By Father Columba
When I lived and ministered in Dublin, we had a group of over 20 young people. We prayed and visited elderly friends in their homes and their nursing homes. One of my great friends was Gertrude, who was an eccentric 90-year-old German lady. Peter, one of the community, and I visited her weekly. Often on the weekends, we brought her out to the National Concert Hall or other places where she liked to go. Often Gertrude told us, “I love you visiting me. It takes away the damned loneliness.” Over the last few days, I have thought a lot about Gertrude and our other elderly friends in Dublin. How difficult and lonely these times are for those who are already lonely and isolated. The elderly, yes, but also many others of all ages who live alone. So, I want to make a simple suggestion. Make a list of all the people you know who live alone and decide to make contact with them regularly. Let them know that you’re thinking about them and that they are not alone. You can do this by writing a letter, sending an email, or a text. Better still, phone them and talk to them. Use the phone, Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or whatever. Make this concrete. It’s not that difficult for most of us to make a list of those who live alone.
What if you are feeling lonely and isolated yourself? Here are some tips you might find helpful.
- Think of helping someone else by making contact by phone or email.
- Make a schedule or a plan for each day. Write it out and try to stick to it.
- Try to take some exercise if you’re able. Getting outdoors, even for a short while, is helpful.
- Another way to enjoy the outdoors in your backyard is to do some gardening. Plant some flowers, vegetables or herbs.
- Set up birdfeeders outside your window so that you can enjoy seeing the birds and other wildlife in your neighborhood.
- Here on the Mepkin website we have many suggestions about how you can join others in prayer or pray by yourself. There are many online Masses available. You can say the Divine Office, the Rosary, or you can practice Lectio Divina alone or with others.
- Sign up for an online course. An example of this is a course on the Eucharist that is suggested on our website.
- Do something creative. Maybe you can write short stories or poetry, paint, create a family photo album, or search online for a new hobby.
- Do some home improvements. Take it one room at a time to clean and tidy, maybe even paint or redecorate.
- Lift the spirits of others by passing around some of the funny cartoons or memes online. Even in a time of crisis, a sense of humor shared with others can be a blessing.
- Perhaps you have CDs you haven’t listened to in a while. Dust them off, and enjoy them.
- Finally, if you feel worried about your mental health during this time, reach out for help. There are crisis lines to help. Go, for example, to Mental Health America. They can be reached at https://www.mhanational.org/