COVID-19 brought about several changes, including social distancing. Having to separate from the people you love is not easy and the separation from one’s parents may be one of the hardest. In fact, this is usually accompanied by feelings of sadness, loneliness, and isolation. The uncertainty brought about by the pandemic is also aggravating one’s feeling of despair as people cannot be sure when they will finally be able to see their loved ones. This is especially true when people are old and vulnerable as keeping the distance becomes more important.
The Internet provides the opportunity to stay connected virtually and maintains the relationship while being apart. Although the digital experience is not the same and meeting your parents in person, conversations can still be meaningful as you can tell your parents that you miss them and express your gratitude for them. This allows for creativity and introduces new family traditions, for instance helping them shop for groceries or other needs online so they don’t have to leave the house, or sending them something by mail that shows them that you think about them. The reality is that not all parents are technologically friendly and, in such cases, phone calls and letter writing can be used as alternatives to stay in contact. Looking through family photos and videos of times you were together can be very therapeutic as it not only reminds you of the good times, but serves as a healthy escape to better days in your lives. It also provides the opportunity to reflect on the meaning you give to such moments and helps reduce anxiety. This can be done through various ways, including text, email or even by post.
Rather than focusing on such uncertain times which we cannot control, the focus should be shifted to the ways you can remain connected, such as the ones mentioned above, as these can be controlled. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the local situation has improved as COVID-19 cases declined significantly and restrictions are being eased gradually. In fact, although we still need to wear face masks and hold back from hugs and kisses, the perspex barrier will no longer be separating parents from their children in elderly homes during their visits. Such gradual steps towards normalcy require a lot of patience and an understanding that physical distance keeps our loved ones safe.
Sadness, fear, anger, and loneliness are very common feelings that result from the inability to see ones parents. Normalizing and acknowledging such feelings and using mindfulness exercises to control them are very useful strategies. Sharing such feelings with your parents not only helps process your own feelings, but also provides a safe space for parents to share their own worries or fears. Staying in the hope that the present situation is not a permanent way of life and having something to look forward to once you are reunited with your parents can also be really helpful. To avoid spending time worrying about the future, you need to stay in the present moment and take it one day at a time whilst supporting yourself during that day. Finally, if you feel overwhelmed consider reaching out to others, either by seeking mental health support from a professional or by connecting with friends.
Johanna Cutajar is a Master in Counselling graduate from the University of Malta. She works with children and adolescents as a counsellor within the education sector on a variety of issues including relationship issues, trauma, bereavement, transitions, and general mental health.
Bologna, C. (2020). How to Cope with not Being Able to See Your Parents for a Long Time. Retrieved fromhttps://www.huffpost.com/entry/coping-social-distancing-from-parents_l_5ebdb302c5b66da6b7d5661e