Friday, January 21

Keys to managing the absence of loved ones in the second ‘COVID Christmas’

Christmas is a time that many people look forward to, but for others they represent difficult days. In general, by the call christmas depression, white depression or Christmas blues. In particular, this year, for being the second in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all that this implies.

Christmas blues: what is it and how to fight it

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The reasons for this seasonal sadness are often numerous and varied. From the absence of loved ones (due to death, because they live far away, due to possible restrictions derived from the pandemic) or the longing for times past, to the tensions caused by economic problems or by the “obligation” to be happy.

“They are dates that are loaded with emotional meaning“, explains Mireia Cabero, family psychologist and professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). Because they are also vacation days, during which” our daily rhythm, our demands and our responsibilities change. ”

Consequently, the specialist explains, “we have more time to feel, be and be, and that makes us more connected with our pain and with pending issues. There is evidence that during vacation periods, mental and emotional disorders, especially if they are not well cared for, worsen “.

And to that is added the fact that, since the beginning of the pandemic, globally, anxiety disorders increased 26% and depression 28% (as revealed by a study published in November in the specialized journal ‘The Lancet’), and that this increase was greater in the countries with the highest incidence of COVID-19.

Loved ones who are gone

Undoubtedly, among all the factors that cause Christmas depression, what causes the greatest sadness is having suffered in recent times the death of loved ones, who will be absent from family gatherings. The pandemic has, of course, important consequences in that regard.

According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), there were 75,073 more deaths in 2020 than the previous year, a figure similar to that of the total deaths from COVID: 74,839 (both confirmed cases and others in which there were symptoms but the existence of the disease was not corroborated).

This year, meanwhile, official figures indicate that deaths from COVID-19 are already more than 37,000. But it’s not just about numbers and statistics, of course, but mostly about how the grief is managed faced with those losses.

Many of those duels could not follow their natural course, due to the restrictions derived from the pandemic itself. Due to various factors: not having been able to be with the person during their stay in the hospital, prolonged uncertainty, the anguish of spending a long time waiting for a message or a phone call, not having been able to say goodbye or see the body after death, etc.

Added to these circumstances is the fact that many of the losses were “not anticipated“In the words of Enric Soler, also a psychologist and teacher at the UOC. This expert refers to the death of many people who were 50 or 60 years old, or even younger, and who were in good health before the pandemic.

It unexpected These deaths make grief even more difficult. “Grief is the greatest challenge that people can face, and the more vulnerable we are, the more impact the absence will have,” points out Mireia Cabero.

Who are most vulnerable? According to the specialist, people who have fewer resources and emotional maturity, those who suffer from some type of mental disorder, those who suffer social inequalities of any kind and those most afflicted by the feeling of loneliness.

Tips for managing absence

The UOC psychologists and teachers list a series of tips for managing grief and the absences of loved ones in the most appropriate way this second Christmas in the approaching pandemic.

1. Find new ways to live these Holidays. One possibility is to have previous family meetings to talk and that each person can share their concerns and needs, as suggested by psychologist Belén Jiménez Alonso.

2. Use symbols to honor loved ones who are gone. You can use an object that belonged or that that person liked, leave an empty chair in the place where he liked to sit or prepare his favorite dish: these are ways of “giving presence to absence”, in the words of Enric Soler.

3. Do not avoid the company of dear friends and family. Grief is best experienced when it is shared with people for whom you feel affection and affection. We must take advantage of all the possibilities to do so, within what possible restrictions due to the pandemic allow.

4. Carry out recreational and leisure activities. Read, watch movies or series, play board games, write, cook, play sports, go for walks, etc. Since for most people these days do not involve work obligations (or they do it to a lesser extent), you can take advantage of these activities that make you feel good.

5. Distribute among all the tasks that were in charge of the person who is no longer there. This has a double benefit: on the one hand, avoiding that a single person has to assume all these functions, and on the other, helping each member of the family to develop their own personal grief through the completion of the task that is assigned to them. has touched.

6. Talk about the absence. Talking about painful topics is often difficult, because in the moment it seems to create even more pain. But pretending nothing is wrong is worse. It is not convenient to turn your back on the duel, but to accept it and legitimize it. In fact, Belén Jiménez believes that those who suffer the most from these situations are the people who “cannot express and share with others their pain due to absence.”

7. Take care of yourself and allow yourself to be cared for. Accepting the gestures of others and also providing them increases well-being, both that of the group and that of each individual.

8. Accept the way others grieve. We are all different, and each one finds their own way of coping with pain and also expressing it. Each one builds his own duel, and it is important to respect it.

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