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Emmy Rossum on Being Raised by a Single Mom: “She Was Always Enough”

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If you are looking to find resilience after loss, Emmy Rossum wants two minutes of your time.

In a candid post on Tuesday, Rossum shares that she grew up with a single mom. And while her mom Cheryl was amazing, living without a dad was a painful challenge. “I had a single mom. I have a single mom. This isn’t a secret. Growing up in a school — and a world — filled with mostly two parent units was difficult for me,” Rossum writes.

For Rossum, yearly celebrations and fatherly traditions were the toughest to encounter. Father’s Day has always been a source of confusion and pain for her, something she is still coming to terms with.

“Father’s Day still is difficult for me. I’m not really sure how to celebrate. In the weeks leading up to it, I sense it coming like a wave approaching. Sometimes I try to ignore it — but the ads in the paper or online banner ads… can make that pretty tricky. Sometimes, I take my mom to brunch and get her a present, to show her how much I value her.”

Rossum describes Cheryl as the best mom she could have ever had. And while growing up had many heartbreaking moments, her mom was enough for her. Working hard to fill both parental roles, Cheryl went all in for her daughter. And Rossum is forever indebted to that love.

“I don’t like her to know that it still causes me pain — 30 years later — lest she feel somehow that she wasn’t enough. She was always enough. She is enough. She wasn’t perfect, no one is, but for me she was the best mom ever,” she writes.

Rossum was inspired to open up after seeing Katie Couric interview with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and psychologist Adam Grant about their new book, Option B. Both Couric and Sandberg struggled with the early deaths of their husbands, something that was excruciating to share with their young children. Since her husband’s death, Sandberg has gone on to speak openly about finding meaning and resilience in the face of deep loss, even developing an online support community called OPTIONB.org. For Rossum, the connection she felt between both women and her own story was incredibly powerful.

During the talk, Couric recalled begging her daughter’s school to change the name of the “Daddy-Daughter Dance” to “Friend Dance,” in an effort to include children growing up without fathers. Despite her best attempt, the school wanted to maintain tradition, and the name stayed. Couric’s story deeply moved Rossum, who notes:

“Some of these traditions are really hard for those of us who don’t have. Even today, the idea of no father/daughter dance at my wedding. No father to walk me down the aisle. All of these ‘traditions’ are painful reminders that inadvertently re-injure us, causing a feeling of loss, jealousy, anger and confusion. Usually leading to us feel somehow inadequate.”

Rossum also shares an important statistic with readers — today, 1 in 4 children are being raised without a father, with almost half of those children having separated or divorced parents. So while Rossum may have felt unique for only having one parent as a kid, she knows now that many other children are struggling with this same situation.

Rossum accompanies these sobering facts with a message of community and support.

“But if there’s any upside to this widespread loss — it is knowing that there are more kids that are LIKE YOU. And LIKE ME. And now there’s a place to talk about all this stuff. And lots of other stuff,” she writes.

Rossum stresses how necessary it is for us to share our struggles and find community in the process. Despite some people in her life not knowing how to respond to the adversity she has faced, Rossum credits those who have reached beyond their own discomfort to be there for her. And for Rossum, having that support and love of friends, colleagues, and most importantly, her mom, has meant everything to her.

“I suppose this is a public thank you note of sorts. To my friends, who write me on father’s day and check in to see how I’m doing. To my therapist, who has helped me through things in my life and bolstered my spirit and self-confidence. To my mother, who was and is enough,” she writes.

For anyone grappling with insurmountable hardships, Rossum provides a comforting, beautiful message of hope. Her own heartbreaking journey is an extraordinary testament to the power in allowing yourself to be seen and heard. And hopefully, for everyone she impacts, her words can help others embrace their own story, however painful it may be.

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