My daughter was just 14 months old and my son 4 years old, when my husband left for another partner. Ask anyone what it’s like managing two young children and they will tell you it’s challenging. Doing it on your own when at times you’re on your knees with grief?
I had to find my grit, I had to discover my resilience. And I did. Here’s how.
Let go – This took me a while and actually the person I blamed the most was myself. There was a turning point when I admitted to a wise and supportive person that I was tired of being angry. She told me that first I needed to forgive myself. She was so right. I needed to forgive myself for feeling as though I’d failed, for not being a different person, for not providing the 2.4 happy parenting picture I’d imagined for my children. Let go of failure, identify what you have learned and move on.
Imagine a new future – That picture of your future you painted so clearly will never happen now. Grief is often about letting go of the future we imagined for ourselves. One morning I woke up sobbing from a dream where my estranged husband was living in a beautiful, roses round the door house with his new partner. That day I decided I needed to create a new future. I began to experiment with new ways of shaping my vision.
Decide what you’re willing to give up – I considered creating the future I’d imagined with him, but on my own. Big house, lovely garden – a library room, I’ve always wanted a library room! I could do this if I worked really hard, ambitiously, earned lots, progressed etc. This would mean less time with the kids, more time away from home, lessenergy. I decided this wasn’t a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Consider balance within your life and all the elements that are important to you, that way one particular goal won’t overwhelm other important aspects of your life.
Compelling and realistic – I created a vision of a happy, creative home, kids pictures stuck on the walls, a place where friends could come and go, time spent together outdoors and a camper van – I’d always dreamed of having a camper van! I thought about what my future would look like, sound like and feel like, I made it multi-sensory. I wrote in my journal about a day in my life, as if it was happening that day to make it even more compelling. And it was realistic, something I felt I could achieve.
Find aspirational role models – I found it incredibly difficult to be around families. I just felt so different, unfinished, half a family. They would laugh between themselves and share spontaneous anecdotes about their kids. They weren’t trying to exclude me, far from it, but I felt in the wrong place, whilst really needing their company. I had to find other ways, so I went on a single-parents holiday. This was a great experience and I had role models of others who were thriving. I started to understand how I could do this and be happy! It’s important to have role models to aspire to – not to compare to and find yourself lacking.
Find your defiance – Having an ‘I’ll show you’ mentality can be a strong driver. My mum, although wanting to be supportive was so worried about the effect of a ‘broken marriage’ on the kids and myself that she expected wayward, psychologically damaged prodigy and for me to be living on the breadline for the rest of my life. I wanted to prove that being a single parent could be a positive experience. This gave me the energy to drive myself forward when I was feeling exhausted and despondent.
Get coaching and personal support – I was extraordinarily lucky that during one of my worst times I was working with a team who were all coaches and people developers. This meant they were fantastic listeners, brilliant at reflecting my world back to me from a different angle and tireless encouragers, who insisted I saw my skills and talents at a time when my self esteem was at rock bottom. I am truly and forever grateful for their support. If you are not surrounded by wise people, find them, pay for them if necessary (and possible), seek them out.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone – When you find yourself single after years of being in married people circles you find you don’t have single friends. Things like holidays suddenly become a challenge. I was afraid to go on my own. So, I went Couch Surfing in New York. It was amazing! I came back feeling more confident, it was another turning point for me. If I could do that, I could do anything! Do what feels a little uncomfortable and you will increase what you feel is possible.
In case your curious – I got the camper van, we have some great camping stories to tell – rain, wind, tables collapsing, squirrels stealing bread rolls (convinced it was a rat!), all recounted with fondness. I remarried and have 2 older step kids, which means our house often feels more youth club than quiet retreat. Both sets of kids have demonstrated their own resilience in coping with huge change and due to their own positive attitudes have thrived and created a wonderful blended family together.
If you’re working through a big life change and would like support, coaching may help. Contact Lyn@evolveyou.co.uk or 07950 914328