Hi – Grab the fucking wine and lets get down to it. Its been a long day, week or month. You’re stressed (or relieved that you are a finally out of that shitty relationship). But what do you do now? Fuck! You have <insert number of kids> to care for, a not much of a plan (unless you have planned this well in advance – for the most part, you’ve just given up on trying with that ass hat you call a husband/wife/partner/person). So lets talk about, coping with breakups as a single mom…
So lets talk about the actual break up. Oooof. Should I pour you more wine? It doesn’t matter what lead to the break up, all that matters is you are here now and we can deal with it. remember you are strong – smart and powerful. You are resourceful. Furthermore, you have to be resourceful for your children/child.
You’re going to go through the usual stages of grief. Again, this is totally ok, but be mindful of how it might look to your kids – dont speak badly about your ex – they don’t need that and it just makes you look petty. Also be open with them, “Mommy isn’t having a great day today – I am feeling pretty down”, be honest but dont air all the dirty laundry.
So let’s discuss those phases – historically the 7 phases of grief have been well documented – and as humans we bop in and out of them. For me I left an extremely physically abusive relationship, with a guy who was fucking other women on Tinder – yeah – I really know how to pick a good husband! So for me the shock wasn’t really that great – but if its something you weren’t expecting absolutely there is going to be shock and denial. I know for him, there was a heap of denial, he couldn’t believe I had actually gotten the balls to leave.
Shock and Denial: you cant believe this is happening, why is this happening to you, surely you can fix this? You know what? Shock is great, because it shields us from being overwhelmed all at once. It can also last a few weeks or even months, so do not feel like this is something that will pass in a couple of days.
Pain and guilt: After the initial shock wears off, comes the pain, the self doubt and wondering if what you have done was the right move. Was it? Should you try and maintain your strength or try to repair the relationship? Things can feel really chaotic through this phase and you might even feel really guilty for things you may have done to instigate the relationship breaking up.
Anger and Bargaining: All of that chaotic guilt and frustration finally gives way to anger. You may lash out, and this is really where you need to watch yourself from becoming petty. You need to find ways to channel that anger and we will cover it below. One of the things that may come up is bargaining for your relationship – if it was something you didnt choose, this could be a likely emotion.
Depression, Reflection and Loneliness: Just when you think you’ve cried all your tears, and your friends finally think you are on the road to recovery, you heads into this phase of really sad self reflection. Its really important to remember here that “this to shall pass” and its just a phase. It would be a good opportunity to start journaling about your journey, specifically addressing those negative emotions. The reason this phase is so weighty is because you finally start realising how impactful this break up actually us – all the things you have lost and the vast unknown ahead of you. You might catch yourself remembering the good times with you ex, and you may feel a strong sense of emptiness and despair.
It is also important at this stage not to create an unhealthy attachment to your children during this time.
Kimberly Friedmutter CHt, author of Subconscious Power-Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You’ve Always Wanted(Simon&Schuster/Atria), life management expert and UCLA Health System Board Member. One major issue to be aware of is developing the ‘
One major issue to be aware of is developing the ‘mate attachment’ to your child or children. When the newly single parent begins to confide in otherwise adult conversations with their children, conversation normally reserved for a mate, it puts an unrealistic pressure on the child to sometimes play therapist, as a supportive mate would.
Children end up coming into knowledge of relationship issues that they are not emotionally prepared for and this is an obvious issue. Not always obvious, parents slide into this from loneliness, history the child has with the family and a soulful connection of what was.
I’ve seen many times that one parent won’t date another person because they no longer feel the need for adult companionship. The parent literally transfers all of their energy, social and other, into the child, a pressure no child can really live up to. Parents keep your relationships with other healthy adults so that you can show your child how healthy relationships are formed and we all know, a socially healthy parent raises a socially healthy child.
Moving forward: As you have bopped and moved around these emotions, you’ll finally start coming to terms with what has happened and your next steps. As you start settling into a routine and things become calmer and more organised, you’ll be able to see the positives of the situation. As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your ex. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and rebuilding yourself and your life without him or her.
Acceptance and Hope: Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness or even feeling better – again – we bop and bounce through all of these phases. But you will start moving forward with more ease. Planning things with your kids or even with your friends – You’ll start to anticipate some good times ahead and start looking forward to what the future might hold for you.
