When Things Take a Solo Turn

We’ve all seen the image of a so called “ideal” family on our TV screens daily, usually during instant noodle commercials. Mother, father and their children gathered round the dining table, all seemingly happy while enjoying their breakfast or supper together. Sadly, things do take a less than ideal turn in life.. Sometimes the image on the dining table will only be that of one parent dining with the children.

Yes, I’m talking about single parenting. If you have lost a spouse whether by death of divorce, then you have a friend in me. I have been raising my almost 5 year old son alone for the most part of his life. I am by no means an expert or an authority on single parenthood but as a friend I’m going to try and pass along some of the things that helped me during the early phase of grief and loss. And as I friend I can tell you that even though the table might consist of one parent with a child or children, the laughing and the smiling can all still be there.

Most of the things I share here came from my personal experience or shared to me during the early days of my husband’s passing by well meaning friends and family. It is far from comprehensive but I hope this at least would give you some head start on your healing process.

If you suddenly found yourself as a single parent, chances are you went through a great deal of stress and significant changes in your daily routine. After all death of a spouse ranks number one while divorce is a close second as the biggest causes of stress in anyone’s life. Every case is different but there’s one rule that you always need to remember. In all movies about plane crash you will always hear this phrase:

“In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead bin. For those traveling with small children, be sure to fasten your own mask before assisting your child”

You, the adult is first. You need to take care of yourself before you are able to take care of other people. What this phrase means is: you need to recognize your own needs first before fulfilling that of others. If you need a night off to talk with a good friend then go ahead. Leave your child with a trusted adult and go have your time. It also helps to have some kind of activity that you can consider as “me” time. I found solace in self help books (Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul, anyone?) while others found comfort in reading La Tahzan which basically translates to “Jangan Bersedih”. There is no limit to this, you can do your very own thing. Indulge in your old hobbies, take morning walks. Clear your mind by writing things that went through your head (Twitter is great for this). Do something that can take your mind off the daily situation for awhile.

Sometimes during great adversity you’ll feel drowned by the grief and regrets. It can really feel as though you’re alone and no one really understands what you’re going through. Friends, family and religious figures all can be a great source of solace and support. For sharing or sympathetic ears, there are also several mailing lists on Yahoo for single parents that you can join. You could also go to forums such as Female Daily forum (check the mommies daily section on the forum) or Komunitas Single Parent Indonesia. These sites offer great support for single parents and also the go to place if you need ask for some specific advice or recommendations from sympathetic people and people who share our own predicament.

Another alternative in achieving some peace of mind is self healing. You can go to this website o learn more and to decide whether this method is right for you. I personally do a simple acupressure exercise which can be found on the site.

Should the situation calls for an unbiased or professional opinion; below are several addresses in Jakarta that you can take into consideration. A Clinical Psychologist once pointed out to me that every counselor is different. You need to find one with whom you feel somewhat comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to seek other if you feel that a new counselor can better understand your situation.

Lembaga Psikologi Terapan Universitas Indonesia (LPTUI)
Jl. Salemba Raya No. 4
Jakarta 10430 Tel: 021 3145078

Kasandra & Associates
PT Kasandra Persona Prawacana
Psychological Practice
Jl. Pela No:210, Jakarta 12160, Indonesia
Tel 021 739 2068 – Fax 021 725 8760

Rumah Sahabat
Jl Metro Pondok Indah
Blok UF No 20 Pondok Pinang
Jakarta Selatan
Telp. 021-7698974
Fax. 021-7698973

As much like I would love to, I’m not going to be able to tell you that things are going to be easy. Financial matters aside, it can be overwhelming at times to take up a role as both the nurturing mom and the more strict father. I have learned to acknowledge and ask for help whenever I feel that my son and I need it. You shouldn’t also be shy to take up on offers that came your way. What you require might be as simple as spending some time with you or getting some AA batteries in the nearest mart.

So instead of trying to be strong and say things like “I’m fine, I can go through this all by myself” why not try to answer the well meaning people and inform them of your needs. Even Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If you do not ask, you do not get!” Sometimes people who are eager to help don’t really know how and by learning to say this, you will make all parties feel so much better.

Remember the instant noodle commercial scene on the dining table? We single parents can still have that warm and happy dining moment. We might have to work harder for the smiles but they will be much sweeter because they are hard won. Having children is a real gift. It would be such a loss if we are missing the joy of parenthood, single or not.

Sent by Tria Rifki, a single mom who lives in Jakarta with her son, Ichi. Thank you for the great article, Tria!

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