The heart holds a great capacity for love. It does not love just one at a time and becomes full. It never fills up, no matter how much love grows there. The loss of a child, for a step-parent is just as deep as it is for a natural parent. We don't realize this and are not deliberately cruel in it either. The wrong thought is to think that because they are not blood, they could not possibly hurt as bad as the natural parent does. This is not true. One such parent is my husband.
Tim and Keith's relationship was complicated, what relationship isn't? Keith took this little family on when my daughter was around 9 and Tim was about 4. You have to give credit to any man who will adjust himself to another mans children and try to be there for them, especially when the natural dad was never there for them. That was 31 years ago.
Over the years there were many phone calls, and Keith answered them all. Jumping in immediately to go wherever he was needed for all of the kids. He may have growled about the circumstances but he still was there for them. It was a hard, twisty road for him, but he never left that road for greener and easier pastures.
Over these months I have seen his sorrow. He cry's when he thinks I don't know. He tries so hard to hold it in because he thinks that if he lets it out, he will not be helping me. He feels guilt that he did not try harder or do more for Tim. He does not realize how much he actually did do for Tim. He gave him a dad when his own dad left and ignored him. He gave Tim a life, a home, a place to go. Tim came home to die, the one place he knew he was loved and was safe. It was not selfishness on Tim's part, it was a safe place.
Keith has tried to handle everything since Tim's passing. When I could not talk to people, he became my voice. When I could not function, he became my arms, my legs. He dealt with everything that came our way. Most of it bad. Where once, he was an outspoken man who would tell others exactly how he saw it, he became quiet. Keeping his deeper thoughts hidden form everyone but me. He lost joy. He lost one of his sons. There are many times that something will come up, on TV or in conversations and he will remember Tim. I see the hurt in his eyes. We cry together and separate. I am not the only one that this has changed.
A step-parent is just as invested in their step-kids as the natural parent. They feel just as deeply the grief and sorrow. They grieve and are just as misunderstood as the rest. I think it is even harder on Keith. He is spread so thin, I wonder how he keeps going. He keeps going because he loves. He loves the one lost as well as those who are still here. It is a place none of us had been before and there are no directions on how to cope. He copes the best he can and hopes that it is the right way. Sometimes, he gets slapped in the face for things that cannot be controlled and gets back up and keeps going. Doing the best he can. No one knows what he goes though daily. Keith has always been the fixer, the one who takes care of everyone else. They expect him to still be that not realizing that maybe, he needs a fixer. Someone to stand up and try to understand what he is going through and if not understand at least love him enough to allow him to grieve. He won't ask for this and he doesn't` expect it from anyone. A step-parent is still a parent, a dad, a mom. They hurt, they cry and they miss them just as much. A parent is someone who loves whether the child carries their blood or not. Keith is not a step-parent, he is a dad, a dad of the living and the dead.
There is one more. He is a step-brother that is not step, but a brother true. I do not write a lot about him for a simple reason. That is his privacy and I have no wish to violate it. So I will say that he too, hurts. He feels just as deeply as if Tim were blood, for in many ways he was. Their memories go back to when they were 4 years old, only weeks apart in age. So vastly different from each other yet bonded as brothers. He struggles, as we all do, maybe more. So I guess what I am saying is, there are no 'steps' in this story. We are all family.