The COVID-19 pandemic has been a traumatic event for the entire world, but it might be especially traumatic for people over the age of 65, who represent the majority of deaths from COVID-19, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Due to their increased risk, seniors have been forced more than some to isolate and socially distance themselves from friends and family.
Humans are naturally social creatures and being forced to cut the social chord during the golden years of life due to an unforeseen pandemic can be an incredibly traumatic experience. Isolation is a difficult burden to bear and any emotions we might experience during this long quarantine are normal.
Allow yourself to feel
The most important thing to remember during this difficult pandemic is that the emotions that isolation might bring are a valid response to a very real traumatic event. Seniors across the country have been forced away from their children and grandchildren, and in some of the worst cases, forced to quarantine from loved ones due to hospitalization.
Many of us have never experienced isolation like this and the possibility exists that the pandemic may be considered a traumatic event for many people. The amount of trauma will depend on an individual’s level of resiliency and window of tolerance. Even the most introverted people still get lonely and any feelings of sadness you have are normal.
If prolonged isolation is making you feel depressed, then it could be a good time to try and get acquainted with those feelings. Take some time to map out your feelings during this pandemic. AT what points have you felt happy and at what points have you felt sad? What else have you felt? A timeline of your feelings could be beneficial in helping you find specific events that contribute to naming what you are feeling during isolation. Creating this timeline can also help you better understand your own feelings and to be able to identify and state how you feel. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify to ourselves what we are feeling, and talking yourself through your feelings can help you understand how isolation has affected you.
Find helpful outlets
Try to find healthy outlets to help you deal with the trauma of isolation. It might be hard to be physically present for someone during this pandemic, but we can still maintain virtual support groups or socially distanced in person meetings. Taking the time to call or video call a friend or family member can bring a few moments of happiness in an otherwise difficult time.
Exercise and outdoor activity can also help us feel more positive. It can help teach us to regulate our own emotions and bring our bodies into a calm state.
Drawing on skills such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and positive self-talk may also be helpful exercises to deal with grief during isolation.
There are many things that could potentially help you deal with the emotions of this pandemic, but an important thing to remember is you are not wrong for feeling the way that you feel. It is okay to acknowledge your pain and accept the unexpected emotions that come with it. The pandemic has brought a number of unexpected hardships and the preceding isolation has caused people to become appropriately sad, lonely, frustrated, and many other emotions.
Building awareness about how we are feeling is important in difficult times like these. We are not able to see the people we want to see or live the life that we want to live right now and feeling however you want to feel about that is normal and ok.
Laura Walton is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Phoenix. She specializes in working with grief and trauma from a mind-body perspective. She is the owner of the Phoenix Center for Grief and Trauma.