“I just FEEL SO GUILTY.” This was me sometime last fall sitting on the soft couch in counseling. Why did I feel guilty? Well my kids didn’t have their Daddy and it made me feel guilt unlike any other I’d ever experienced. I had reached a place where I was stumbling along as a human but couldn’t begin to process the fact that I was a single mother. That this life with only one parent was the hand of cards that had been dealt to my children. As one of my favorite bloggers One Fit Widow puts it, our family had changed from “a strong square of 4 to an awkward triangle of 3.”
Single parenthood may be exceedingly common but it is also exceedingly hard. Add the layers of loss, shock and grief as well as the fact that I didn’t want ANY of this and you wind up with one messed up Mommy. In those early months I can only describe myself as a martyr. It was as though I felt that by taking all of the burden squarely on my physically small shoulders, I could somehow make up for my kids being fatherless. Fun? Rest? Self care? Joy? Not for this girl. Part of me truly thought if I gave every bit of what little I had then MAYBE my kids wouldn’t hurt so much. As though a depleted, physically wrecked, emotionally unstable mother was what they so desperately needed. I was a mess.
Over time (I’m talking months) I began to see how incredibly stupid that entire thought process was. I began reading books about single parenting. I confided in friends who lifted me up with love, prayers and scripture. I began to schedule time for myself, not because I was selfish, but because I was human. I realized that because I spend my weekdays with 20+ of other people’s children (and the rest of my waking hours with my own children) that perhaps adult conversation WAS important to my well being.
My soul sister Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Option B that “Allowing ourselves to be happy- accepting that it is ok to push through the guilt and seek joy- is a triumph over permanence. Having fun is a form of self compassion.” There was no prize for being miserable. However, through seeking joy, having fun and kicking that stinking guilt to the curb, I was giving my children and myself a gift that could transcend the pain of loss.
I CANNOT change what happened to my family. I CANNOT change the ripples of grief that come after loss. I CAN change and shape my attitude, reactions and life choices. I CAN release all the guilt and allow joy into my life and into the lives of my children.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:18.