Great outdoors - Rachel's story
Rachel talks about relationship breakdown and the loneliness of living as a single mum. She talks about the isolation she felt and the lack of physical contact, as well as the company of other adults. She says "To anyone suffering from loneliness, I’d say talk." Along with her friend Amy Holland, she set up a new resource for other mothers like Amy and her, organising outdoor meetups as well as a safe space to talk and share.
My name is Rachel. I live in Cardiff in Wales with my son Joseph, 11. I co-founded Single Parents Wellbeing, a social enterprise that empowers single parents, after experiencing extreme loneliness after separating from my husband.Single Parents Wellbeing (SPW) and it’s amazing. Being with other people makes me happy.
But it wasn’t always like this. I was heartbroken when my husband and I split up. My son was 2 and at the park, we’d be surrounded by ‘conventional families’, 2.4 kids.
Being a single parent is a very lonely job.
My friends were busy with their own families. They weren’t around to see us on weekends or bank holidays. Easter and Christmas are the worst for single parents, and I felt like the loneliest single parent on the planet. There was little opportunity for connection with other adults.
Mum’s the word
Back in 2013, I decided to do something about it. I put an advert online and started meeting up with people. I met Amy Holland, my co-founder and we started to organise outdoor meetups. We did it for ourselves, but also for every other single parent in Wales.
In 2016 we started receiving regular funding and the group went from strength to strength. By surrounding myself with other people who knew loneliness, and knowing I was doing something to help other people, I started to feel less lonely.
We created a new family for ourselves. We’re a social enterprise, but really we’re a big family for single parents. It’s turned my life around.
The pandemic really set me back and I felt lonely and isolated again. I love being with people and being sociable and all of a sudden we couldn’t leave the house.
My son and I had to isolate ourselves for ten days and it was tough. Homeschooling was hard as well. It was a difficult time for everyone. But as a single parent with no adult company, it was particularly hard.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love hugs! I had lots of hugs from Joseph, but I really needed a hug from an adult. I missed that physical contact. The pandemic meant we couldn’t see people, and then when we could see people we couldn’t touch them. It was difficult.
Know what works
When I feel I’m struggling there are things I can do to help. Talking with people on Facetime makes me feel better, and I like to make my room really cosy. I create a nice ambience with lighting and my diffuser which makes the room smell of lavender. It helps me to feel safe.
Getting back outside, being in the fresh air and seeing other people made a huge difference too. Know what works for you.
Throughout the pandemic, we ran our sessions online. Our online forum kept me going and it helped me to know that other people were in a similar position.
I also got some counselling and that helped. I’m proactive in looking after myself and know what works.
Wellness and workplaces
SPW is a compassionate organisation. We’re committed to the single parents we support but we also care about the health and well-being of everyone who works for us.
It’s essential that we’re honest with how we’re feeling and that everyone feels safe and supported to share what’s going on. It’s good to be open and to talk.
When you share, you discover other people have similar feelings and straight away that makes you feel less alone. We support one another and that’s massive.
Everything will be ok
To anyone suffering from loneliness, I’d say talk. Talking and being with people is powerful. If you’re thinking about joining a group or asking for help it can feel overwhelming, but you’ll feel better afterwards.
Loneliness can lead to depression but you will come through it. You will overcome this, you will get better. If you feel like you’re not going to get better, I promise that you will. You will survive this and everything will be ok.
SPW is something special that came from a lonely place. Every day I see the difference we’re making. We’re empowering single parents to do incredible things, to believe in themselves and to break the stereotypes that exist. We’re helping them to feel less lonely.
For more information about what they do, go to Single Parents Wellbeing and the support they offer to single-parent families in Wales.
More about loneliness
- Read other people’s experiences of loneliness
- Get help and advice for coping with loneliness and improving your mental health
- Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2022