A compelling journey of loss and a new reality by author Suzanne Duncan
For some, cancer might be the inevitable, and for those left behind years of inability to cope, to move forward or to manage a new role as a single parent can be as crippling as the disease thrust upon their loved ones.
But for Suzanne Duncan, and her husband James, his cancer became the light that would guide them through the dark tunnel and to a new place where his legacy would soon be the motivation that inspires his wife to help others. His terminal illness also left a gift for his children through a precious journal that would give them love, support and insights into their dad for years to come.
Suzanne, What inspired you to write this book?
Sadly in 2011, my husband James passed away aged 44 years old with stage IV bowel cancer. I was left with three young children aged four, seven and nine, and a new identity as a single mother. I spent five years struggling with grief and transitioning to being a single parent. In 2016 I took action to help me release this grief and found a new place of love and acceptance. In a much better place with myself, I started to think about how I could help others also struggling with being a single parent because of bereavement or separation/divorce. My inspiration came from my motivation to help others as I had worked hard to overcome my own internal struggles and the new reality of being a single parent.
What do you want to achieve through your book?
I want to help single parents with the transition to their new identity and feel empowered to believe they can do it. I want to help navigate them through the bumpy ride, and feel excited about the potential that lay ahead – and that potential being all the resources they need right inside of them. I want single parents to feel empowered within themselves so they can empower their children to be happy, healthy and resilient and equipped to develop their strong sense of self-esteem, self-direction and independence as they enter adulthood. If I could simply achieve through my book, my reader’s ability to love learning, grow to give and be excited to evolve, then I would feel I achieved what I set out to do.
What does success look like for you?
I believe success is about facing challenges, embracing them and using them to grow and evolve. It is about grasping our fear and using it as the impetus to move forward with clarity and purpose Personal success for me is becoming the best version of myself and having the ability to celebrate along the way. I absolutely believe you are the driver in your life, not the passenger. The intent of my book is to get my readers starting a process where they can affirm their new beliefs and take actions to achieve what success ultimately means to them.
What was the hardest part of your transition to being a single parent and how did you overcome this?
Definitely the feeling of being vulnerable as a single parent and the reality of my new situation. I was dealing with grief, I felt lonely, and was on a journey of many highs and lows. I was now the single parent at school concerts, at sporting events, social occasions and when we travelled. However through the support of grief counselling, very empathetic family and friends my approach to communication with my children, I was able to move forward positively myself and with my children. I believe as you learn to love someone in their absence or adjust to separation, you must be kind to yourself, be strong and be true to your beliefs and values.
Christmas can be a hard time for single parents who may be feeling lonely or isolated from others.
What advise can you provide to overcome loneliness?
These are some simple steps that helped me:
– get comfortable being alone: take time out and enjoy your own company. Start a journal of your thoughts and feelings, take yourself out on dates to your favourite movie, restaurant or cafe. The more you get comfortable with your own company, the more other people are likely to enjoy spending time with you too;
– get an animal companion: there’s nothing like having a dog waiting for you by the door or a cat purring on your pillow. Animals make marvellous companions. A perfect gift for you and your kids this Christmas.
– get out of the house: make it a habit to get out of the house as often as you can. Get some fresh air, go shopping, walk through the park or doing the grocery shopping will lift your spirits.
– get involved in a local cause: Is there something you are passionate about? Helping others will make you feel good and will occupy your mind. There are always plenty of volunteer activities in the community at Christmas time – what a great way to meet new friends.
If there was one action single parents can take today to help them move forward, what could it be?
To move on requires a purposeful decision made with desire and conscious awareness. Transformation is a process, and it requires effort and dedication. Visualising will help you open your mind and heart to possibility. Try this on: Whatever the situation, I want you to imagine it as a burden this is lifting, floating away from your shoulders, being jettisoned off into space. Visualise that very clearly and deeply. Close your eyes and imagine those unhelpful emotions evaporating and being replaced by joy and love. Rejoice in yourself and in your children.
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