Never before have we experienced such a crazy year! Personally, I’m happy to put it behind us and start afresh. I mean really, pretty much everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
This global pandemic has rocked the world in ways none of us ever imagined. With the distribution of vaccines, everything will start to turn back into something more normal. Our brave new world won’t ever be quite the same.
This isn’t a political commentary; rather, how do we heal and rebuild our social connections. Everyone’s hurting and recovering our relationships will feel strange and awkward. As Winston states “it is the courage to continue that counts”.
Our Social Connection Dilemma
We’re social beings and don’t flourish well in isolation. To remain safe and healthy, the public health authorities have pleaded with us to stay home. This has resulted in many people feeling isolated and socially disconnected.
Collectively, we’ve all suffered over the past nine months. The most high-risk groups include the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Yet, we’re hearing how this virus strikes even young, healthy people.
As the infection and death tolls explode, uncertainty and anxiety increase. We all have different coping mechanisms to deal with it. I’m not sure if there’s a right or wrong way as each situation is different.
COVID fatigue is an example of how we’ve become so overwhelmed with all the bad news, that, overtime, we’ve become desensitized. This has caused us to lower our guard because we just crave some normalcy. The desire to spend some time with family or friends and rebuild our social connections begins to outweigh the risk.
In spite of the authorities requesting all non-essential travel stop, the airports were packed over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Understandably, we all want to be with family. However, are we putting them at risk, even if we're being careful?
Another coping mechanism for some is they stay in “lock down” mode. There are people that haven’t left their homes since March!! With the marvel of the internet, all their groceries, prescriptions, or anything else they want or need can be ordered and delivered right to their door. If these habits continue, there’s a risk of feeling socially isolated.
Your Spouse / Partner
“Cabin fever” became a real thing in 2020. After so much time together, even happily married couples begin to feel the strain. Our article, will your marriage survive retirement, goes into some of the challenges many couples work through and that’s under normal circumstances.
Especially now, you’ll want to be extra kind to each other. Arguing or bickering over trivial matters only make things worse. Instead, realize this is a stressful time for everyone and be supportive.
Pre-pandemic, date night might’ve been going out for dinner and a movie. Probably not in the cards for a while. Maybe you could plan and prepare a romantic meal together. Another option might be renting a good movie complete with popcorn.
This is also where respecting each other’s personal space provides some separation. Whether it’s pursuing a hobby, reading a book, or whatever else interests you.
Elderly Parents / Family
Perhaps the saddest part is the elderly and vulnerable who don’t understand this pandemic. We have a family member who doesn’t grasp why we’re not visiting as often. When we visit, we’re wearing masks, socially distancing, and not sharing a meal like we used to. She doesn't get it and wants things to go back to the way they were. So do we!!
This is further magnified in long-term care and assisted living residences. Many have gone into, and remain in, near total lockdown. Fritz at The Retirement Manifesto posts "A Life in Quarantine" sharing a poem commemorating the plight of his father and so many seniors. Far too many of the “Great Generation” have been treated like prisoners in solitary confinement.
How will we ever restore their trust in us and rebuild our social connections? Each of us needs to do our best to remain in touch. These are difficult times that will get better. Again, it becomes a balancing act between safety and isolation.
How’s your extended family coping with everything? We spoke with Shannon’s cousin and 97-year-old aunt over the holidays to check how they were doing. It was so nice hearing their voices. They’re in good spirits and being ultra cautious.
With so much disruption out there, most families have hunkered down. If you have sons or daughters, they might be at their wits end. Possibly they’re working from home while trying to home school at the same time. Some may have been furloughed or laid off and scrambling to make ends meet.
More than ever, we need to keep in touch. While physical visits may not be realistic, we can always call. Maybe even better would be to make a “zoom” call. Especially when it comes to grandchildren. We all know they grow up way too fast.
We haven’t seen our friends in far too long. Back in the summer we were able to get together with a few of them outside in a safe, socially distanced manner. With the increased community spread and colder weather, it’s not possible anymore.
Still, we make the effort to keep in touch whether it be a call, texting, or Face Book. Everyone is dealing with this stuff as best as they can. Some of us are hurting more than others, especially those that are highly social.
What I miss most is not being able to get together with my dearest friends. I just want to be able to give them a hug!
Closing Thoughts on How to Rebuild Our Social Connections
Everyone is hurting to some degree. Loneliness and feelings of social isolation are rampant. Granted, everything will start to improve once a lot of people receive the vaccine. Until such time, it’s more important than ever to reach out and give a virtual hug to those you care about.