Due to circumstances not entirely in her control, a friend I've had for about five years is a single mother of two daughters under 3. We are no longer in the same state; we talk on the phone at least once a week. Please share your advice with me about how I can encourage her, since she says things to me like "I wish I never had children."
Please help me encourage a single mom friend
What a tough spot. You know words can help carry and encourage a person so far, but if they are feeling that way maybe there is something physical you can do to back your friend up...
Those words are very real words, and they are scary because sometimes we read about news stories of moms who have felt/said that way who wind up doing tragic things...Or, the children hear and can feel that depression and grow up feeling like an unloved burden. I have a personal testimony about that.
I don't mean to pry, but maybe look at what she is complaining about and see if there is any real life way you can help her, because ultimately you are helping her children also. Even though we can't save every child in the world - maybe they have all been put in your path so you can do something 'real'.
An in real life card out of the blue (maybe even with a gift certificate to do something fun, book store, whatever) might be something that can really help her feel cared for, even though it means your family has to sacrifice _______ for the $$ to do so for the week.
Some times the best gifts of love are the ones we do have to sacrifice a part of ourselves for...
Sympathize with her (even if its hard cause she has made bad decisions or whatever) and realize (if applicable) that you may not have a clue what she's really going through - she doesn't need you to pretend. She needs your love, and support and listening ear. Sounds like you are doing good.
I guess I'd tread on it like this - if your friend were pregnant and saying "I wish I never got pregnant" - how would you go out of your way to help her enjoy pregnancy and support her? Same thing here, just the babes are a bit older.
Just keep reminding her that "This too shall pass..."
Sorry for rambling. I hope you all can find peace soon!
I think that active listening is always a good idea -- repeating back to her what she is saying, but in different words, perhaps adding names to the emotions. "You sound really overwhelmed. You sound like you are feeling a lot of regret right now," and then just letting her talk more. Whether she says "yeah, I do, and blah blah blah" or "no, that's not quite it. It's more like blah blah blah," it will be helpful to her.
Sometimes people fear these sorts of statements as giving more energy to the negative space that someone is in, but in reality, feeling really and deeply heard and understood is often the first step to being able to move past such dark feelings. I really like books on "non-violent communication." They've helped me learn to be a better friend by letting my friends know that I get what they are experiencing in the moment. Eventually, people can turn it around for themselves, but not if they are still trying to convince everyone that it really is that bad.
Second, is there any way you can check into resources where she lives that help provide support -- counseling on a sliding scale, respite, etc. She might be too overwhelmed to even find out what is available in her city that could help.
A lot of mothers have the thought "I wish I had never had children" at some point or another. Having that thought isn't unusual. Getting stuck there isn't a good thing, but feeling that way during a difficult time is normal. I suspect that few mom make to until their child is 18 without having that thought!
Thanks Kamiro, that was helpful and I can tell you put your heart into it.
I help her however I can almost every time we talk (I might be exaggerating but that's what it feels like). When her daughter had a fever I looked up what she needed to do. When it sounded like she was having a fight with someone I encouraged her to call the police, or at least get out of there (I couldn't understand why she was there at all, since she had told me about this person and this person didn't sound trustworthy). She has said what I told you all more than once, and I try to say things like God gave your daughters to you for a reason, He will help you - just keep praying and trust in Him; well you do have children so what are we going to do about it now? You don't want to adopt them out right? You love them, right?
Sometimes I don't feel very supportive, simply because I get so frustrated and I my tone over the phone probably lets it show. That's why I appreciate your help so much, everyone.
Thank you One_Girl, that book looks good. I will ask my husband (who is in charge of our money) if we can order it later.
Linda, I've already recommended at least one therapist (she has never been to therapy and I guess she's hesitant to try it), and unfortunately the two mothers I asked about helping her are both unable to for various reasons. I've also talked about Habitat for Humanity over and over again. Finally, I've described the church my family went to back when we lived in her city, encouraging her to go not just for the spiritual benefits but also to meet loving people, and even though one of the mothers I mentioned gave her dress up clothes, she still hasn't gone to check it out. I know they would help her there so much more than I can over the phone.
I just remembered that when I've asked her how I can help, she says I can listen. I'm not always in the mood to talk (she usually calls in the short time that my husband and I have to spend together at night, after our children's bedtime) but I'll try to remember that.