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Saroj's story: Life is a journey

Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide, parental loss and domestic violence.

I am a divorced single mum, and my ex physically and mentally abused me after five days of marriage. I stayed in this abusive relationship for a further seventeen years because of the stigma in the Asian culture. I felt trapped and couldn't get out. My ex was an alcoholic and kept making me feel like I was a failure.

My son, aged 16 at the time, had seen enough of what was going on and felt it was mentally disturbing, causing the family to break down. My children were scared, hearing the abuse shouted at by their dad. There came a time I managed to call the police as my ex tried to abuse me again physically. I just had enough. All I could think of was to protect and give my children a new life, which meant being a single mum. It was a hard choice I had to make.

I struggled with finances after my separation, bringing up two teenagers on my own and living in a rented property. I was working, but my pay didn't suffice, so I started claiming benefits. I had no savings at the end, my children were growing and needed clothing and books, but the bills just kept piling up. At the same time, I kept thinking did I make the right choice to leave my ex. We were struggling, but I kept holding onto the hope that things might change for the better, but instead, the worst happened.

We all went through depression seeking counselling, and we lost my son (forever 19) through suicide.

It's hard being a single mum as you can not afford everything financially, but making new memories is priceless.

My daughter was significantly affected. She wasn't doing well at school and isolated herself from everyone. I knew her wellbeing was more important than her grades at this point. I had to change her thinking and become her strength and encouragement. It was tough for me to lose one child, but I knew I needed to be her strength. I studied with her as I couldn't afford a tutor. We went out enjoying bonding time, and slowly I could see changes.

I knew she wasn't cut out for A levels. But we found an alternative course, and she is enjoying a BTEC in sports at a college. Her studies have built her confidence again and helped her make new friends. Supportive teachers are a bonus. I needed to focus and list what her passions in life are and help her in achieving these. I will keep on believing she will succeed. She now knows she has a future and looking at university for her to progress even further.

I also made some changes, giving up my office job in the city to become a Wellbeing Team Lead. I participate in Mental Health talks, raise community awareness, and help run various Mental Health promotions activities. I am now a trained Mental Health Ambassador and wish to help many more on their journey.
I have started drawing again and writing mantras for happiness and motivation. My daughter and I have joined support groups to help us focus on our new life, made new friends, and learned new skills simultaneously.

I have become my daughter's best friend as she is more open to me and can talk. I always praise, encourage her with the hope of future opportunities. I believe in her so that she can believe in herself.

Sometimes it's not only education but that special bonding time is required. It's hard being a single mum as you can not afford everything financially, but making new memories is priceless.

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