In September last year, Simone Graham, a long-time contributor, shared a post on her blog titled, ‘Twists and turns on the rollercoaster’. In it, she shares her journey of becoming a solo parent. Read her original post here.
I read a guest post on a blog the other day which really resonated with me, called When you’re living a life you didn’t choose. That happens sometimes – we end up in a life that wasn’t what we hoped / dreamed / planned.
Right now you could say that I’m living a life I didn’t choose – in so far as I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) would have imagined that my marriage would end after 15 years of trying. But, yep, there it is. I’ve been separated and sole-parenting for over three months now (editor’s note: at the time of writing). That’s the twist my life’s rollercoaster has taken me on. (Out of respect for my family, the details of what led to my separation won’t be published material).
Surprisingly (to myself if to no one else) we’re doing pretty darn amazing (the bills are getting paid, the kids are getting fed, the puppy is getting walked and I’m not crying hardly at all), and I’m learning a lot. A lot. I’m learning about myself, about how strong I am after all, about how my brain isn’t half as redundant as I thought it was and how to be in three places at once (actually that is a skill I am yet to master, but we try). I’m also learning all over again how amazing my community is – my community of mother-sisters, friends and family.
I literally could not have gotten through the last few months without the strength and support of friends and family who have sat with me, prayed with me, cried with me, listened to me and encouraged me. Friends who have brought over meals, sent care packages wrapped up for each one of my children, taken over my kitchen and cooked up a storm, made cups of tea, taken my kids to play, to sleep over, to sports games, who ask, “How are you going? What can we pray for today?”
I have also learned that the end of a marriage can feel a lot like a death has happened. There’s grief, heartache and it’s awkward. And sometimes people don’t know what to say or how to act, or they don’t want to take sides – so they keep their distance. And that can really hurt.
I wanted today to share a few little insights based on my recent experience, so that if any friend of yours is ever unfortunate enough to go through a relationship break-up, you’ll know what to do.
1. Don’t stay away
Loneliness – being overwhelmed by our new aloneness – is pretty overwhelming. We are now facing the rest of our life without a partner and that can be pretty scary. The thing that helps us get through is the love of friends and family. Good company, a good laugh over coffee or a glass of wine with a friend can re-energise our hurting hearts.
Turning up to church or social gatherings on our own can be very nerve-wracking – we’re wondering what people are thinking, what they’ve heard, and paranoia can be at an all time high. So please don’t stand back and be awkward. Come up and give us a hug, ask how we’re doing, how the kids are doing. It will mean the world, truly.
2. Food is always a blessing
You can’t go wrong with dropping round a meal or a batch of baking for the kids lunches. Sole parenting is exhausting and relentless and money is probably tighter than it’s ever been. A night off cooking is a beautiful practical expression of love.
It also means a lot to the kids to see people caring for their family in a delicious home-baking way. “People are caring about us, Mum,” my kids say when someone has brought over dinner or sent some treats in the mail. The blessing of food doesn’t just mean the world to the newly-separated friend, it also means a lot to their heartbroken kids.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask
Ask how we’re doing, ask how the kids are, ask if we need any help, heck, ask what happened. I would much rather someone came up to me and asked, “What happened?” than that they assumed stuff or heard things second hand. The worst thing – the worst thing – is walking around not knowing who knows, and wondering what people are thinking about you and who has heard what. It’s the pits. I’d much rather people just asked me.
4. Don’t assume
It takes a whole lot of people supporting a newly-broken family to help us get through what is probably the worst time of our lives. Don’t assume that someone else is in contact, don’t assume that no news is good news – it’s really really hard to ask for help, especially from the same faithful friends over and over (we worry that we’re being too much of a burden).
The more friends we have looking out for us and our kids, in little ways, means that the burden of support and care doesn’t fall too heavily on just a few people. My main support people have been so amazing – but I worry that it’s too much sometimes because I don’t want to be a pain.
Being supported by a village of friends when your world has flipped upside down can make all the difference in how you come through it, I reckon.
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