I drove up the driveway of my daughter's family home and was greeted with screams of joy and excitement by 5 loving little angels. Covid-19 has kept me from seeing my grandchildren and this visit was way overdue. I didn't realize how much I had been feeling lonely until I felt their abundance of love.
Recently I was invited to present to a group of local business owners who have been struggling with the economic hardships created by the Covid-19 business shut downs. A common theme ran through the questions I fielded; concern for themselves as business owners, and concern for their employees. Business owners have a desire to reopen and get back to work, but the barriers created by Covid-19 are keeping them from helping the ones in need the most: their employees.
One business owner who runs a hospice service asked me how she could help her elderly volunteers, "They are being isolated against their will because of being the most vulnerable." Others agreed that they wanted to provide assistance but didn't know how to support those who shelter at home or who are afraid of social contact due to possible Covid-19 exposure.
The effects of forced isolation can create long term negative emotional consequences. In one way it's like being falsely accused of a crime and going to prison without a trial. Everything you knew as familiar is taken away from you and you have lost access to anything resembling the life you knew pre-Covid-19.
Think about how much has changed in 2020.
We quit going to work or to school, we stopped meeting with friends, we stopped our daily lives and sat home, huddled in fear. Some began drinking and smoking more just to cope with the anxiety the changes brought. We were in a holding pattern...and it kept on going.
Several months later, we still are in a holding pattern.
One of my friends who recently returned to work after being furloughed from her job shared with me her concern for her mental state while sitting at home, "I could feel myself falling apart. I was getting depressed. I felt lonely even with my family. I didn't know how to shake it until I went back to work. Now I feel like I'm finding myself again."
I recently re-read a Time Magazine Special Edition I had purchased in 2018 because it focused on "A new understanding of Mental Health." One article called The Loneliness Epidemic written by Markham Heid said, "7.5 billion people felt entirely alone," and this was raising the costs associated with mental health. The article cited findings in medical journals that said, "loneliness is just as much or more important when it comes to mortality." This article was written two years ago, but with increased reports of suicide by youth and the elderly it is even more evident today how loneliness kills.
How can we combat loneliness? We can reach out and touch someone (mindful of social distancing), we can still smile (under a mask), and we can laugh (even if it's muffled). We can talk to each other, walk with each other, pick up the cell phone and connect with each other. We MUST reenter the world and begin to take charge of our lives again. Go back to school and to work; not for the economy, but for your sanity. It's a matter of life and death!
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered,
each to your own home. You will leave me all alone.
Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me."