As you recall I have worked with you before, and I can identify in many ways. We lost a toy poodle that our daughter was too disabled to care for several years ago--I was there while my daughter held the dog as it breathed its last breath. Our daughter bought a toy Yorkie too soon after the poodle's death, and that dog died of kidney failure in 1 year. Then she waited long enough before buying a new toy poodle, and we are caring for both daughter and poddle in our house in Atlanta. It is important to allow for grieving before just replacing the dog.
I feel less willing to hammer on your stepdaughter's door in my response than to write about the new dog you're planning to give her for graduation. The girl's dream (I want to use her name, because I counsel girls her age, and I love them like I love my own daughter (who is 25 and lives with us) I expect that she's unable to grieve about ANYONE, including you, her father, and the dog she left behind with you! Her mother has her in a vise-grip that is very unhealthy: after abandoning her at a young age she now won't let her grow up and away from her.
It is quite surprising that SHE of all people would text you not to give up on your daughter, while she's covering her like a blanket: I read the identical clothing as an intentional (unconscious) devouring of her daughter's identity.
I think that trying to give her a new toy poodle at her graduation (depending on how soon that's coming up) is pressing against a grief process that she can't cope with because of her mother's stranglehold on her personality development. I have to deal with issues with my own wife and daughter now, but I'll conclude this FIRST (not last) communication about your present situation with this: I would advise you both to show up for her graduation so that you will see them both face to face--and that may be very awkward and even painful. So planning carefully for what will happen would be valuable.
I was writing a major addition when you came on to accept my previous contribution. Now I have to edit that and paste it in here.
She most likely has no experience with grieving ANYTHING or ANYONE, so you cannot expect that she would react to what used to be her dog dying. [I just used avery cold language about the dog, because I wanted you to notice that you wouldnever react so coldly to your own dog dying, as she is doing.] She's blocked ALL of her grief, about you, her father and the dog. But you have just begun to feel your grief about losing HER again, because the dog's death would naturally bring up your daughter's radical disappearance-death in your lives. Because you are real human parents.
You are deeply torn, between trying to banish her from your minds and hearts (byusing distancing language like "SD" for a girl you raised from a child), and trying to get her to open up a "normal" relationship with you both. You are facing the same emotional torture that many divorced fathers have faced, that leads them to move out of state and start or marry into another family: because they don't know how to cope with the pain of too many goodbyes with the children that they love. THAT'S THE SAME PAIN THAT YOUR DAUGHTER IS AVOIDING BY AVOIDING YOU! Trying to stave off grief from losing the parents who raised you is like running up a barren beach to get away from a looming (unconscious) Tsunami that seems certain to engulf and drown you if you can't get far enough away in time (and that's actually what many grief-deniers dream). Nobody teaches us how to grieve, unless we live in a normal traditional family that celebrates long-lasting funerals and wakes andmourning periods.
But there's another major dimension to this story, and that's her OWN need forrelationship with her biological mother. With all of her mother's faults, SHE is the one your stepdaughter imprinted in early childhood. I talked with my wife tonight, who treated at least a dozen families like yours in her nearly two decades of individual & family therapy. I wrote the first time you asked about her that the girl is in the stage of pulling away from her birth-family. At the same time she's trying on identities for herself--and here comes her mysterious, long-lost birth-mother! An unorthodox woman with a really cool NewAge spiritual profession. So maybe it's not (just) her birth-mother who's making her copy her clothing, but (also) the girl herself who's shopping for an identity that's (radically?) different from what she grew up with, and"radically cool." No grief there, no sticky, painful feelings to be dealt with--just a really cool mother that she could show off to her friends.
Those qualities we call empathy and compassion appear only selectively with peopleher age. When it comes to you she can't afford to feel either of these. My wife told me that almost ALL of the girls & mothers she worked with who got a chance to go away with their previously absent fathers, or with a biological mother, if they had been adopted (which is a lot like your situation), dropped their "adoptive families" with scarcely a backward glance. And the only way to make it possible for them to come back--which would easily take 5 years or more--was for the family that raised her to LET GO and develop their own fulfilling life without the aching hole within it. In one case she told me about, the twenty-something young adult who learned that his"former mother" had visited the state and not tried to call him: this seemed to have freed him from the guilty expectation that she was hurting because he wouldn't talk to her, and that she didn't need him anymore. So he called her up, and they gradually began an adult-to-adult relationship; and that is what can only happen after the letting go has happened ON BOTH SIDES of the relationship.
