How to survive separation from loved ones during coronavirus
We took our sons to see their Nana at her nursing home on Mothering Sunday and she was delighted with the homemade card and poem. Mum and I kissed the window. She shed a little tear but was still jolly and chatting. Mum went through The War. She knows about stoicism and getting on when times are hard. The following day came the announcement of social isolation so for Mum it means she has to stay in her room for seven days and there are no visitors. We talk every day. This is not how we normally are. I visit her two or three times a week normally; luckily I live locally. What can you do when your elderly parents live further away and you are worried about them?
Communicating by phone regularly is tops. Maybe this isn't the time to dredge up old arguments. Keeping the conversation light and positive will help you both to feel loved and calm. Asking open-ended questions can keep the conversation flowing. It isn't always easy to talk over the phone so how about some of these?
"How are you enjoying this lovely weather we're having?"
"How have you been sleeping?"
"What have you been watching on tv?"
"What meals have you been making/eating this week?"
"Who else have you spoken to over the phone?"
"How do you feel Boris Johnson is doing as a leader right now?"
The weather and TV are often great topics for our elderly parents. Here in the South East of England we have been enjoying fantastic weather; thank goodness. Can you imagine the mood of the Nation if the weather had continued rainy and grim? You cannot ignore what is happening in the news and elderly parents will often be spending a good deal of the time watching or listening to it. You can help by discussing the updates in a pragmatic and calm way without getting into anxious and negative conversations. Maybe explain to them how beneficial it is to keep indoors for now and how much that will help stop the virus spreading. Point out that this health crisis will end and speak about what lovely things you will do when it's all over and can get back to normal. See what type of activities your parents are doing and whether they can start up new ones. I showed one to Mum a couple of weeks ago and she had great fun with her friends at the Home.
Write the word D I S C O M B O B U L A T E at the top of a blank piece of paper and see how many words you can come up with, out of this word. Mum found 22 and I found 76. It might be an idea to explain what the word means if they don't know. Certainly, it fits with how many of us are feeling right now.
Mum loves Tommy Cooper so I've printed out his jokes and when I call her I tell her one or two. What nostalgic activities can you share with your parents?
Missing other family members
There are many reasons why you can be separated from the ones you love. Your children are adults and live away from home with partners and their own families. Wattsapp, Skpye, FaceTime and e-mail are great methods to keep in touch. Keep reminding your loved ones that this is a temporary situation and it will pass. It's hard when you are separated or divorced and have the difficulty of who is looking after the children. Moving around the country is not really an option if you want to ensure there is no spread of the virus so while children are staying put - for now - maybe the best that you can do is to keep busy at home to avoid negative rumination and feelings of loss. This is the time to tidy the garage or your bulging filing cabinet. Sort through your clothes. If you have paint at home maybe touch up the paintwork. Grow a beard. Shave one off. Rummage through the cupboards for that hair dye you were too scared to try. Exercise at home. There are some great videos circulating to keep fit and feel calm. Learn a foreign language or check out some Youtube tutorials. Download that audiobook or start reading that huge novel you've been putting off for years.
Our eldest son is really missing his mates. He left home at 19 to go and work in a pub in Wapping last August so finds it hard to come back home. Thank God for Xbox! Both he and our younger son are socialising with their friends online. They need to do their own thing. Nagging them about screen time may fan flames of resentment so possibly give them a break. Explaining to your children that this is temporary and they will be able to see their friends in a while can be a struggle. Lead by example. Show them what fun you are having going for that walk or drawing that cartoon. Out with the board games. Friends can play games together online. We are all in this together. Each and every one of us is going through it and we need to be patient and ride it out. This is adversity, and adversity makes us stronger. We will come out of this changed - for the better I hope. Our friends will still be there, so will our family (in all likelihood). The phone is our friend. Let's use it to call anyone we can think of. Remember that old friend from your old job? Ring them. We can sit with our feelings of loss, but maybe just for a few minutes - instead of all of the day. We have a journey to travel. One that we don't know the twists and turns, or how long the journey will take. Let's be strong and patient. This time will pass.
My Mum has made a friend - Charlie. He is a black cat that arrived outside Mum's window one day and returns every day; sleeping on her bed or next to her on her sofa. Dad passed away last spring. He lives on in Charlie (or whatever the cat's name is). I am so grateful Mum has her friend during this difficult time. It puts my mind at ease.
I hope reading this has given you a little reassurance. If you feel that you could benefit from talking to someone, perhaps call a friend or family member. Alternatively, contact a professional therapist that can help you manage your concerns during this time. Many therapists now offer online and telephone support.
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