By Susan Ciancio
Have you ever felt so alone that you wanted to cry? Have you ever been stuck somewhere all by yourself with no one to talk to?
Loneliness is crushing. It can be almost debilitating.
We’re all facing some degree of loneliness right now. This unprecedented homebound stretch of time is new to a lot of people, and it can feel like we’ve lost control of our lives. We can’t do what we want. We can’t see friends or go to work. We can’t go out to eat. Our kids are home all day and missing their regular routines. Many of us feel like we’re going stir crazy.
To top it all off, we are scared and worried. We wonder things like: Will my children be safe? Will my parents? Will I? Will my finances be okay? When will things get back to normal?
The best thing we can do right now to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy is to heed the warnings and stay home. This will slow the transmission of coronavirus to others and will keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.
Making good use of time
Now is the perfect time to relearn how to spend time as a family without spending hours in front of the TV or with eyes glued to a phone. It’s a time to reflect on the simple things and get back to basics. Play board games. Color together. Learn to bake a new meal or dessert. Fix something around the house. Spring clean. There are so many novel things that kids can learn.
But one of the most important lessons they can learn is compassion. And compassion for those who are lonely is of utmost importance in building a culture of life—especially now.
When we think about those in our communities who feel lonely, one subset of people rises to the forefront of our minds—the elderly.
We all have elderly people in our lives, even if only peripherally. If we don’t have aging parents or grandparents, we may have an elderly neighbor or know someone at church who lives alone. And while people in hospitals may still be able to receive one visitor, those in nursing homes and care facilities are not allowed any visitors. Imagine how lonely—and disorienting—this must be for them.
Though we likely are unable to visit the elderly people in our lives right now, we can do two very important things for them. First, we can pray for them. Praying as a family is extremely important. God hears our prayers and will help take care of the people we pray for. Second, we can check on them via phone or FaceTime and let them know they aren’t forgotten.
This is a great time to chat with your children about the importance of taking care of the older generation. Tell them stories about these family members or friends and explain what they have meant to you over the years. Talk about the fact that God calls us to care for them so they aren’t scared and lonely.
Make sure you stay in regular contact with your parents, grandparents, or other elderly family members. Call them frequently. Have your children make cards or draw pictures for them, then stick them in the mail so your family member will get a nice surprise.
In addition to hearing your voice, your elderly family members/friends will probably feel even more connected if they can actually see your face or your children’s faces, so cheer them up with FaceTime calls. If your children play instruments, have them perform a mini-concert. Or take videos of your children doing something fun or silly and send the videos via text or e-mail.
If the elderly family members/friends live near you, make sure they have groceries and other necessary items. Try to discourage them from going to the store, where they could become infected. Shop for them and leave the groceries on their porch. Sit outside with them or take a walk (staying the obligatory six feet apart). Make sure they have their necessary medications. You could even surprise them by leaving a note on their door or a care package on their porch. The main point is to help them feel thought of and loved. Finally, remember that many elderly people are frail, even if they don’t show any outward signs of it, so watch for any changes in behavior or mood that could indicate they need help.
As children of Christ, we must all take care of each other, so if you don’t have an elderly friend, neighbor, or family member, contact your parish office and ask if there’s anyone they know of that you can look in on or call. Call your local nursing home and ask if they’re accepting donations of little items that could cheer people up. Many facilities might be wary of outside items, but they may have some alternate suggestions for what you could do to help.
As we all adjust to this new and temporary way of life, let us not forget others who are suffering as well. Building a culture of life is not something we can take a vacation from—even during a pandemic. Now is when people need us the most.