dad. He did acknowledge Spiritually changing his life. I saw my mum forgive a man who had done so much damage to her emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Hourglass at sunset or dawn on a blurry background, as a reminder of the passing time - loss of a parent

He made up for it with my son, his other grandkids, and with mum to this day. Eventually, I forgave him, and I realised that my love for my biological dad had begun to grow when I forgave him.

He began to do the simple things I wished he had done with us for my son and his now-adult children that made us feel cherished. I love him for that.

Today, my biological dad tells me he loves me all the time. Hearing him say that makes me feel good. Feels good that he’s now a part of my son’s life too. Out of my grief for my stepdad, I learned that with time, love can be refilled. It means creating new memories that will inspire us to love on, and in doing so, that hourglass never goes empty.

I am happy my stepdad was a part of our lives. It made me understand the true meaning of love from all angles of life. Made me set a standard for true love. I will always love him. He will always live on in my memories.

Getting Support

Balanced Wheel’s Bereavement support groups support anyone who has lost a parent, spouse/partner, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling/relative, or friend.

Grieving is a highly personal experience. Losing a loved one is a painful experience. Support is available if you have lost someone close to you. Support is available from Balanced Wheel.

You can eventually cope with your loss by getting the proper support. Sharing your experience of grief with others who are experiencing similar things can be more helpful than trying to cope alone.

So, I invite you to join our peer-to-peer bereavement support group.

Are you grieving the loss of someone you loved and would like to join our support group? We will start with two bereavement support groups in September. Would you please complete this registration form for any of the next two bereavement support groups?

I’d love to share your coping with grief story too.

I intend to expand the blog and resources on the website to include stories of other people who have lost a loved one, not limited to losing a spouse. I’d love to hear about how you handled grief. Would you please let me know if you would like to share your story?

I am also open to having anyone anonymised if that’s your preferred option. Complete the contact us form with the text “I would like to share my story.”

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