One morning you woke up to the surprise of your life. Despite the best-laid plans, you are now a single parent. We reach the challenge of single parenthood through varying situations – death, divorce, abandonment, and in a few rare occasions, choice (single parenthood through adoption or planned pregnancy). Regardless of our previous circumstances – regardless of how well we have planned – we find that single parenthood is not at all what we expected. It is so very much more.
In all instances except where one is a single parent by choice, there is a large stumbling block that we all must overcome before we can become good single parents – grief. We must mourn for ourselves, our loved one, our relationship, our lives that didn’t turn out as planned, our dreams and our hopes. Allowing ourselves time to do just this is a critical part of healing. Hopefully you have solid family support and a group of strong friends to help you through this, but it isn’t a given. For some, they are far away from home and moving back isn’t an option. For some, they have thrown themselves completely into their families and haven’t had time to make friends. And being in mourning isn’t the time to start. So what can you do?
There are lots of support groups available for the new single parent. Churches, family health centers, and even some employers have groups available for the newly divorced, those needing grief counseling, and even for the children who are struggling just as hard as you to cope. While it may be painfully difficult to convince yourself that participating in such activities is worthwhile, they are rewarding in many ways: realizing that you are not alone in your situation, exploring options, and enjoying the company of others who understand your situation. Yes, I did say enjoying. While you will share tears and grief, you will also share laugher and triumphs. While it may not seem like it at the moment, it is true – I promise.
Of course, you may be one of those people who say, “I just cannot walk into a room full of people and have them wonder what happened to me.” Okay, fair enough; I mean, they aren’t thinking that because they truly are trying to deal with their own situations, but you feel what you feel and one’s perception is one’s reality. Please, I urge you, consider individual counseling. I know that you are strong – we have children and we are all infinitely strong if for no other reason than for the sake of the child. But part of being strong is knowing when you need a shoulder to lean upon. So lean – it is okay. You are not giving your child the misconception that you are weak. Instead, you are showing him or her that everyone needs help at times and that even parents are human. You do not have to be perfect to be a good parent.
You do have to persevere and you do have to be sure that YOU are okay. So whatever it takes – group session, private counseling, screaming your grief to the moon – do it. You are only going to be able to stay in this moment for so long. Sooner or later there is going to be that little voice (or a big one) yelling at the top of their little lungs for mom or dad. And you are the one that is going to have to be there.
I hope that you will find some peace and encouragement here in our little corner. Single parents are an infinite source of strength. And don’t forget, by helping others, we help ourselves.