Working Mums editor Mandy Garner wonders how dads’ mental health has been affected over the past year, especially as we approach Christmas.
“Being a shielder and having a 4 year old little girl whose mum passed away at the start of Covid, life has become so difficult. I feel ignored and forgotten about in life. We just lost money through benefits and reduction on pip. I don’t know how they are expecting us to live any more. It’s so hard just getting through a day and with Christmas coming I just wish the world would swallow me up.”
This was one of the dads who took part in the Fathers Network Scotland survey of life for dads under the shadow of Covid. It found, unsurprisingly, a big spike in mental health issues for dads, particularly those separated from their kids.
I chose that quote because it combines many of the mental health issues that Covid has exacerbated: financial worries, Covid health concerns and grief.
And Christmas will just puts on more pressure – when it comes to finances, but also grief. While support services for people going through grief have, in many cases, been amazing, when you get them, the problem is that they have been overwhelmed and waiting lists can be very long. But this time of year is especially hard.
There is a lot of fuss made about Christmas, but for many people who are grieving Christmas is not such a welcome event, no matter how hard you try. The person missing is always at the centre – absent physically, but so very present in every other way.
Being a parent newly on your own and trying to get through Christmas must be incredibly hard, going through the motions and trying to make it the least painful it can be for your children. It’s just another day, but the lead-up is so very long. All the things you do as a parent, buying Christmas presents, doing the advent calendars, Christmas plays, watching Christmas films, putting up the decorations, all of them are like navigating your way through hot coals in the early years of grief.
But there is no other way but to go through it. So you inch your family forward, hour by hour, day by day, trying not to make it worse, finding ‘distractions’ to make it easier to get from one day to the other, being kind to each other, understanding that some people just don’t want to talk about it, that watching a favourite family film is talking about it, that there are many ways to grieve and that everyone takes their own time and finds their own way.
And with Covid concerns rising again, uncertainty about what lies ahead and the weather getting worse, things can seem very chaotic and worrying. That can provoke feelings of anger and denial, similar, in a way, to grief. But the only way to mentally pull through is to look after each other and keep taking one step forward at a time.