Dear Dr. Wallace:

My mother passed away a year ago. We were a happy family, and we all loved one another very much. My mother was a very compassionate human being. The world lost a beautiful person when she left it to be with angels.

I was shocked when my father told me four short months after my mother died that he was thinking about getting married again. He began dating this lady, and she is now my stepmother. She has been living in our house for more than six months, and I still find it difficult to accept her as a member of our family. I shudder when I see my father hug and kiss her. She is a nice person, but she will never replace my own mother.

My problem is I am angry with my father. I have lost all respect for him. I don’t dislike my dad’s new wife, but I consider her a stranger intruding in our home.

What should I do? I’m 17 and very miserable when I’m at home. I do all right at school or when I’m with my friends.

— Stepdaughter,

via email

Stepdaughter: You’re still grieving the loss of your mother, and it’s only natural you would resent the idea of someone trying to replace her. Living with a stepmother so soon after your mother’s death is definitely a challenge anyone your age would find daunting.

I’m happy to hear you say that you don’t hate your father’s new wife and, in fact, find her to be a nice person; you’re just confused, understandably, by her relationship with your father.

My suggestion is you do your best to get to know her as a person. Don’t think of her as a “replacement mother,” but simply as a potential friend and ally.

Also, be like your mother. Have compassion for your stepmother and be understanding for your father. I know this will be hard at first, but be patient with your feelings and seek to keep a level head regarding this topic.

Losing your mother at such an early age is certainly an experience you will never completely “get over,” but it needn’t cripple you emotionally on an ongoing basis, either. Your sad experience will likely make you a deeper, more sensitive person and more appreciative of life’s fleeting nature. Talk about your mother and share memories of her with your father whenever you can.

And by all means, get on with your own life the very best you can. Your school can be a haven for you if you have close friends there.

Rely on them to help you through the rough times. Your future matters, so focus on that and take comfort in knowing your mother would want you to succeed in every aspect of your life. Do your best in all your classes and plan on attending college or a vocational school in a field that interests you.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.