Whether you are thinking of becoming a single parent, or you have recently become a single parent, it is not going to be easy – but just know that it will become easier.
The first months after a divorce are the hardest. It will be a time of grieving and mourning for what once was. It will also be a time of discovery, when you will find that you are stronger than you thought you were. There are five stages of grief people go through after a deep loss. It will be no different for you. If you understand that these grieving stages are necessary for your recovery, it will be easier to endure.
There are five identified stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. A divorce is like a death, only the person is still alive. You are overcome with grief. You never thought it could happen to you. Yet it did, and you are becoming a single parent with children who don’t understand what is happening around them. The emotions and lives of several people are involved.
It is important that you get to know these emotions so as to understand it and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that you will be whole again. To skip or rush through any one of these five stages of grief is to shortchange yourself and you will always pine for a marriage that cannot be.
The five stages of grief
This is where you block out the devastation and step over the debris of your marriage and instead of looking for ways to heal the ache in your heart, you fantasize about someone else to keep the pain away. You refuse to believe that the relationship is over. You fantasize that he will turn up at your door with champagne and chocolates. He will surely wake up and realize what he’s done, and come back to you. Staying in this phase of the relationship impedes your progress and it will take longer for you to heal.
Anger is the stage where you wake up one morning and have suddenly had enough of wallowing in self pity, and you become angry. You are angry that you didn’t address the family problems earlier and that you had stayed on despite knowing deep down that the marriage was over. You feel suddenly strong and defiant. You will not allow yourself to wallow in self-pity any longer. This is a very necessary stage, however to remain in denial is not to progress at all.
This is the stage when you start to wonder, if you’d done this or that, whether you would still be married. If only you hadn’t angered him, you tell yourself. If only you’d not made such a fuss about him wanting to go on a fishing trip with his friends, he’d still be there. If only this, if only that. You go back and forth bargaining with yourself. Here is the truth: nothing would have changed. You knew all along that someday the marriage would end. Fear of being alone kept you staying on.
This is where you sink into the dark world of depression, and can’t eat or think properly. You neglect your duties in the house, you leave the children to their own devices. All you want to do is lie on the couch and sleep. You think constantly of the good things in the marriage and still have a dim hope that things might change.
This is the healthy stage where you finally admit to yourself that the marriage was bound to end, and that you have to get on with your life. You have finally emerged from your stupor. You can see things much more clearly now. You still have work to do as far as coping with your emotions, but you are on your way. You’re not going to allow a failed marriage to turn you into one of those weak women or men who fall apart. Accepting that you are now becoming a single parent can in fact be liberating. You have a household to run. You have kids. The weather is good. You will stop wondering what you’ve done wrong and accept that you are now a single parent.
The road to healing and seeing the world through different eyes
What you can do to help yourself becoming a single parent
- Join a single-parent support group. You will make new friends and listening to other people’s stories also makes you feel better about your own life.
- Find time for yourself. This time is precious and it will be fruitful with helping you to establish reserves of inner strength. This might be difficult at first as you are still adjusting to becoming a single parent, but maybe wake up an hour before the rest of the household
- If you are having trouble finding time for yourself, be creative about it. Instead of hiring a babysitter, arrange swapping babysitting time with a friend or neighbor.
- Volunteer at an old age home one morning or afternoon a week to make you appreciate what you have.
- Go for long walks when your child is with the other parent, or have an nice tasty meal by yourself.
- Join a hiking group or take up yoga and not only exercise your body, but also have fun and meet other people.
- Take a book and sit in the park. Take your children and let them run around and play in the playground.
- Start a journal. This will help you sort through difficult emotions and help you gain a sense of clarity about the tough decisions you have to make on a daily basis.
- Make sure you are present with your kids – emotionally. Simple activities like playing board games can go a long way toward communicating with them and letting them know that life will go on and that they will indeed be ok.
- Spend time with your friends. Communication is the key and if that means needing a shoulder to cry on, that is also alright. The more you talk about your current situation and becoming a single parent, the easier it will become.
After a year of being a single parent, you will be well-versed in single parenthood and will also have made many new friends. You will feel you have a personal strength you did not even know you had before, and this will give you a sense of accomplishment. You will have a renewed sense of hope which will show you that you have persevered through all the tough challenges. And you have done this yourself.