Ada was eleven years old, had long and curly hair, blue eyes, and huge glasses. She lived in a big house in a small town where she had no friends because her family just moved there two months ago. Yet, almost everyone in town knew Ada. She was the girl whose mother died in a car accident right after they moved to the town. Ada’s mother was called Donna, and she was an artist. Once Donna was a famous painter in New York, but she stopped being an active painter who had her own exhibitions in the galleries when she married Mark and gave birth to their daughter. However, Donna was not sad about giving up her career, on the contrary, she was happy raising her child and actually had a lot of fun watching Ada’s first steps. She continued painting so she would not lose her skills, and her friends often saw her in the parks with an easel while Ada was playing, sitting right next to her.
Mark was an art gallery owner, and he was busy with opening a new gallery when Ada was born. Donna did not mind that her husband was away for so long and supported him for a while, but when Mark started being away more often and for a longer time, Donna could not accept that. They were arguing more and more often and divorced when Ada was four years old. Ada was living with her mom, but Mark was visiting her quite often, and she was spending a weekend with him once or twice a month. Both Donna and Mark were dating different people for a while, but none of these relationships were serious. After being separated for a couple of years, Mark realized that Donna was his only true love, but he did not understand that when he was young and ambitious. Meanwhile, Donna never stopped loving Mark, but she could not let himself take her for granted.
They got married in their early twenties, both young and not quite ready to listen to each other and make sacrifices. Over the years Donna and Mark were apart, they have become wiser and eventually realized that they still love each other. Donna and Mark decided to start over and get married again. They also decided to move to another city to make a completely fresh start. Mark was thinking about opening a new gallery, but this time Mark and Donna wanted to work on its development together. Donna proposed that they open a gallery in a small town not far from New York. They decided to move during the summer holidays, so Ada would not need to change schools in the middle of a school year, and also giving her some time to adjust to the idea of moving.
Ada was almost not affected by the problems in her parents’ marriage. Both Donna and Mark adored her and would never argue in front of her, nor would they tell her negative things about each other. Ada had a happy childhood and loved her parents. However, as much as Mark wanted to be involved in Ada’s life, he has been spending a considerably small amount of time with her, and sometimes he did not know how he should act when Ada was upset about something or did want to listen to him. Yet, he planned to practice on that when they all would be living together again.
Two weeks after they moved to the new house, Donna died. Donna and Ada went out to buy groceries. Donna parked the car on the parking near the shop, and she just opened the door when the drunk driver hit her at full speed. Ada was sitting on the back seat and was not hurt. The driver tried to leave the scene, but the bystanders recognized his car, and he was caught later. Someone was trying to help Donna, who was lying on the ground, unconscious while another woman took Ada out of the car. Ada was crying and asking that woman to call her dad. Mark came at the same time as the ambulance arrived, but Donna was already dead. The only thing that helped Mark to get through the following days was Ada. She seemed so sad and lost that Mark tried to push his own feelings of grief and sorrow deep inside in order to help his daughter.
It was two months since Donna’s death and one week before the beginning of classes in a new school. Mark hoped that life would be easier as the time would pass, but it turned out that things only got worse. At first, both Ada and her dad were in shock because of what happened and could not fully realize what had happened to them. Ada was always a child with a vivid imagination, so she convinced herself that Donna went on a long trip, and she would return eventually. Sometimes those thoughts helped her to get through the day, but other times the memories of how Donna was crushed by that car were coming to her out of nowhere and felt so real that Ada was crying so hard that Mark did not know what to do.
Mark was also suffering. Every day the thought that Donna was gone forever felt more real and painful. While grieving, Mark also understood that he has to take care of Ada. While living in New York, he stayed with her only on weekends, and there was always Donna on the other side of the phone, ready to help him. However, he was on his own since Donna’s death, and it was even harder since Ada went through such trauma.
Mark asked Donna’s mother, Agatha, to come to visit them before the beginning of school as he felt that he would definitely need some help when Ada would start school. Everyone in town knew about what happened, and Ada was already known as the girl from the accident among the neighbors. Mark wished they could move away from the town, but they put all of their money in the house and the gallery there, so Mark could not afford to buy an apartment someplace else.
That day Mark was driving to the airport to meet his mother-in-law and was thinking that he had probably never met woman stronger than Agatha. She was the one that organized the funeral and everything about it two months ago, and Mark did not see her crying even once. He was too lost to think about anything, and his parents also were not much of help, and only Agatha somehow was holding it together. Agatha lost her husband to cancer when Donna was fourteen years old. Agatha had two kids, Donna and her younger brother Jerry and after the death of the husband, she had to work hard in order to raise them, but she managed to overcome all the troubles. It seemed like nothing could break this woman.
Mark was happy that Agatha agreed to spend a few weeks with them while Ada would adjust to the new school. Even though Mark tried so hard to help Ada and be the best father, he saw that Ada was pulling away from him more and more. She was no longer a talkative and chatty girl eager to share with him all the details of her day over the supper. Instead, Ada preferred to stay in her room and write something in her diary or look through Donna’s albums. Mark never talked to Ada about what happened with Donna on that parking lot because he was afraid of what he might hear.
