Grief, Isolation, and Loneliness
One of the biggest challenges of COVID-19 is the isolation we face. Most of us have been forced to change our daily routines. We’re bored, and we’re lonely. The fear of the unknown and all of the uncertainties loom loudly. It forces us to process both individual and collective grief in the face of an uncertain future, which we are powerless to control.
Have you noticed how so much of what we think feels like sadness; feels like grief; feels like we’ve lost someone or something we love during these times of isolation? We’ve been ordered to stay at home and isolate ourselves from our friends and family, work. This can be a real struggle that results in loneliness, a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or with limited contact with a few select people, which can result in feeling disconnected from the world around us.
This global pandemic has created a new reality. The stores are running out of groceries, and we cannot go out to dinner or spend time with friends. Weddings, travels plans, school events, and more are canceled. We are working (if we still have a job) in a remote environment, we have to wear masks, and well toilet paper is flying off the shelves.
It is hard to cope with this sense of despair, this sense of loss and sadness. It is new and different, and it is hard to understand what we may be feeling.
Grief can be an isolating experience under normal circumstance, but social distancing and quarantine have made it lonelier. Instead of basic human comforts, an embrace of a friend, people we are cut off from the human touch that brings comfort.
Grief is typically also associated with death, but it can follow any type of loss. Isolation and loneliness are perfect examples of loss. Most of us are experiencing grief as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes:
- Job loss
- Financial worries
- Loss of safety
- Worry about loved ones
- Social distancing and feelings of isolation
- Changes in daily habits and routines
- Worried about bills, how to pay rent, utilities, and small business closing
- Fear of the future and how the pandemic will affect the world
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered our lives, and many of the things listed above are impacting us daily as a direct result of the virus.
When we feel lonely, it exacerbates the feelings of isolation and grief, and what’s different about COVID-19 is that we are all touched by it in some capacity. But there are things we can do to help us as we recognize loneliness and isolation and reach out to one another.
- Check-in on each other and connect. Though this is not normal, nor does it feel right as life as we know it has changed. We can be grateful for virtual contact. Though we cannot meet up with friends and family, we can stay in touch through technology. By maintaining connections as much as possible can help with loneliness. Though we may not be able to be with family and friends in person physically, that does not mean we can’t connect. Video calls, telephone calls, handwritten letters, care packages, anything that helps feel connected. Be fun and creative in finding ways to communicate with others.
- Do activities. These distraction techniques can reduce the feelings of loneliness. This is time to do things we have always felt we never had the time to do. Plan activities that help you grow. Take up a hobby, learn a new skill, set challenges for health and wellness. Be creative, and enjoy expressing yourself, which can be therapeutic some additional examples include starting a blog about your experiences and thoughts, start an art project, do a scrapbook, organize your house, plant a garden. Making a list of things you want to accomplish can help you find focus.
- Do Something Meaningful. Feelings of loneliness can be a result of a feeling of a lost sense of meaning. If your bored, losing a sense of self-worth, then this could impact your feelings of grief during isolation. We want that feeling of belonging, and that our life has importance, which is why incorporating meaningful activities into each day is essential. There are ways to help, go on Nextdoor and help a neighbor if you can, volunteer if you can, send a meal to someone or simply call someone who is alone and talk to them. The joy of helping others is the joy you will feel about yourself.
- Spend your time with those you with. What better opportunity than to play games, talk, make dinners, and eat together. For those who are lucky enough to have a few people you are with, use this time to reconnect together. Life is short, enjoy the gift of time to connect with the loved ones you can be with.
- Structure your day and challenge yourself. When you have to stay at home, this can make the days merge, and it is essential to stick to a routine. It is necessary to get up each day, shower, get dressed, take walks. Make a list of things you want to accomplish each day, no matter how small and do them, the sense of accomplishment in the little things helps in the bigger things.
- Take care of yourself. Exercise and eating well help the mind and body. Take walks, or go online for some free at-home activities. This can help boost your mood and ease loneliness. I find taking my dog out for a brief walk several times a day helps. I look forward to the walks, and it helps me want to take better care of myself which ultimately helps my mood.
- Take care of your emotional health. Do meditation, listen to podcasts, read, and relax. Don’t sit all day watching TV or the news. Of course, you need to stay informed but be selective about the news updates, so you are not overwhelmed. Remember that sometimes the reports may focus on the negatives, and that can be scary, so you want to be informed but selective. Make sure you seek sites that give factual information about what you can do to stay healthy, such as the CDC
- Limit your social media consumption. If you look at posts, many articles and posts can cause fear. There are a lot of false reports, people in despair, people scared, and this can create our concern to increase.
- Find gratitude. In these times, that can be a blessing if we focus on what we have versus what we do not have. Start a journal morning and night about what you can be grateful for and shift your mindset from fear to faith.
It’s normal to feel lonely and have a sense of grief when faced with staying indoors and interacting less with people and even more with the stress of worrying whether you will catch the virus, whether you can pay bills, whether you have a job to go back to and if your family is safe. These feelings can result in grief, depression, and anxiety. It is essential to recognize those feelings and address them. Ask for help. If your struggling with the pain of loneliness or your mental health, that is normal in these uncertain times. Call your Primary Care Physician and seek that support. With Telemedicine, you may not have to go physically to a Doctor or Mental Health Profession. There are also community groups who offer support, use them.
If you have questions, need assistance on where you can find support, comment below.