Understanding and coping with loneliness and social isolation

December 4, 2020

Once upon a time, our lives were filled with gatherings and celebrations, eating together and congregating. This time last year our lives looked a lot different. As 2020 comes to a close, the COVID-19 pandemic still wears on and shelter-in-place and social distancing protocols continue. We know that these protocols are in place to protect those vulnerable to infection, but we also know that prolonged periods of social isolation can have negative effects on mental and physical health.

Understanding ambiguous loss 

Right now, most of us are grieving, but this type of grief is not the same as the loss of a loved one, says Psychology Today. This type of grief is daily and persistent – the loss of daily routines, planned celebrations and physical contact from family and friends. As such, these feelings are hard to understand. Pauline Boss, notable family therapist, first coined the term “ambiguous loss” in the 1970s to refer to a type of loss that is not completely tangible or easily resolute – no closure. Right now, there is no clear “end” to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unknown makes this experience very challenging.

Coping with ambiguous loss

Many of you have attempted Zoom gatherings, tried picking up new hobbies, exercising or going for walks. But right now, these activities don’t feel like they are working. Understand that the distressed feelings you have right now are normal, says Psychology Today. By labelling COVID-19 as an “ambiguous loss” you are able to start the coping process. The ambiguity is the problem, you’re not. Feeling grief is not your fault. So, what can you do?

  1. Share your ambivalent experiences with others and listen to theirs, too. An example is “I dislike being stuck at home, but I like knowing that I am safe and healthy.”
  2. Think dialectically. This means holding two opposite ideas in your mind and not “either-or.” An example is “Shelter-in-place is a permanent part of my life, and may be temporary.”
  3. Be resilient. Find meaning by looking at what is still present. Find your successes and talk to others about their resilience.

Know that your experiences are shared. We are all grieving together, and this is not something you have to just get over. Never hesitate to reach out to us at Aspire — and your doctor — for help. You’re not alone, and we are here for you whenever you need us.

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