When Agatha and Mark came home, Ada did not even go out of her room to welcome Agatha. When Agatha came there to say hello, Ada hugged her without the slightest smile and continued looking through one of Donna’s albums with pictures. Agatha did not say anything to her, but later she asked Mark what Ada was doing the whole summer since the accident. Mark told that Ada was about to take swimming classes and go to the drama club, but he canceled it since he did not want to force her to do anything. Agatha, who worked as a psychologist for thirty years, could not believe what she just heard. She told Mark that it is crucial to maintain the usual activities at home and in the community as much as possible and do not let the child to get concentrated on the traumatic event (Mugove 113). Mark argued that he did not want to bring extra attention to Ada since the neighbors were already treating them differently, but Agatha was adamant. Even though school was about to begin, she took Ada to swimming classes the next day.
At first, Ada did not want to do anything that her grandmother was forcing her to do. Everyone was staring at her in the swimming pool and in the drama club, and she hated how everyone was talking to her like she was different from anyone else. Mark even tried to argue with Agatha about that, telling her that Ada is about to start school, and that she had enough on her plate already. However, Agatha told him that Ada should have been doing something else except just sitting at home. She also found a child psychologist and told Mark to call him and arranged a meeting with Ada.
Mark and Ada’s lives changed a lot since Agatha moved to their house. At first, she wanted to spend just a few weeks there, but seeing that Mark was still overwhelmed by his grief and could not help Ada, she decided to stay with them for a couple of months. The first days of school were awful as everyone in the class knew what happened to Donna, and no one knew how to talk to Ada. She would feel much easier if she was treated like a usual kid, but whenever she was entering the classroom, all conversations got quieter, and no one dared to tell a joke.
A few weeks passed before everyone stopped paying so much attention to Ada, but she had no friends because no one really wanted to talk to her. However, one girl from the swimming class seemed okay, and Ada liked her. She was one of a few people who did not ask Ada whether she is okay in such a tragic voice every time they saw her. The girl’s name was Annie; she had bright red hair and lots of freckles. Annie lived on the same street as Ada, and soon Mark and Annie’s dad agreed to take them home in turn. Ada was invited to play with Annie on weekends, and Annie was coming over to her house as well. Ada was thinking about Donna every day, remembering how they walked together, how Donna painted Ada while she was trying to sit in front of her without moving, how Donna bought them huge portions of ice cream, and they were watching cartoons together. However, those thoughts disappeared for a while when she was spending time with Annie. Ada realized that she was feeling better, and it was a relief for her, Mark, and Agatha as well.
Both Mark and Ada were visiting psychologists, as Agatha insisted. However, every session felt like torture for Mark while Ada seemed to enjoy talking to her doctor. At first, she refused to go to him and even screamed at Agatha when she was trying to convince her. Ada was terrified to talk to anyone about Donna, even to Mark and Agatha. She could not imagine talking to someone she did not even know before about her feelings. However, the doctor turned out to be a nice person who did not force her to talk about things that she did not want to discuss. She told him about a new school and her swimming lessons, and how she met a new friend.
As Ada’s psychologist told Mark, Ada was deeply traumatized by Donna’s death, but like a lot of children of her age, she could heal from that if she would be treated right. Mark was terrified that Ada would not be able to recover after what she saw, but the psychologist assured him that Ada would get through it. In fact, he was more concerned about Ada’s relationship with Mark. It is quite hard to build trustworthy relationships with a child if the parent did not live with a child for a while (Goldscheider et al. 1635). Mark had a long way to go to build a healthy relationship with Ada. What is more, Mark was also deeply traumatized and suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, confusion, and insomnia, which were all outcomes of the traumatic experience (Lieberman et al. 223). Both he and Ada had to work hard before they could feel normal again, but it was the beginning.
Single parenting is not an easy task for anyone, especially for someone who just went through such a tragedy. However, Agatha’s coming to their family, and her help gave Mark and Ada hope that one day they could feel happy again. Mark did not feel like he was stuck while the rest of the world kept living after that awful day anymore; he felt like he was moving on as well. Ada was feeling better as well; she was not only spending more time with her new friend, but she also started opening up to Mark, and they were slowly becoming closer to each other.
Goldscheider, Frances, et al. “Becoming a single parent: The role of father and mother characteristics.” Journal of Family Issues 36.12 (2015): 1624-1650.
Lieberman, Alicia F., Chandra Ghosh Ippen, and Miriam Hernandez Dimmler. “Child-parent psychotherapy.” Assessing and Treating Youth Exposed to Traumatic Stress (2018): 223.
Mugove, Kudenga. “Impact Of Single Parenting Challenges To Their Children’S Learning And Development”. International Journal Of Science And Researchkudenga Mugove, vol 6, no. 4, 2017, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f250/f9f72af78b39b96283ed38124d0000de6246.pdf.