Have you ever been in a black hole? By that I mean, feeling so empty, so alone, so sad, so at a loss? There is light at the end of the tunnel and a reason to work yourself through the hole rather than trying to jump over it.
Most of us would not opt to deal with pain, especially with pain related to the death of a relationship. Whether one is a single parent who perhaps had a child resulting from a one night stand and has to deal with the loss of having a co parent involved, to parents who had a long term relationship and are fearful of losing their children to the other parent, it is really hard to wake up in the morning happy when you are dealing with financial, legal, social and psychological stresses.
Black holes are filled with grief: the loss of your dream of what your family would be, being with your children 24/7, having short and long term financial insecurity, sharing the joys and challenges of your children with their other parent.
The holes are sometimes deep. One parent recently described the humiliation of being homeless, the lack of food, clothing, shelter, moving around with children who have to go to numerous schools, feeling like they are viewed "differently" by peers. The hole deepens when it becomes impossible to get medical care, get a job offer because you have no permanent address. These parents have college degrees, sometimes graduate degrees but have been caught in the cross fire of a systems who can't accommodate the needs of families, professionals who don't care about what their advice might mean to others in the family.
Another hole comes from parents who may suffer from untreated mental illness, substance abuse, breaking the law. The co parent has to explain to the children why they may not be able to see their other parent or why have been treated in an unacceptable way by another parent but are still forced to spend time with that parent.
What do you as a parent do when your children have been taken off health insurance and suffer from chronic illnesses? What do you as a parent do when you are feeling overwhelmed and are so down on yourself that being in your bed with covers over your head become your only sanctuary?
When I work with men, women and children, I certainly empathize with the enormous pain they are feeling and challenges they are facing. I often temporarily become their "crutch of hope" until they find it themselves. I journey with them in the deep recesses of the black holes to find ways out. What is it that happens that gives people the strength to climb out:
1. Parents and children learn that they are resilient; as one homeless parent said, " I chose my character over my anger toward my ex spouse and the systems that took everything from me."
2. Parents and children learn to ask for help and find that people really do care, in a deeper and kinder way they ever knew. Our parents who participate in men and women's support groups teach each other how to obtain the best resources, go the best consignment shops and how to shop on a limited budget and how to feel better about their life situations.
3. Parents and children learn to stand alone and that is so incredibly difficult. Parents work through previous losses from their childhoods, learn about their role in their adult relationships and basically stand tall and look in the mirror and can say, "I like me."
4. Achieving this positive sense of self takes a lot of hard work and acceptance that one can't do it alone. Whether it is your faith community, therapist, support group, being open to belonging and feeling a sense of safety in not being alone generates change and hope.
5. What one may have lost materially is nothing compared to the richness of your soul, sanity and psychological well-being.
6. Laugh, take breaks, breathe. Say to yourself that you will make it.
I salute each and every one of you for being survivors and working your way out of the black hole with energy, hope and joy.