Solo Parenting Through Traumatic Events
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Truths for surviving difficult times
Assault. An accident. The death of a loved one. Divorce. Bullying. Exposure to violence in your community. Natural disasters. These things can happen to any one of us. When it does, it can dramatically affect our own identities, how we relate to the world, and the path we are on in life. We, of course, want an easy and painless fix—to just feel better and for life to get back to normal. In such moments, we may feel like we have nothing left, like we have lost everything and yet we have to muster up the strength to pick up and keep going. It may feel impossible. But if there is one thing I know about Solo Moms, it is that we are an incredibly resilient bunch.
Here are some more true things to know during tougher times:
Your child is also resilient. Seeing you get through this will teach your child even more about true human strength than you could teach her any other way. You have comforted her while she has cried countless times in her life. You have modeled the comforting measures of offering a hug and a listening ear.
If anyone is freshly prepared and able to handle some tears, it is your child. Accept her sweet ways of comforting you. The “gift” of sorrow, pain, and fear is showing her that these things can make you stronger.
Friends want to help. Try to be very specific about what you need. Do you need someone to bring groceries or watch your kid? Someone to drive you to the doctor or research resources available to you? Maybe you need someone to take out your trash or just text you at the end of the day to make sure you are OK and tell you jokes. Help people understand how they can help—make a list and shared sign-up sheet online. (A Google spreadsheet is great for this.) If you have needs that are hard for you to verbalize, find resources online to link people to. For an example, see these tips for friends of sexual assault survivors and how to comfort a sick friend. Your friends will be as grateful for the guidance as you are for them.
People have different strengths. If it doesn’t feel like certain friends are able to help, don’t waste energy trying to convince them. Some people aren’t good during difficult times—maybe they don’t relate enough to be able to empathize, or maybe they just can’t stomach what you are going through for their own personal reasons. Have compassion for them; it’s difficult for people to witness hard things. For now, you’ve got to get with the people who are able to be there for you, so just veer around the people who aren’t.
Think like this: You have an empty bowl you need to fill with oranges, and some people only have apples. Apples are great, but they just aren’t what you need right now. Catch up later when apples will do.
The wider community wants to help. Places of worship, grants, GoFundMe campaigns. If you find you need financial help, look outside your close circle of support. There are resources in almost any community for when we need more help than usual. Most states in the U.S. have compensation funds for victims of a crime and also online applications for cash aid, food stamps, and free medical care.
There are people who understand. Therapists, online apps, hotlines, caseworkers, support groups, and your ESME sisters are great outlets. Talking with others who have lived through similar things can be a huge relief. For getting past traumatic events in particular, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques are both known to be highly effective.
Rest is a priority. Trauma takes a big toll on our brains and immune systems. Rest is key for staying as healthy and able as possible. It is understandable, though, if you find it hard to sleep during this time. Gentle reading, gentle yoga, calming baths, and ginger tea for your immune system and to support your brain are all restful things to try. The one-minute sleep trick can help. White-noise machines, earplugs, and darkening your bedroom may also help.
Expressing yourself helps a lot. Find ways to connect and fight isolation when you are muddling through hard times. Instagram conversations and support-group chat rooms are great. Journaling has many psychological benefits. Dream boards and visualization or “manifesting” can also move your healing forward.
Meditation is nothing fancy. After trauma, our mind and body are on high alert, and the thought of sitting calm and still seems impossible. Invite yourself to think about other ways to meditate, such as while walking or picking up around the house. Imagine riding the hard moments like a surfer on waves or like getting through contractions in birth. Imagine you are walking on a trail or a beach, and feel your footsteps and breathe that fresh air. If you see obstacles, go around them. Taste your food with each bite. Make a short list of affirmations or mantras, and stick them on the wall: “May I be patient with myself.” “It’s OK to feel confused, I am healing.” “This will pass.” “I am loved.”
Solo Moms don’t stop. No matter what pops up in our paths—we keep moving forward. Focus on how this time will change you and make you grow. You are going to come out even better. In an interview with ESME, Anneke Lucas says, “There is a certain faith and grace and humility that results from being in the worst possible circumstance.” I hope you will find that is true for you, too.
Beck List is an environmental scientist and writer living with her four-year-old future comedian in California. You can read more tips on her blog, BeckList.
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