It’s been a really tough year. I know that probably sounds familiar to a lot of people, but my family in particular will be glad to see the end of 2022.
My youngest was taken into care before they were a teenager, the impact of this separation has haunted all of us. My other children stayed with me, while I fought to leave an unsafe home and found myself having to start from scratch. Except I didn’t just have myself to worry about, I was now a single parent.
It’s not helpful to look back at where I was a few years ago, from the outside we probably looked like a normal happy family. But that was far from the truth. Right now, I have to focus all my energy on trying to provide a safe home for my kids, worrying about where the next meal will come from, how we’ll get through Christmas, and the next thing, and the next.
When I met Sam, I thought she’d be like all the other services that came through my door. They walk in, do that sweep around with their eyes before talking at me for the allotted time and leaving. Every one of those meetings feels like a fight for survival.
I want to scream ‘I’m trying my hardest’ but I know it’ll fall on deaf ears.
Sam didn’t do the sweep, she came in, offered to make us both a cup of tea and asked what I wanted to talk about. I didn’t know what to do. When did I get to the point where I was expecting an interrogation over normal conversation?
I'd managed to get my youngest back home with me. But it wasn’t smooth sailing. I’d been promised help to get what I needed for them at home, and was supposed to have support to get them back into school.
None of those things happened until I met Sam.
Sam came because she works in the Cyrenians Mediation and Support Team. She told me they work with all kinds of families and she was there to help me get what I needed to feel back in control of the situation. She went above and beyond to be honest, she’s that kind of person. Having not been able to be really vulnerable with anyone for quite some time I found myself telling her all sorts.
We talked about money a lot, which made me uncomfortable, but it helped to be able to say some of it out loud. The house I was in wasn’t fit for purpose. I hadn’t had a boiler since I moved in in January, and there were broken floor boards and drafty windows. Just thinking about trying to get through winter with no heating made me sick with worry. And that’s before all the prices went up.
Sam took it all on board though, she helped me sort out who I needed to call to get things moving. I hate having to ask for help, and she seemed to understand that. She never pressured me or took over; it was always on my terms.
Recently she helped me and the kids get access to the local leisure centre. I’m able to take all the kids together and we have a couple of hours playing sports, feeling normal again. Those are my favourite times, when I’m not constantly surrounded by all the broken things, feeling like I’m not doing enough for my kids or searching empty cupboards for a forgotten tin or two.
Things have improved.
Sam helped out with our gas and electric meters which had been in the negative for as long as I can remember. She helped me get hold of new bedding for all the kids. It sounds stupid, but those things are so helpful – being able to put fresh sheets on and know the kids will be sleeping well brings me comfort.
The house is still not perfect, but I have a new boiler on the way, and Sam has helped me get access to some Co-op vouchers so I know I’m going to be able to make a cracking Christmas dinner.
There’s a long journey ahead, but at least now we’re able to make some happy memories together, as a family.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those we work with. To find out more about the work our Mediation and Support team are doing this winter with Gail and people like her, read Kerry's blog here.