Celebrating the accidental mom: Raising your sister’s child

This week I watched in awe as two of my closest friends celebrated a major transition with their sisters’ children.

Each family situation was similar, but different.

One lived in Florida.

One lived in Ontario.

One was the guardian of her 18 year old niece.

The other the guardian of her 13 year old nephew.

Life threw these families a curve ball.

Wait….make that a boulder.

The bittersweet nature of these celebrations was impossible to ignore.

These children were celebrating major milestones without their mothers. Their aunts had become their “accidental moms.”

Why?

Each of these amazing women lost their sister and stepped up to the plate to raise her child.

The 18 year old graduated from high school. Her mother died when she was six years old.

The 13 year old became a bar mitzvah. His mother died when he was 9 years old.

Unbelievable.

So unfathomable when someone you love dies too young.

Out of order from the way life’s supposed to be.

I hate that “life’s not fair” memo. Too many people in my world have received it.

I got it loud and clear when I was 5 years old and my mother died.

Stupid, painful memo.

I find it hard to believe and quite frankly, odd that two close friends of mine are in this situation.

When you grow up in an abnormal family circumstance, you typically feel alone, like you’re the only one.

Yet…here I am with two friends who have taken on the role of guardian to their sister’s children.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve also been reunited with an old friend on Facebook who is also raising her sister’s children.

That’s three people I know. Wow.

All in midlife.

One friend told me that she keeps expecting her sister to wake her up some time this week…and tell her that it was only a dream…

Like the final episode of the Newhart Show, when Bob Newhart woke up in bed in the film set of his FIRST show, with his FIRST wife, thinking that his whole second series as an innkeeper in Vermont was a dream and not reality, lol.  Watch it here for a good laugh from the past. Classic comedy gold.

Sadly, real life doesn’t work this way.  No comedy writers to bail you out when the going gets too rough.

My friends each lost their sister decades before they should have.

And each sister had a young child.

Many of us have been asked to agree to being a guardian in a family member’s will.  However, it’s so hard to even imagine that we would have to step up like my friends did.

Parenting these young vulnerable children made it more difficult for my friends to process their own grief.  No surprise, right?

So much grief…so little privacy.

In times like this though, it becomes clear that you simply have to keep moving forward.

In a way, children help us put one foot in front of the other, even though it’s painfully hard.

In my blog, I write about the hi’s and low’s of growing older and wiser.

Midlife happenings.

Dealing with untimely death of a loved on is something that happens more frequently in midlife.

I think you can safely say that this is an example of a “low.”

It’s pretty far down there on the “low” scale.

The bottom line is that life’s not fair.  I don’t know why we think it should be. It’s really not a useful way to think.

Thinking this thought, that life should be fair, really doesn’t help you. As far as I can tell, nothing good comes from this way of thinking. Think about how it makes you feel when bad things happen to good people.

However, life is full of many wonderful, off-the-chart things.

Life is full of love and the capacity to love.

And resilience can blossom when bad shit happens.

I prefer these thoughts.

These kids have a unique perspective on life. They will never be the same. But they have a chance to be amazing, thoughtful, insightful and giving with the help and guidance of their loving aunties.

I’ve also been so thankful that my unique perspective and experiences have been able to be helpful to my friends every now and again. But I’m not in their shoes and I know that. Losing a mother is horrible, but not the same as losing a sister and raising her child.

As I watched the celebrations this week, I was overcome with emotion.

So proud of my friends.

Their selflessness.

Their growth.

Their ability.

Their strength.

Their sisters’ would be so grateful that their children are loved by these amazing women. They would also be over the moon with pride about who their children have become.

Need some help sorting out your midlife happenings? I’m here for you! Click here and grab a free Mini Insight Session and let’s get you going. Life’s way too freakin’ short to be stuck in a funk.

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