Even if someone’s been ill for a while and it could be argued that there’s been time to prepare, it’s still devastating when their time eventually comes.
We quite quickly adapt to their deteriorating health-related situation and incorporate their requirements into our daily routine.
Even though we may think that we’re ready when the time finally does come, believe that we’ve grieved and worked through acceptance and done some healing. Perhaps are even a little relieved that their suffering is finally over, there’s still often an unexpected feeling of emptiness and loss when they are no longer around.
Becoming a single parent frequently throws a plethora of practical considerations into the mix. Many couples automatically share family duties and responsibilities, with one managing the finances, the other perhaps taking care of the day-to-day running of the home, like cooking, cleaning, laundry.
It may be that becoming a single parent means being thrown in at the deep end and suddenly having to take full responsibility for the children’s timetables and commitments. Not only have they lost their life partner, but they also have to review their domestic and work situation to support and accommodate these important demands.
Family and friends may initially offer practical help and support, easing the transition during those early numb days. But they’re unlikely to be around forever, and some gaps will need filling quite quickly.
A newly single parent can have little time to appreciate how desolate, angry, lost entirely and alone they feel until they’re lying alone in bed in the early hours feeling bereft, or when they’re driving somewhere on their own, are watching TV and a memory’s triggered, or they want to share or ask something, only to suddenly realise that’s no longer possible.
Let’s look at grief and the single parent.
Normality, especially for children, is crucial and often the primary focus. A meaningful way to help children readjust and settle is to provide ongoing security and a familiar routine, ideally, staying on in the family home and school. Keep to existing routines as much as possible and encourage them to talk, share and ask questions either together as a family or individually. Children are ultra-sensitive and may not want to cause further distress. Lead by example, admit if you’re upset, but provide important reassurance too. Avoid over-sharing with very young children but don’t lie, hide or conceal either.
Are their grandparents able to provide time, love, attention and a listening ear? Sometimes grandparents can be an essential source of comfort to children, being available for childcare, school pick-ups, sometimes providing reassurance by being a trusted confidante or answering questions if a child doesn’t want to bother or distress their parent. They may be able to help out a little financially too, if necessary.
Be prepared to accept help. Often people are keen to step in, offer help and do what they can to provide support. Be gracious and accept the casserole, invitation for coffee and a chat or help with school runs. Let people in as a welcome part of your team.
Don’t be too proud to ask for what you need. People but may not want to interfere, intrude or overstep the mark. They may not know what you need and are waiting for a sign from you, or perhaps they think you’re coping okay.
Try to fit in some time for yourself. An occasional walk, game of golf, pamper evening or drink with a friend is important. It allows you to reconnect with yourself for an hour or two.
Consider therapy if you feel you’re struggling, which is usually available either privately or through your GP. Even an online forum can be an effective way to ‘own your stuff’, start to take control, deal with any issues and dedicate time to healing and to move forward. Knowing you’re not alone can improve your mindset and outlook, while forums offer places to chat, share tips, advice, friendship and get some support from people in similar situations.
Liaise with the children’s schools and keep in touch about their behaviour and performance, so that you can quickly become aware if there are issues that need to be monitored and intercepted. Some children may need additional support, a place to go if they feel overwhelmed or vulnerable.
By providing love, understanding and sensitivity, you can hopefully pull together and form a strong family bond during this fragile time.
Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
Susan is an author of 3 books, one especially relevant to those in this situation, ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, available on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you heal, find coping strategies and move forward with your life.
To order a copy or for more information, help visit www.lifestyletherapy.net