Struggling Post Pandemic? You’re Not Alone

Offering support in the park

As friends around you adjust to post-pandemic life, how are you doing?

If you are struggling to get going again, you are not alone. The last fifteen months have been difficult. As a nation, we have been through trauma. We have been through not only a pandemic but we have collectively been through:

  • The deaths of over half a million fellow Americans
  • A divisive election
  • The loss of jobs and closures of businesses 
  • The exhaustion of our healthcare workers and essential workers
  • Protesting in the streets over the needless deaths of George Floyd and other black men
  • Avoiding getting close to people or hugging them because of safety
  • Losing our daily routines and often adopting unhealthy habits 
  • Working online, often with children in virtual classrooms at our sides
  • Witnessing people waiting in very long lines just to get food on the table
  • Experiencing natural disasters like tornadoes, ice storms, and wildfires 

And it doesn’t stop. Now, as the nation opens up, we have severe drought in California, increased homelessness, a bigger class divide than ever, friends dealing with long-haul Covid, workplace and other mass shootings, and more divisiveness over masks and vaccines. 

So how do we go on? 

  • Give ourselves permission to go slowly, one hour at a time. 
  • Give ourselves permission to feel the heaviness of the last year and to let it go by talking to others, sharing our feelings, taking walks in nature, joining support groups, and reaching out to friends we haven’t seen much during the pandemic. 
  • Write down three things we’re grateful for each day.
  • Watch a sad movie to get in touch with our own grief and sadness so we can shed those muchly-needed tears.
  • Stop comparing our problems to others’ problems because our problems deserve our attention, too, even if they don’t seem as bad.
  • Host picnics in parks with our friends and family.
  • Hug our children and grandchildren and others.
  • Return to events in person if we’re healthy and vaccinated, and we continue to connect virtually if we’re immunocompromised.
  • Listen closely to those who are hurting
  • Get vaccinated and stay masked to protect those who don’t respond to vaccines.

And most importantly, we practice self-care and self-compassion, and we give compassion, empathy, and love to those around us. 

Explore Your Surroundings, Day 5

Today is Day 5 of the 25 Days of Christmas.

I am making an effort to post my video and blog earlier in the day at the request of a friend, who wants to take part in these challenges and activities with her grandson whom she can’t hug right now. I love that she is including him, and I encourage you to include your family and friends as well. It just solidifies my idea that we need things to do while we are together, apart. 

Lemon Tree in Backyard

For Day 5, I ask that you explore your surroundings in a new way. If you are out walking, take some time to find an unusual tree or rock you haven’t really noticed carefully before. If you’re indoors, look around you and find a special object, something that has meaning, or perhaps look out your window and notice something you haven’t really noticed before.

What about it got your attention? What significance does this have for you? I took a walk around the back yard and checked out a small lemon tree, recently planted, and carefully held one of the lemons in my hand. How amazing is it that a tiny little tree can produce such a beautiful and tasty lemon! How often do I actually notice it as it slowly grows. We all need to take the time to notice things around us and how they grow and change, or if it’s something sitting on a shelf, how it holds meaning for us. 

Have fun with the Day 5 activity. Maybe you’re even listening to your favorite new song from 2020 while you do today’s activity. 

The affirmation for Day 5 is “I am aware and mindful of my surroundings.”

Acts of Kindness, Day 4

Today is Day 4 of the 25 Days of Christmas. 

For today’s activity, challenge, or idea, I’d like you to perform a Random Act of Kindness. Doing something for someone else is a great way not only to make someone else’s day better but also to improve your own mood. In a time where many of us are living under shutdowns, being kind is a way to make isolation a bit more tolerable. 

If you’re going out and about, perhaps you let someone have a parking place you wanted or let them turn in front of you in line. If you’re home, perhaps you bake a cake for your neighbor or send a snail mail card to your friend’s child. 

Sharing a little kindness can go a long way.

Have fun with your act of kindness, and don’t forget to be kind to yourself in the process!

The affirmation for Day 4 of the 25 Days of Christmas is “I will be kind to myself and to others.”

Support for the One Million

100,000+ US citizens have now died from COVID-19. 100,000 of your neighbors, business owners, grandmothers, school children, doctors, policemen, grocery workers, housekeepers, EMTs, and others who have suffered tremendously from COVID-19 and lost the battle.

Consider that each person who died had a close relationship with at least ten and probably more people in their lives. When I multiply 100,000 times those 10 friends, family members, and co-workers, that means that over one million people in this country are grieving the death of someone who died from COVID-19. They grieve for someone who most likely died either alone in a hospital or with a nurse holding a phone to their ear so they could hear good-byes from those who cared about them.

I have sat with both clients and friends as they face grief and have experienced it myself many times over. The changes that occur in people’s lives after someone dies are monumental and overwhelming.

Those changes happening during this pandemic are even more daunting, as contact with friends and family members is limited due to a possibility of exposure to COVID-19. The grieving isn’t limited to those who have lost loved ones. 

Grief is experienced by those currently sick with the virus, those scared of the virus, those who risk their lives to go to work, those who have no job, those who worry about feeding their families, those who are at risk of losing their homes, those separated from family members, those who lost classroom experience with friends and teachers, those who lost businesses, and many other losses.

Remember that grief or bereavement affects us all in many ways. Feel your feelings, speak them out loud to someone who understands and does not judge you. Seek out further help if you need it.

Stay well and stay safe, and just love your neighbors. Love those one million.

When a Hug Isn’t Possible

When someone dies, people usually rush in to help. I remember when my father died, a neighbor who was on her way to church saw the ambulance at my parents’ house and stopped, knowing something was wrong. She arrived soon after I did, with the ambulance still in the driveway and the paramedics inside. 

I am still grateful to her as I look back to that day seven years ago. When the ambulance pulled out, she told me to run home and take a shower and told my mother to take a shower and get dressed, and she would stay. When I returned 45 minutes later, our friend had removed the walker and other medical equipment from the house and taken it to our garage. She offered to make phone calls to family and friends. She helped us think when we could not. 

Now, however, with COVID-19, we could not have let her in, as my mother and I are both very high risk. Nor could we have let in the friends who showed up later with sandwiches and cakes and hugs. Friends offered us such comfort at the time and took over basic responsibilities so we did not have to.

So how can you help when you can’t just show up and give a hug? Based on my work with caregiver support and grief groups in the past, I came up with a few ideas to share, and I offer them here:

  • If you know something to do, act. Asking the person what you can do is usually not helpful, as they either do not know right then what they need or they do not want to ask.
  • Send a card. A real snail-mail card.
  • Check-in with a phone call. Don’t ask them to return your call. Just say I love you and am thinking about you.
  • Don’t judge them for how they deal with their feelings. 
  • Do a video chat with them and just hold space with them. It’s not the same as physically being there, but offering to just sit with them, to listen if they want to talk, to be a virtual presence can offer support.
  • Offer to go to their window and hold your hand up to theirs through the glass for a few minutes and give a gentle smile
  • Leave a meal on the front porch then call to let them know you care and/or set up a meal train so neighbors sign up to take meals for a week. Even better, order meals to be delivered from local restaurants in order to help the restaurants survive
  • If you’re able to go out, ask for their grocery list or just anticipate what they might need and leave their groceries at the door 
  • Make a donation in memory of their loved one

With so many people grieving the loss of loved ones during the pandemic,  are all hurting. Please be kind and considerate, be loving, and do what you can to respect and care for all those who are mourning or in despair. We need each other to get through this pandemic.