You Will Survive — What I Want You To Know About The Early Days As A Newly Single Parent
BY SARAH REMMER
PHOTO © brybree/Twenty20
Mar 18, 2019
Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that I survived it, but I did. And so will you. I can promise you this too — you’ll be a stronger, more courageous, more resilient person (and parent) for it.
When kids are involved, divorce becomes that much more impactful.
But here’s the tough part: you’re experiencing the death of a life. One that you had planned and scripted out for yourself and your kids, and that you were so excited about. I’ve literally experienced physical pain from the emotional rollercoaster that it is. For me, it starts with deep sadness and loss, followed by relief and freedom, followed by intense guilt and denial, followed by regret and fear and back to the start — over and over again. And it doesn’t really stop, it just seems to get a tiny bit slower and less scary with time. I feel like I’m still on the rollercoaster more than a year later, but it’s a lot less nauseating, with fewer twists and turns. The harsh reality is I’m not sure if I’ll ever be let off. When kids are involved, divorce becomes that much more impactful. You already know this. I don’t have to tell you.
My hope is that some of you will feel a little bit more grounded after reading this.
But as rough as it is, I know this was the path that we had to take, and I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I also know in my heart that there are wonderful, better and brighter days ahead, including love, companionship and happiness. We all deserve that.
I could write a novel about my own personal experience, but I’m going to focus on my top five tips for how to survive the early days of separation as a parent, now that I’ve come out the other side (sort of). If I was ever starved for guidance and advice in my life, it was in the last year. So my hope is that some of you will feel a little bit more grounded after reading this. Which brings me to my first tip.
Related Reading: 5 Tips To Survive Mealtime As A Newly Single Parent
Find an anchor to ground you
Even though your marriage might not have been happy, you still had an anchor. You had predictable, you had home, you had "normal." But now you might feel like you’re free-falling; hit with tidal wave after tidal wave. One newly single dad friend of mine describes it as an “endless nightmare." And unfortunately for some, it is. It will get easier and easier, but while you’re living it, you need an anchor. Maybe it’s a friend, a co-worker, a book club or church group, your parents and/or siblings, a therapist — maybe it’s a combination of all these. Build up your shoreline of support because you absolutely need it.
But one thing to realize early on is that some of the closest people to you will be mourning your marriage more than you thought they would. These people — as much as they love you — might not be the best support in the early days. They need time to go through their process too, so find an anchor in those who can offer it.
Seek and accept help
I remember when I was going through the sh*tstorm of the first few months of my separation, it was so incredibly hard to even muster up the energy to make a nutritious, balanced meal for myself and my kids. I was consumed by stress and emotion, and couldn’t focus on much more than just staying upright and keeping my kids alive. So as hard as it was for me, here’s where I needed to accept (and even ask for) help. Accept the offers of childcare, homemade meals, a shoulder to cry on. You can pay it forward later, but right now you need help and you need to learn to accept it.
Make sure you reset when you have the chance
When you get those little pockets of time to yourself — when you don’t have your kids, when you get a little break at work — whatever that looks like for you, take advantage of it. Cry. Sleep. Journal. Catch up with friends. Go to therapy. (Seriously — go to therapy.) Fill yourself up in whatever way you can because soon you’ll have those little ones back in your care, and they need the most stable, grounded version of you as possible.
Related Reading: We Are Never Getting Back Together
Re-evaluate your priorities and connections
My world fell apart during my separation. Everything that I knew to be normal was no longer normal. Friendships changed, family connections were lost, people judged and safe places became unsafe. But at the same time, people surprised me in the best ways. Friendships grew stronger than I ever imagined, acquaintances reached out with open arms, parents and siblings became my rocks and extended family members became my safe place. Separation, just like any traumatic life event, is a turning point where you discover what your priorities are and who your people are (and who to let go). Which brings me to my next point.
Surround yourself with positivity
My kids, my parents, my brothers and sister-in-laws, my best friends, my aunties and uncles, my colleagues — they fill me up. If you leave a get-together and feel better than when you arrived, you know those are your people and you need to surround yourself with them. The people who deplete you are the ones you might want to consider distancing from. You need positivity, support and love. The same goes for things, hobbies, activities, commitments, outings — focus on those that serve you in a positive way and let go of those things that drain you.
Things will get easier, there are brighter days ahead and your kids are going to be OK. But to be OK, they need a happy and stable mom and dad. You’ll get there, with your anchors, support, love and positivity that you surround yourself with.
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