A TIME FOR REFLECTION

By Georgia Howard, Clinical Services Director, FirstLight

The loneliness and isolation felt by the bereaved have been compounded by the restrictions which have created a more profound sense of longing.

Let's take a moment to acknowledge that as we approach a year of lockdowns and restrictions, life as we knew it has changed. Nerves are fraying as distractions are minimal and fun times, treat days, meeting friends, sharing hugs and friendly touches are things this year has starved us of in order to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

It has not been possible to perform the longstanding rituals around the funeral that often give comfort to those grieving; they have missed the opportunity to celebrate the life of their loved one in the hours after the funeral, where stories are shared, tears connect family and friends and defences are dropped. These rituals and contacts create an ability to send our loved one to the after-life with the communal support of everyone that loved the child that has passed. This sense of community has always eased our ability to get through this knowing we aren't alone. But, this last year, our families and communities have had to stand at a distance, watch online or release balloons and clap as the hearse passed by to show their support for the journey of the loved child to the church.

As social beings, it's proved that even in the most restricted of times, we adapt and find ways to let the ones we love know we care; embraces were replaced by elbow touches, and a squeeze of the arm or the holding of a hand was replaced by a nod. However, the loneliness and isolation felt by the bereaved have been compounded by the restrictions which have created a more profound sense of longing.

Parents who have other children aged four and above have always had a separate space for a few hours during the school day to think and to prepare to be available to their children when they return home from school. During the past year, there has been no space for parents to be how they are, to ‘reset’ and make themselves available for their children’s emotional and physical needs. Homeschooling has added a new responsibility for parents, to be a teacher too. At the same time, working from home has created a multifunctional home as school, work and home life function from the one space. And parents are in a position where they have had to function in the course of the same hours as a parent, teacher and worker. Working out which role takes priority can be so challenging to manage. Balance has become something that is, at times, impossible to achieve. Where is the space to grieve, to reflect on resting and resetting?

Moments of fun, laughter, craic with peers, letting the hair down and entering into a different atmosphere is something that builds our resilience. Cinemas, museums, pubs, restaurants, concerts, nights with friends in their home, dinners with family, retail therapy, birthday celebrations and events, getting the hair done, a bit of pampering and gym and sport – they all take us out of our norm and offer us something else - moments of peace, release and escape. Most of these have been social remedies to help us weather all storms. This last year, we have replaced these with video calls, home projects, walking, exercise, TV, books, and music, through necessity. They have worked to a degree, but they don't replace human contact and connection.

Amazingly, we have adapted in some shape or form; it highlights the resilience we as humans possess. Slowing down has allowed us to reassess what will be sustainable in the future for our own lives. We can evaluate what we want to leave and bring into the era of lifted restrictions. Hours of a day spent commuting, picking up and dropping off family members from one place or event to another has stopped, yet there doesn't seem to be more hours in the day for some of us. How did it all fit in a year ago? If it's hard to find balance right now, if you can't get to the workout or walk, if washing is piling up and floors aren't done, or a project seems impossible to finish, don't beat yourself up or talk yourself into doing better.

You're doing enough, you've got through this far, and that’s no mean feat despite all that has come in the last year. You are managing, whatever that looks like to you. If you find yourself saying "I should be doing…", question, why? Aren't you doing enough managing all that is going on! Just remember that self-care isn't easy, and it's usually the thing that is good for us that is the hardest thing to do. There are many wellness ideas to keep yourself together and usually, the one you are most resistant to is the one that will feel the best once you have tried it. It's in the doing that the relief is felt, not the thinking.

Focus on doing one thing at a time without the pressure of its weight all at once, which is more achievable. The "New Normal" isn't normal, and your reaction to it is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

A Time For Reflection

  • Dated: Feb 18

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