Q. My daughter and I have lived on our own since her father left when she was 18 months old. I’m the only parent and only family member she’s ever known. We’ve always been close; we tell each other everything and often go out together. I was 17 when she was born so people often think we’re sisters.
I’ve encouraged and supported her to focus on her studies and not get side tracked with boys or relationships. I didn’t want her to make the same mistakes I did. I knew she would be leaving one day to go to university or college but I always thought I’d be fine and would cope, even celebrate it. I did my degree the hard way through the Open University whilst working full time and raising my daughter.
I’m not coping. I keep having meltdowns. Anything of hers I come across I burst into tears. I’m feeling how I did when my mother died and yet I know that my daughter is very much alive and enjoying life. The pain I feel is so great, I feel so lost, alone and lonely. My social life evolved around my daughter. I have very few friends, mainly colleagues from work that are more acquaintances. How long can I expect to feel this way?
A. It’s understandable you’re feeling low, lost and lonely. Your daughter has been a big part of your daily life. You’re experiencing a grieving process, just as you did when your mother passed away. The difference here is that your daughter will continue being part of your life, especially as you have a strong bond with her. And because of this strong bond, it’s even more important you allow her to spread her wings and fly.
She needs to be able to find her own feet, forge her own friendships and relationships and make her own mistakes. She needs to learn to find her way in the world knowing that if she needs help or support that you’ll be there for her.
It’s important you acknowledge your feelings that you miss her and then think about what she’ll be learning, both academically and socially. You say you didn’t want her to make the same mistakes as you – remind yourself of how all your hard work and support has helped her get to where she is now. Avoid bursting into tears when you talk on the phone (save that for your pillow), it will put a huge burden on her – she’ll feel guilty about leaving you and go into caretaker role and that’s not the deal. Instead ask her about her day, the clubs and societies she’s joined, and how she’s getting on with her flat mates.
This is your opportunity to make time for you. Take a pampering bath; expand your social circle and socialise more with your work colleagues, you never know, you might find a good friend amongst them. Join a speakers club, book group, exercise class or even a dating site. It seems as though you’ve worked very hard over the years to raise your daughter whilst working full time and doing a distance learning degree. Celebrate all your efforts and cut yourself some slack – you deserve some fun.
As to how long it will take for you to feel better? The more you embrace how you’re feeling and stop fighting your emotions the sooner it will ease. You’ll begin to enjoy your own space and newfound freedom.
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