There's really NO way to terminate a very close childhood without a very painfultransition. It is a basic price of motherhood. And it's worse when there are compli-cations caused by abandonment, adoption, divorce etc.
There is one step that might make your acceptance more meaningful, and mighteven restore some opportunity for occasional visits: That is to ask your stepdaughter to attend one or two sessions of family counseling with you and your husband, so that you can clear the air of some of the many feelings left unexpressed for 30 months. You could even offer to pay for a session with a designated family therapist For Her, Alone, so that she could discuss with the therapist what she thinks about meeting with you two with such a safety and guidance, with the agreement that if she decides she doesn't want to meet you that way, you will be thankful anyway that she was able to make use of the counseling you have offered her. She could then determine what parts of her discussion she wanted the therapist to share with you, IF ANY.
This route MIGHT lead to enough freedom from blocked emotions that a connectionmight gradually resume; or it might not be time yet. From what you've written,I would probably not try that for yourself: because girls are unconsciouslylikely to have a harder time with ongoing loving of 2 mothers than with 2fathers.
Ihave dealt with women who cry every day because their children no longer wantto keep up a steady connection. My wife dealt with hundreds of such women; andI watched her also cry for over 6 months every day herself, when our (disabled)daughter moved into a college dorm and then an apartment, and was only willingto meet with me on campus (where I was a much loved professor, hence "very cool"),but would not speak with her mother (8 miles away). And at the time our Hannahtold her mother she "might never speak to her again--she really didn'tknow." (Now living with us for 4 more years after money and disabilityforced her to return to depend on us, she doesn't want that rejecting behavioreven mentioned: doesn't want to cope with guilt!)
Moreodds & ends from my truncated addition:
I'vetalked with many (esp female) students who dreaded their graduation becausethey thought they were going to have to deal with parents and stepparents whocouldn't deal with each other--and they probably weren't admitting that it wastheir own galloping anxiety that they didn't know how to cope with.
Thosegraduation moments are major crisis points for split families that don'tsupport each other; and despite her present appearance of "notcaring" your stepdaughter will deal with MORE emotional fallout fromthis period through her lifetime than you will. A therapy session or two atthis time might move your family process forward and add clarity, tho it won't"cure" anything that needs to happen, including separation.I also wonder if you've suffered your own compounded grief from not havinga child of your own with the man you love--none of my business, but I feel itmyself: Despite the tremendous and lifelong burden of our daughter's incurabledisabling disease, I'm deeply grateful that I had a daughter, and that I'vebeen able to love many many other girls and boys as their psychology teacherand sometimes surrogate parent.
You could give it a try to ask her to go for just her dad. At her age Dad has a more important role to play (of serving as role model for work-world attitudes and for what a husband should manifest to be worth trusting) than either of the moms (tho I'm still suspicious of her birthmom's mental health). But really letting go of her and building your life without her is going to be the most conducive to her maturation. As long as she can pick up the hint that she might be remiss in honoring her parents, she's probably going to invent any excuse to avoid the label of "blacksheep daughter. Even offering free therapy with NO STRINGS ATTACHED implies that "You NEED IT." Would YOU go if you DIDN'T think you needed it?
I wish you could make room for a new baby dog some time in the future, because ours mean so much to me (and my father wouldn't let me have one as a kid, so I had to wait for a girlfriend and then my wife & daughter to show me what I'd been missing). Dog is God spelled backward, a real subversive kind of God that nuzzles its way into our hearts from underneath, survives every mistake we make and conquers us with LOVE (which is itself an act of God). Since I don't get to sleep with Hannah's poodle (named for a favorite rock band singer-bassist), I'll even fondle my wife's Maltese about now, once I've finished boiling the dogs' chicken thighs for tomorrow.