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Having never experienced a pandemic in our lifetime and all the information we are bombarded with from the media, it is increasingly difficult and challenging to find positive moments in our lives.  The feeling of losing control and our freedoms we have become so used to is being taken away with good reason. With so many issues escalating – monetary survival, worry about ours and our children’s emotional and physical health, it’s easy to feel like we have no choices in our lives right now.   You may feel that no one understands what you’re going through.

We are in a period where many are moving into depression and feeling their anxiety increasing day by day and its becoming hard to manage.   There are those that are struggling with day to day challenges, some struggling with guilt if their loved ones are struggling or ill. It’s important to be reminded that there is nothing that we can do to, except know that together we will fight it, and although difficult, the best way to conquer and get back to our way of life is by quarantining right now. 

One of the challenges is the families working their loved ones in the hospital.  The thought of not being in the hospital with them is affecting them on an intense emotional and spiritual level.  Their loved ones in the hospital understand, and of course, does not want their family to be around the virus with the great possibility of becoming ill.  It’s hard when we look at it from the outside to not feel pain, guilt, anxiety, sadness and much fear.  

The way to best help your family in the hospital with COVID 19 when speaking on the phone, which is the only form of contact allowed at this time, is to give words and thoughts of love.  They may not be able to answer, but they will hear you. Share your day with the kids and family, bring love and support. That’s all we can do and that gives so much to your family in the hospital.  As therapists we understand how stressful it can be when people you love are struggling on a ventilator in the ICU and cannot answer you. Assure them that you know they cannot answer and they can just listen and you try to keep talking.   Remember that the sound of stress in your voice is contagious. To be there for our family, we need to keep stress at a minimum and the way to do that is to self-soothe. 

You may have feelings such as: anger, anxiety, blame, confusion, denial, depression, fear, guilt, irritability, loneliness, numbness, relief, sadness, shock, or yearning, as well.

Thoughts such as: confusion, difficulty concentrating, disbelief, hallucinations, or preoccupation are normal challenges we are facing.

Physical sensations such as: dizziness, fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, hyperventilating, nausea or upset stomach, shortness of breath, tightness or heaviness in the throat or chest, or weight loss or gain may be affecting you with the stress.

And you may be displaying behaviors as a result of your feelings and thoughts such as: crying spells, excessive activity, irritability or aggression, loss of energy, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, restlessness, impatience, trouble sleeping or the opposite, and excessive eating or the opposite. 

      *   Be aware of your reactions.

      *   Acknowledge what you are feeling. 

      *   Practice breathing.

Of course when speaking with your loved one in the hospital

Do not bring up challenging subjects, since it may be draining for a person who is battling his health. So telling someone how hard is to discipline the children or about a conflict wouldn’t help but sharing and speaking from your heart would help.

You may feel awkward because you don’t know how to show you care. Relax and gather your thoughts before sharing.  Do not show in your voice any helplessness or nervousness. Remember that even an unconscious patient could hear and respond emotionally to your verbal communication.

Some example of words: 

“I love you”

“We miss you”

“You’re a fighter, and fighters don’t quit!” 

“I’m sending positive thoughts your way today”

“You are my hero”

“We all praying with you.”

“You’re stronger than you know, braver than you think, more loved than you can imagine”

“I am so proud to call you my ……”

“Corona is just one chapter in your life, not the whole story”

“Nothing I can say will make this better but I’m here for you always”

 “We are thinking about you every day and it’s hard to be away. …”

“ You are so brave and so strong”

“Please don’t give up. We need you here. I need you here.”

“It must be hard for you to fight it without us as well, we are all for you always”

Talk about good moments about your children or relatives. Bring up fun memories and how you looking forward to enjoying more times, and making new memories with him/her again. 

With children you also have to keep open and honest communication. They also facing a hard time whether they show it with negative behaviors, shouting or withdrawn. Even if things are critical and complicated, don’t hide the truth from children, as it may leave them unprepared if things become worse.  

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  •  Including children in the family crisis and talk with them according to their age. 
  • Teach them proper hygiene and social distancing
  • Focus on the things you feel are worth your time and energy.  Let the other things go for now. For example, don’t fold the clothes when you’re tired.
  • Children want to feel “normal.” Make sure as much as possible that they have time for regular activities.
  • Try to keep schedule and routine as much as you can in order to make them feel more secure
  • Children may give off the message of “leave me alone” when they still need and want your attention and support.
  • Devote time to spend  as quality time with each one of your children
  • Keep the communication lines open and involve your children in decisions as much as possible. 
  • Make sure children have a safe place to talk about what is going on in their life (family member/friends, or counselor).
  • Answer your children questions about the situation even if they ask difficult questions such as about impending loss in healing and death 
  • Guide/model your way for the children toward healthy ways of coping with what is happening, and help them be more prepared for the changes in their situations.  
  • Teens are neutrally becoming more independent from their families. Quarantine makes this harder to do, leading some teens to act out or withdraw.
  • Talking to children about the death of a loved one can be done using simple word such as “I want to share with you something important….I am sad that grandpa died.”  If they look puzzled or they laugh it’s ok since they are reacting to what they don’t understand and sometimes it’s their first reaction to confusion. If they ask what means you can say: 
  •  “When someone dies its mean that the part of their physical body stopped     working.” 
  • If they ask about themselves you can assure them that you will do everything to protect them, and they are fine. 
  • It’s ok to cry since it teaching them when something sad happen we cry for the loss of family and friends.

It is normal to be scared or show extra worry or feel tense and have a hard time relaxing in our time. We are not under normal circumstances. Be aware that some of your children’s’ mood may have nothing to do with the family or the world situation. When things are really out of control reach out to professional help. 

Mental stress lowers our immune system that we all try to keep up especially now therefore do your best to be in control. 

 For example; if you have sleep problems try changing your habits … Tea, coffee and chocolate make sleeping more difficult

The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.

Remember that God loves you, and sometimes we don’t have answers ready for new situations, and we have to find it within!

                                                                                   Efronit Levi, LMHC

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