Talia first experienced loneliness when she moved away from her family to study at university. She talks about her feelings and how they got worse during the pandemic lockdowns. She found a lot of support when she began working for Single Parents Wellbeing and this helped her to share her experiences with other people who had similar experiences.
I’m Talia, I’m 24 and I live in Cardiff with my daughter. My first experience of loneliness was when I moved away from my family to university. I experienced a second period of loneliness during the pandemic, this affected my mental health and I began to battle anxiety.
For the first three years of my daughter's life, we were surrounded by family. People say ‘it takes a village’ and I was lucky enough to have that. It was wonderful.
I underestimated the impact of moving away from home when I started university. I’d been in the same place for 18 years and suddenly all of those friendships and family were far away. I assumed it’d be easy to make friends, but the nature of my course meant I only had five contact hours a week. I’d arrive, take notes and then the lecture would be over and everyone disappeared.
I lived on the other side of the city and my situation was different to the other students and that initially made it harder to form friendships too.
An open door
I was really lonely and craved places where I could feel myself and among family. I found a new church and met two girls there who made a massive difference.
They invited me for lunch one day and I think they saw that I was lonely. After that, they often invited me and Lily around for dinner. They were just amazing people. They had a motto ‘enough in the pot for ourselves, plus extra’, so they’d always cook enough food so they could share.
They welcomed and accepted me. They changed my life and helped me to feel less lonely.
I also experienced loneliness during the pandemic. I’d finished uni and Lily was 7. I’d been working in schools but always only for a few days at a time, so it was difficult to form friendships through work. Then overnight I lost my job because the schools were closed, and I was trying to home-school too.
It was difficult. I started to experience anxiety and it was terrifying. I didn’t know what was happening.
I wish I’d been better at communicating what I needed. My family wanted to help but they didn’t understand what I was going through. At that time I needed reassurance and support every day because my experience was 24/7.
They didn’t realise that I needed daily contact. I internalised that a bit and thought ‘well they should know, I shouldn’t have to ask,’ but that’s not a helpful way to think. If you’re honest about what you need and how you feel people will be there for you.
The first six to nine months of the pandemic were the loneliest and hardest. Partly because it was all new - I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t recognise the anxiety, but also because I was ashamed. I was embarrassed about how I felt and embarrassed to keep talking about it. I felt I was having the same conversation again and again so I stopped talking to people. That made me feel more lonely and isolated.
I needed reassurance that things were going to be alright and that I would feel better. And I needed to hear that day after day. I was in a new relationship and my partner was amazing. He didn’t see my need for reassurance as a weakness, he was wonderful.
Compassion and connection
I saw a job advert for Single Parents Wellbeing (SPW) and knew instinctively that it was a good thing. My anxiety was still quite bad and I didn’t want to be totally honest about how I felt because it was a new job, but they really helped me through things.
By connecting with other people who’d had similar experiences, I could better understand how I was feeling and felt less lonely.
SPW is a social enterprise that empowers single parents, everything they do is peer-led and they really tap into the power of their network as single parents are amazing! It’s run by compassionate people, and most of the team are single parents themselves, and that compassion is for everyone - staff included. They've recently developed a mental health in the workplace policy that has compassion and community at the heart of it. It made a real difference to be surrounded by people who understood me and cared about me, my family and my mental health.
After I joined SPW, I completed one of their well-being programmes. The six-week course is available to single parents and covers mental health, self-confidence and positivity. It was exactly what I needed and helped me to heal and recover from the anxieties I was facing at the time.
The pandemic was tough for us all.
I'm so proud of myself and of Lily for what we’ve achieved. I have known loneliness and I know how that lack of connection can damage your mental health, but I also know that those moments pass.
Working at SPW has changed my life. It’s been like finding another family and that’s what I needed. I’m excited about the future and I’m excited about the difference I’ll be able to make for other single parents and young people as part of the team.
Find out more information about Single Parents Wellbeing and the support they offer to single-parent families in Wales.
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