Valentine’s Day can emphasise the feelings of loneliness and isolation some single parents experience. Mark Chester, our Parent Support Manager, considers what we can do about loneliness.

It can be lonely in a crowd. In fact, surrounded by others can be one of the loneliest places to be because it emphasises our isolation; we can feel unnoticed, unimportant and, perhaps, lost. And Valentine’s Day can feel like that.

We are in a crowd of couples, everything is going on around us and we are not part of it. Maybe things happen regularly to underline our loneliness, little markers day in day out, but Valentine’s Day is in a different league. It is like somebody has switched on a flood light and we just cannot get away from it. There are the endless adverts, the celebrations of love on social media, the cards on other people’s mantelpieces, the flowers arriving at workplaces, tales of candlelit meals, the proposals, rings, bottles of wine and chocolates.

And yet our day will be the same as any other. The post will be full of junk and bills. Work won’t be interrupted by special deliveries. We will feed the children, get them to bed and then be busy making packed lunches and ironing clothes for the next day. I know not everyone will feel lonely but for those who do, this time of year can be difficult to endure. The knot of emptiness can grow even more.

So what can we do about loneliness? I guess we can start by acknowledging our loneliness – first to ourselves and then, if we feel able, to family and friends. Others may love to spend time with you but feel awkward about imposing; perhaps they are lonely as well and worry about becoming a burden. When we open up, it can be surprising how many people say ‘I feel that too’. Your honesty could be a lifeline to somebody else.

It can feel daunting, but we can attempt to make new connections by trying a class or group. Perhaps there is a single parent group near you or something for all parents that you could join.

Loneliness can be stressful, so working out what makes you feel better and improves your general wellbeing can help. Sleep, diet and exercise are all important, but so too are other things you do for pleasure. Perhaps you enjoy time outdoors, reading books or watching films. Don’t feel guilty about taking a little time just for you.

It is difficult not to compare ourselves to others, particularly when we’re active on social media, but it is important to remember that what we see and read online is not necessarily the whole story. Posting online is like showing up to a party; we try to look our best. If you think everyone else is OK, but you are not, it will make you feel worse – so don’t attach too much significance to what people are sharing on social media; anything could be going on inside for them.

As Valentine’s Day comes and goes please do remember that you are not alone in feeling lonely; it is a normal feeling and things can get better.

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