Dear Therapist:

We live out of town and do not get a chance to see much of our extended family that often. A highlight of our year is the...[holidays]...where we travel to our children. The thought of being home all alone...is just so sad for me. I get along with my husband but I was so looking forward to...[the holidays]...with the delicious grandchildren. I know that there are people that are sick and that in comparison this is not such a huge problem. Still I hope you can help me with this tremendous disappointment and dread that I feel. Thank you.

 

Response:

Unfortunately, many people are dealing with similar concerns. For most of us, family and friends are an integral part of our lives, both socially and emotionally. You make a great point. Though many younger people are together with their families throughout this difficult period, older couples and single people who live on their own can be more strongly affected by social isolation.

Part of the reason that...[the holidays]...can be particularly difficult is the tradition that is typically based around family. As you mentioned, being together for...[the holidays]...is a major part of your family tradition. There are two aspects of your situation that I think should be addressed: the loneliness that you may feel over...[the holidays]...and your disappointment over missing what you refer to as the highlight of your year.

To help alleviate feelings of loneliness over...[the holidays]...you can connect with your children and grandchildren often in the days leading up to...[the holidays]. If they are isolated as well, they may be more excited to hear from you than usual. You can use videoconferencing and other forms of communication to feel as connected as possible prior to...[the holidays]. Hopefully, this will help to minimize your feelings of loneliness over...[the holidays].

Although there’s no substitute for being physically together with loved ones, there are a few things that may help you feel less disappointed about not being with them. You can encourage your grandchildren to send you “care packages,” consisting of projects...and the like, for you to peruse during...[the holidays]. We tend to take comfort in the familiar. Having physical objects that are a typical part of your...[holidays]...can help to a small extent. For the same reason, doing things at home in a similar way to how they are done in your kids’ houses can make your...[holidays]...seem a little less foreign. From the way in which you set your table to the way that you conduct your seder, doing things in a familiar way can help you feel a little less alone. Sending your own care packages, perhaps individualized for each child and/or grandchild, can also make you feel a part of their...[holidays]. This may also help them to miss you less.

Since you will be missing an opportunity to spend time with your children and grandchildren, you may be able to tentatively schedule a visit for a time after the current health issue is resolved. Knowing that you have a visit scheduled for a time when everyone will be happy, healthy, and comfortable can help you to get through what will hopefully be a very short-lived health scare.

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

 Brooklyn, NY   |   Far Rockaway, NY

 author of Self-Esteem: A Primer

 www.ylcsw.com / 718-258-5317