Loneliness and the other mental health issues that partner with it, have been the lead conversation with my grandmother recently. The first time we got to see each other, was probably about six months ago. This was after a long year of conversations through her assisted living window. If you think she is hard of hearing in person, try talking through a phone while standing on the other side of glass…it was at times excruciating.
She shared with me at our first visit how she was pressing her “emergency button” and pretending to be confused at night. This would lead a nurse to come to her room and give her a hug and tuck her into bed. Throughout that visit she wouldn’t let go of my hand. On the occasion our hands would part, she would lean in and ask for a hug.
Since my grandfather died a few years back, I have become pen pals with my grandmother. While it is a bit more one sided than was intended, I write once a week. I increased this to twice a week once COVID hit. At that point, it was just as much for me as it was for her. While I know she loves getting my letters, what I have since learned is that a letter can not replace a hand hold or a hug for my grandmother. She needs to see you and be seen by you in order for her connection to remain viable.
Since getting to see her in person more regularly, she has reported less loneliness but the anxiety and depression symptoms have remained to a certain degree. Reassuring my grandmother it was okay to be nervous about eating dinner with everyone again, was in essence reassuring myself it was okay to be nervous to start going back to “old normal” tasks. Be aware during the next couple months of your ever shifting mood and remain open in talking about it. Find a therapist, a best friend or a trusted family member to be honest with. Please remember, you are not alone in finding a new way back to the old way. You are not alone in feeling a bit off during the process.
Keep talking. Your mental health is important. Use your call button to ask for a hug.
And yes…that is my real grandma and best friend up there. Isn’t she so gosh darn cute?