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This is a topic that doesn’t seem to get much attention, but I think it’s a very important one. This kind of loss is somewhat unique. What I’m referring to is when you are married to someone who already has children from a previous marriage. They would be your step-child. When you then divorce from that parent you really have no rights to that child. They were never maternally yours, yet you may have created a bond as a mother or father figure. When you separate from their maternal parent & especially if it wasn’t on good terms you may in fact loose contact with that child. It can be very devastating especially if you acted as a partial parent & spent a lot of time with them. It’s a whole entirely different grieving process for that kind of loss. There are all kinds of books out there for people dealing with divorce & separation and how to deal with their children, or even if a child dies. Yet there’s nothing on the topic of dealing with the loss of a step-child. In a way it almost feels more like a death. To help raise a child for 4 years then with no warning have them ripped away from you with no opportunity to say goodbye.

During the 4 year relationship with my ex-husband I helped raised his son. I was in his life from 3-7 years old. I loved him and cared for him as if he was my own son. We had him every other weekend, holidays and half of the summer. I worked from home so when he would stay with us during school breaks, I cared for him during the day while my ex went to work. We had a special bond. On top of this unique situation he was also autistic. For me though this was never an issue. I grew up with a brother who has epilepsy so I knew how to interact with children who had special needs. My family also treated him as a grand-son. They loved him, he loved them, it really was a great relationship. He was also Hispanic and bi-lingual, my family Caucasian.  He would actually help me learn Spanish through Dora the Explorer. It was really one big happy family.

When I discovered my ex was cheating on me, our happy family life all came to a halt. Everything happened so fast from moving out of our house, filing for divorce to the final dissolution. It only takes 90 days in Florida to get divorced. During all this I was dealing with so many emotions and a broken heart caused by my ex, that I didn’t really have time to think about my step-son. I was busy trying to figure out where I was going to live and what to do with my life. We were supposed to have him for a month in the summertime, yet we were divorced prior to that. I wanted to see him badly, but since he was only 6 & I would have to go through his father, it was too hard on me at the time. At this point I was not talking to the son’s mother much, because my ex didn’t allow it. Plus she had moved to CA with her new family a few months prior.

As time passed on and I was trying to move on with my life, the emotions from missing my step-son started to surface. 5 months down the road my heart was breaking again, but this time for a different reason. I didn’t know how to deal with the loss of my step-son. I felt guilty and sad, I couldn’t see or talk to him. I hadn’t spoken to his mother at all. I didn’t even know if she knew the whole story of what happened between my ex & I. One day I was going through papers & discovered that I had my step-sons footprints from the hospital when he was born. That also reminded me that his birthday was right around the corner. I searched my email & found her email address. So I reached out to her and said I would send the papers to her & expressed my feelings for her son.

She was very nice and for the first time we were able to speak truthfully about everything. She said there was no problem if I wanted to see my step-son again, yet they lived in CA & I in FL. I didn’t have the money to travel out there. So instead I bought him some presents for his 7th birthday. I wrote a card and expressed how much I loved him and missed him and that it wasn’t his fault that I can’t see him anymore. I also printed out pictures of us together and my cat Callie. He loved her a lot and his father told him she ran away and that’s why she wasn’t around anymore.

When she received the gift she read the card to her son and she said tears welded up in his eyes. I don’t know how much he understands of the difficult situation but at least he knows Callie and I are fine and miss him very much. It was able to help me heal some of the wounds of losing my step-child. I still send him gifts every year on his birthday. It’s been almost two years now to the date since he was ripped away from me. I still have not seen him in person, but I can tell you for everyone out there who is suffering, it does get better. The pain does slowly go away with time. It’s very difficult in the beginning trying to get through each day. If you are just dealing with the separation of your children, my book “5 Steps to Heal a Broken Heart” may help you. It’s a short guide I wrote for myself whenever I was dealing with heartache. Any separation either it be romantic, children or friends is devastating. Download this guide to help you get through the day, one step at a time.

Tara Richter

Author & President of Richter Publishing LLC

UPDATE 2-12-16!

We’re excited to announce that we will be starting our very first collaboration book. We will be publishing a 20-30 author book by Richter Publishing LLC. All the authors will share their experiences about the topic of Dealing with the Loss of a Step-Child from Divorce. It can be based on your personal experience or if you’re a licensed counselor/psychiatrist that can add valuable advice to the topic. If you are interested in becoming a contributing author, please set-up a free 30 minute phone consultation with the President of Richter Publishing here:  https://richterpublishingllc.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php

DEADLINE IS MAY 1ST 2016