I listened to the 9/11 memorial ceremony on the 10th anniversary of this tragedy.
The stories of those who lost loved ones on the morning of the attack moved me deeply: children suffered the death of a parent, couples lost their spouses and partners. It was sad to realize so much loss, tragedy and devastation.
We as a nation wanted justice. Over 2 million young men and women enrolled in the armed forces to protect us. The war created additional casualties and further families were destroyed.
Yet I heard messages of healing, of those left behind moving on with their lives, creating extended relationships and stepfamilies that helped heal the wounds of the past. The men and women who chose to become stepparents didn’t do so thinking they were replacing the lost parent, but they did so knowing that maybe restoration could take place.
Stepfamilies come together due to a loss of what was once the dream and hope of a family, of people growing old and happy. The loss can be created because of divorce or, in the case of 9/11 and the war, death. For some, the grieving can be short-lived and for others, never-ending.
Few people enter relationships thinking it’s temporary. We all want and wish for the happy ever after, the fairy tale story. Life isn’t about fairy tales. Life includes heartache, pain, and loss.
The tragedy many families endured on 9/11 and in its aftermath is still present, yet some men and women resolved to move on, to try to find happiness and love one more time. It’s a different kind of love, not one to replace but to complement what they had and lost. That’s what stepparenting is all about, to complement what is there, to build on what is good, and to heal what is broken.
Families are managed and maintained, like a garden. If you neglect the garden (or your family), the weeds overtake everything. Forget to water and feed your plants and they wither away. When you don’t spend time together as a couple and as a family, there is nothing left of hold on to when the storm comes crashing in.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Steven Covey used the analogy of making daily deposits into a “Positive Emotions Account.” You achieve this by doing something good for someone else as a service or just for fun. It keeps the weeds out of the garden and keeps the healthy plants growing. It’s food for the soul and for the relationship.
When a storm comes crashing in on your life, and one day it will, those positive deposits you made will help weather that storm and anchor the family. You can’t spend all your time solving problems. Your energy level becomes depleted and leaves you experiencing emptiness. You start seeing your partner as someone with issues and problems rather than someone with whom to share fun and enjoyment.
As we grow older, the times we’ve spent as a couple and as a family are what becomes important to us. It’s not how much it cost to send the kids to school, who paid what for whom, or whether it was my turn to do those chores or not.
In the end, what is most important is the quality of the relationships we’ve created and managed, the time we took to enjoy those precious moments of stillness, togetherness and shared memories. Those who perished on the morning of September 11, 2001 had no idea that they would never see their loved ones again, that there would never be a better time to give them a hug or say something they had always wanted to say. Time was stolen from them.
Remember, we have no idea what the rest of the day will bring us or if there will be a tomorrow there for us or others. Treat each day as something special, look for the positive in your family and relationships, and contribute to your Positive Emotions Account.
For more on how to transition from Surviving to THRIVING, one STEP at a time, go to https://www.stepmomcoach.com and sign up for the FREE audio “The 3 Biggest Mistakes Stepfamilies Make
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