Rachel's story: Great outdoors

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.

I spend lots of time outside. I love going for walks or to the park with Joseph and just getting outdoors.  I love to be with other people and to see other parents, and children playing together. We run loads of outdoor events and meet-ups at 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.

Photo of Rachel

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.

Physical contact

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.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 took place from 9 to 15 May with the theme being Loneliness. Loneliness is affecting more and more of us in the UK and has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic. Reducing loneliness is a major step towards a mentally healthy society.

Get help

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, know that you're not alone. There are a number of organisations you can get help and support from. Visit our 'Get Help' page for more information on where to go to get mental health advice and support.

Make a donation

If you found Rachel's story helpful and you would like to make a contribution to improving mental health for future generations, please consider a donation.
Donate now