What can I do to feel better about the breakup?
Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS a writer with over a decade worth of experience on mental health as a psychotherapist give the following advice for newly single moms dealing with the shock of a breakup;
I think that it is helpful for single moms to connect with other single moms. Many communities have groups for single moms. This is a great way to get support and provide support to other single moms, as well.
Having supportive family and friends can really help too. A single mom (or dad) really needs a lot of support. This is a challenging time for parents. You are dealing with the emotions of going through a divorce or split. Plus, you are dealing with all of the challenges of being a parent and custody issues, as well. Support is vital at this time.
Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka Dr. Romance) psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today says the following about moving on a building yourself up after a break up:
1. If you gave it your best shot, and you know it’s over, don’t waste time in resentment and anger, it’s self-destructive. Let go. Do your grieving, cry, journal, and talk about alone, or with a trusted friend. Have a letting go ceremony with close friends, and say goodbye to your married life. Put reminders away for a while.
2. Don’t hesitate to get therapy to help you through this transition, so you can grieve what’s lost (even if you’re the one who left, you’ve lost your hopes and dreams for this marriage) and move your focus on to building a good life in your new circumstance. A professional viewpoint will help you move from past to present, and plan for the future.
3. Take care of yourself financially — a good lawyer can help you fight for your rights. You’ll feel a lot less resentment if you get your fair share of the assets.
4. This is an important time to have your friends or family around you, you need support. Don’t isolate. You don’t have to go right out and date again (go slow with that) but you should have a social life with friends and family. Even if you don’t think you feel ready to see people, see your closest friends and spend time with them. They’ll help you heal, and remind you that you still have people who love you. Spend a lot of time with people you trust.
5. Focus on building your life. This is a great time to try something other than a relationship: take a class, start a new business or career, get a puppy. Give yourself plenty of time to heal before taking another chance on love.
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Taking care of yourself is critical – Probably the most important
Jesse Jayne Rutherford – an award winning author and publisher has the following to say about keeping yourself emotionally and mentally healthy during a break up with kids;
The main important skill to have in being a successful single parent is to keep yourself emotionally healthy. Do whatever it takes to make that happen. In my own experience, this required fully accepting my lot in life as a single mom. It was not an easy pill to swallow, but acceptance of my circumstances has been the only thing that has really been effective at getting me to the point I am in life.
Once I stopped railing against my circumstances, I became more peaceful, and had time and energy for greater endeavors. Buddhist meditation practice, an excellent therapist, and varied, healthy outlets helped me get there. The strategies that work for you may be different.
Emotional and spiritual health are of utmost importance when you are the only person you have to rely on. Being well grounded will keep you from feeling desperate (or from acting desperate even when you feel like you are). Being well grounded and emotionally healthy will give you the confidence you need to make wise decisions. This is all easier said than done, and took me several years, and it’s never really a complete process—you’ve got to keep on growing and peeling back the layers of the onion. It’s work.
Other people can help you, and you can accept the help they offer, whether it’s helping with child care/carpooling, a grocery run, friendship, or passing you job leads and professional advice so you can provide for your family. But they can’t really do it for you. Only you are going to be you and live your life.
But here is the good thing about all of this! Only you get to be you. However often I have wished for some other circumstances or better fortune, I haven’t ever really wanted to *be *anyone else. When you own your life and your circumstances, you become dignified and magnetic and respectable.
Being a single mom is often lonely, but doing it well is a source of pride greater than just about anything else you can find in life. Nobody can take that away from me. Confidence doesn’t mean that I think I won’t make mistakes. It’s that I think mistakes are always possible, but that I am capable of dealing with the fallout when they happen.
It’s important not to romanticize (funny term) married couples’ lives or think that they are somehow “more” than you are. Actually, I have observed that some married women face a big crisis when the *illusion *that someone else (their husbands) could solve their problems and prop them up emotionally begins to fade.
This is a trap for both the man and the woman and it’s unfair to both. I’m in a steady relationship now, but I don’t want my boyfriend to take responsibility for my emotions because they’re mine and I want to deal with them and I don’t need permission to feel however I feel. And I’m not motivated to push the relationship up a staircase of milestones because I don’t need them for security or validation or positive regard from others.
Your life, your perspective, your circumstances are just as valid and important as anybody else’s. Yours is a life worth living.