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Navigating Long Term Isolation - How to Cope and What to Expect Week by Week

I'd like to present an excellent piece of information written by a Grief Counselor who I have great respect for.  She has some helpful tips for us while we're experiencing the recent Stay at Home order. She puts words to the feelings, emotions, and frustrations that may be coming up for you to help you to comprend and understand them - and in turn, to help you deal with them and move through it.  She also gives a week-by-week timeline of what to expect and how to cope. She begins....

Having spent most of my adult life in isolation with my daughter who was born without an immune system, surviving the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic with infected patients all around us... I have learned a few things about medical crises and surviving long-term isolation:

When the medical crisis presents itself, as in this situation, the Pandemic of COVID-19, we are stunned.  Is this really happening?  What’s this all about?  What’s really going on? How am I and my loved ones going to be affected?

We are experiencing loss and grief.  The loss of our familiar - security, safety, confidence in our future. Fear of the unknown sets in.
 

Week One: When a crises first occurs, we get busy.  Thinking about hunkering down... What do we need... How can I manage this...

Partly motivated by fear created by the crises and partly because our lives have just changed and we must get busy and rearrange our priorities.
 

Week Two: The reality of our situation begins to settle in.

Slowly the truth/facts of our situation emerge and how we will be personally impacted begins to become apparent.  We are no longer distracted by shoring up for survival.  Now our fears, anxiety, concerns about the future begin to haunt us.

This is when we must diligently guard against that fearful chatter going on in our heads.

The tendency to imagine the worst-case scenarios battles in the back of our mind. An overwhelming feeling, “this will never end,” begins to threaten our sensibilities.

The psyche wants to know when this will end... when will this discomfort be over...

Remember:  You are experiencing grief.  The loss of your “normal.

It’s painful, sad, infuriating, confusing, and unsettling, to lose our “normal” routines, the security of our familiar lives.

Feeling a sense of loss and uncertainty are normal and totally appropriate at this time.
 

Week three: This is when we start to adjust to our “new normal.” 

Practice being in the moment.

This is when it is crucial that we do not let projections...  “futurizing” (imagining the future)... Which only results in fear and anxiety running through our veins... We know fear is toxic to our immune system!  

We want relief from “not knowing,” so our tendency is to “try and figure it out.” 

Remember:  The only solution to this discomfort is to breathe and bring yourself back to the moment. For it is only in this very moment we experience what is true, what is real.

You’ve heard it all before...

The future is just a projection (usually fear based) and it is not honest and true...

The past is just a memory who’s time has passed... its over... it only holds power over you if you choose to hang on to it.

The only truth is in this very instant.

What happened just before you started reading this is a memory.

What will happen when you stop reading this is the future.

Neither are happening right now.

Only this moment is what’s real.

Week three is about taking a deep breath, recognizing that — RIGHT NOW you are fine. This very moment, your loved ones are fine. Breathe. Keep breathing.

For those of you who are sick or struggling, bring your focus back to your body and your breath. Contact your medical personnel if your “inner doctor” is saying, “this doesn’t feel right, something isn’t right here.”

Your “inner doctor” is not the voice of fear or panic. It comes across as firm, solid, confirming. Please pay attention.
 

Week four:  Time now to heal, rebuild your life, and begin again…

You are now adjusting to your new normal of isolation - you’ll notice your energy is returning to normal. You may now have the energy and ability to focus on a good book, an art project, music, landscaping, working in your garage… activities that bring you joy and a sense of satisfaction and production.  These activities keep your immune system strong and healthy.

You may feel called to help in some way, create a way to contribute to your community, your friends, your family. You may be considering ways you can safely offer support.

This is also a time to step away from all the stimulation and conflicting reports being generated.

Remember:  Your immune system is weakened when bombarded with constant stimulation.

Limit your exposure to the news. 

Take walks in nature.  Spend time alone with quiet music soothing you. Allow yourself time to rest in a peaceful environment. Take a hot bath with minimal lighting. Meditate. Sit in prayer.

Your body has experienced a great shock: Your body needs time to recover from the shock, the loss of your normal.

YES‼

We are ALL experiencing some form of shock, right along with loss and grief.

Practice patience with all those you encounter.

Treat yourself with kindness. Take Rescue Remedy if you’re feeling overly anxious. Increase your Vit. B-12 and Probiotics to keep your nerves calm and your gut healthy.

Listen to soothing music.

Get lost in a project that captures your attention.

Get plenty of fresh air.

Drink lots of water.

Rest.

When this crisis passes, you’ll be very busy. There will be demands upon you to “catch up.”   Use this time to focus on resting, restoring your body and refueling your heart with all that brings you peace, joy and inner strength.

I hope this little blueprint for long-term isolation gives you hope and understanding.

Take one step up the ladder each day. Don’t look back, don’t look ahead. Notice the new perspective you have on life, each time you “step up.”

Perhaps your values are changing. Perhaps you’re noticing “what you do,” your career, the way you see yourself... is changing... Perhaps you’re discovering “who you are becoming,” as being the gift of this experience. 

You may be noticing what’s working and what’s no longer working in this new normal.  Ways of being, working, relating to loved ones.

This is the year of clear vision, 20:20...

Clear vision is that which comes from our heart, honest and true, compassion and acceptance.

Bless you all on this journey.

Stay calm, stay strong, reach out and send your love to those living alone.

We are all connected.

-Theodora
 

Theodora Alves is a Grief Counselor, living in Nevada City, California, who has spent over 40 years helping people of all ages cope with medical traumas, crises and death.  Her career is devoted to those healing through loss and grief. 

*Theodora’s daughter, Rebecca, was born in 1980 without an immune system, a very rare condition referred to as complicated severe congenital neutropenia.  Her life expectancy was not to exceed 4 years of age. Her daughter grew up and became a pre-school teacher and the creator of a very successful chocolate truffle business. She died at the age of 21 during a bone marrow transplant.  No child has survived this condition with the success that Rebecca achieved before or since.

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