Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family
Hello Cathyrn -
My name is May and I am a stepmom to a wonderful little 6 year old girl. I have been part of her life since she was two and my husband and I have been married for 3 years with no children. My SD is the only child and he was never married to his ex.
To make a long story short my SD mother and father split when she was 1. Things were never easy as most situations aren’t and both had joint legal custody. My husband always paying support and after a nasty court battle allowed add'l time with his daughter.
Over a year ago, my SD’s mother was with her new boyfriend and was hit fatally hit while crossing a multi-lane highway. Since this time in efforts to protect my SD we started grief counseling and worked with Bio mom's mother and sister to include them in this process (mostly because it was their daughter and in all honesty they were taking more care of SD than her own mother).
During one of two visits, Bio moms mother insisted that we share custody of SD where she could have every other weekend and at least one day a week. My husband opened up and finally shared his feelings that while he appreciated that she and the sister had always been there when Bio mom was not that he would like their role to go back to the Grandma and Aunt relationship it should have been from day one.
He said that he would never deny them time (nor has he ever). When Bio mom's mom left the visit she 1st tried to get the counselor fired for "mis-representation" then proceeded to file grandparents visitation paperwork to serve us with.
In efforts to protect SD, we picked up and moved out of state. Since that time my husband has cut off all contact with SD Grandmother and Aunt on Bio mom's side. All communication goes through me, calls, texts, visits, etc... It's becoming cumbersome as while I talk with my husband and we discuss everything, I feel I am being taken advantage of.
While they lost their daughter and I can respect that, they send constant pictures of SD and her mother (at least 2 a week) along with extensive gifts, call multiple times a week, have made 2 visits to the state we now live in and hugely affect her emotional behavior in a negative way.
SD is in family counseling with my husband and I and has individual counseling during this time as well. All efforts to try and communicate to the Grandmother and Aunt that they are over indulging her and negatively affecting her fall on deaf ears and they do it anyway.
I feel as if I am at a crossroads at this point in my life with my husband where my heart tells me that her relationship with them should exist as it’s important but if they cannot respect both my husband’s and my wishes where does it end?
What a story and how sad for your SD to lose her bio-mom.
She's a lucky girl that you and her Dad are so consciously willing to get her the help she needs to deal with losing her bio-mom, even if she wasn’t "Mother of the year." There are a lot of variables in this situation. I don’t know so much of the story but I want to offer a couple of ideas for you to consider.
First thing I’d encourage you to do is to hand over all communications between the bio-mom's mother and sister over to your DH. It makes sense that you're feeling taken advantage of. It sounds like you've been a noble and reliable gate keeper. YOu may also not realize that you've also been the direct recipient of all their emotional baggage and energetic shrapnel coming your way. Perhaps doing this at the beginning was a good way for you to be involved, maybe even to help your DH if those tasks were upsetting to him, however, my sense is that you're now getting a message from your own inner guidance that you’ve done enough. It's time for a change. Does that feel true for you?
We SMOMS know that when you take care of a child, it doesn’t take long to fall in love with them and it seems reasonable that they would truly love her and want her to be a part of their lives. I liked what your DH said about being regular Grandmother and Aunt. Hmmm?
What about making a very long, creative list of acceptable things they could do that would be AOK with you and DH?
Have you all been very clear about what is and is NOT OK?
Could you get a couple of professionals to look at the list and endorse (in writing) the “healthiness” and positive impact of them doing things on this list for their loved one?
In other words rather than focusing on what you don’t want them to do, what about putting your attention on giving them lots of ways to focus their energy and attention that has positive impact on your SD? Do you see the difference? It can become a power struggle (their way or not their way) or a redirection (we want you in SD’s life, will you do any or all of these things, please?)
Is your concern that they are somehow corrupting or brainwashing her in some way? Seems they may feel afraid that you're trying to erase bio-mom from her memory. Some people feel that healing from grief or being happy again after a tragedy, means we no longer care..it’s not true but it feels that way if you believe it’s true.
I can understand that they would want her to remember her mother AND I can understand you want her to be able to accept the situation with you and DH. How can you make space for ALL of you in this little girl’s world?
When people are afraid, they can’t think clearly or creatively.
If you and your DH, maybe your counselors, maybe even your SD, could give them guidance on how to express their love, help your SD and help assuage their own fears in the process, I wonder how they would react to that?
I hope something here is helpful.
If you want to reply, please do so and we can continue this process.
I wish you and your DH some magical inspiration in helping your dear SD.
Best Wishes, Cathryn