Loneliness Awareness Week takes place from 15th-19th June 2020.
Loneliness is a normal emotion, experienced by all of us but talked about by few. At Marmalade Trust, we’re on a mission to change that and to empower everyone to understand loneliness one conversation at a time.
On this page, you’ll find Ben and Rebecca sharing their experiences of loneliness. We hope you’ll feel inspired to share your own!
How lockdown has made me feel less lonely as a single parent
Loneliness is one of the hardest things about being a single parent.
Whether you have a great support network of friends and family around you or you’re flying completely solo, after you put your child to bed, the evenings at home alone can stretch endlessly before you. Lockdown has really leveled the playing field. Suddenly evenings at the pub, the cinema, and impromptu get-togethers were off the table for everyone, so the country scrambled to find new ways to connect.
For me, this meant friends doing online catch-ups and quizzes to replace the pub nights and gigs they would usually be at, and for once, not having any childcare wasn’t an issue for me, and I could say yes to everything. I felt like I was part of the group again. My birthday at the end of May was one of my best ever. My friends organised an online festival-themed party, had pizza, prosecco and cake delivered to my house and we even attempted online karaoke (with admittedly limited success). I’m hopeful that lockdown life has given more people an insight into how severely loneliness can impact us all, and how with the resources now available if we pull together, there’s no need for anyone to experience it.
About Me: Rebecca Cox, journalist and single mum of one boy, Jack, aged 4. I co-parent with my ex, who is a teacher so I have had some time to work during lockdown. I usually work part-time, with some time at home and a couple of days a week in an office in London.
I am 20-year-old student from London, going into my third year studying Politics and IR at the University of Bristol. The main time where I struggled with loneliness was in my first year of university.
A lot changes in those first months of going away – all my friends were scattered at different universities or around the globe on gap years, and I felt myself far more distant from them. I was placed in a halls accommodation in which I disliked most of the people in my block. Many of them had been at school together previously and I found it hard to break into the group. In terms of the study, while I did okay in my first few assignments, I felt I didn’t know my Personal Tutor or lecturers well enough to ask for help.
With all this combined, my university experience was falling short of the huge expectation piled on to it. I think surrounding university and particularly your first year, there is a projection that it will be the best year of your life, you make loads of mates, and so on. The reality of my experience was not this – I didn’t know the new people I had met well enough to talk to them like actual friends, I was drifting from my previous friends, and because of this expectation, I didn’t want to worry anyone by telling them how I felt.
This left me feeling lonely for a large chunk of first year, that I was putting on a façade of enjoying it and being comfortable. One day, me and a university friend were talking one day. We both were skirting around the issue a bit – ‘how are you?’, ‘a bit down, probably just tired’ – until eventually she said ‘I’ll be honest, I just miss my mum’. This was a sort of watershed moment for me, when it struck me that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. I had heard that loads of people get lonely in first year but I hadn’t really believed it until I actually heard someone be open about it. We went on to have a frank conversation about our feelings, which gave me the confidence to admit how I felt both to her, and then in conversations with other people.
This moment of realisation highlighted to me how natural it was to feel lonely in the first year, It is such a strange, unique experience to move away from your city, friends and family and live with strangers, that it is to be expected that you will feel lonely at some stage! Certainly, going forward with next year partly online for some students due to Covid-19, this is likely to be even more evident. Upon talking to others, I became aware of how prevalent that feelings of loneliness had been among my peers also going through that first-year experience. By being honest with myself about my feelings, I was able to start processing and coming to terms with how I felt, and then through talking openly and honestly to people, I was able to cope with and then overcome my feelings of loneliness.
I get involved in the Marmalade Trust partly because of that personal experience of loneliness, which better places me to understand the importance of destigmatising the emotion. However, I largely get involved because of the sheer number of people it affects makes it such an important issue to tackle. Once I had started to have conversations with friends and peers about this, I realised the scale of people who experience loneliness. Because so many people experience loneliness, if the emotion became destigmatised and people felt they could reach out, such a large number of people stand to benefit.
What I’ve found is that when you’re in a relationship, your friends tend to also in relationships and you socialise all together. So, when the relationship ends, it can be awkward to continue to socialise with your ‘couple friends’.
I am the primary carer and single dad to three children who are 16, 13 and 9 years old, and I live near Manchester. Things have been challenging, so I signed up to an app called Frolo, where you can meet other single parents. Because of COVID-19, we can’t meet up in person, but instead I joined virtual meet ups. They were great – supportive, Dad focussed, fun events where I was able to be connected and engaged with a diverse group of people.
I now know I can call on the group when I need support or to talk an issue over – or even just to hear a female persceptive on a parenting issue! This connection has improved my mental health and makes me a better parent. It’s allowed to find the positives in a difficult situation and even in lockdown I have been able to build myself into a better person and provide support to other single dads and mums.