Dear caregivers,

My heart is with you.  I offer peace through this time of loss, loss of connection and loss of time with your loved one.  Caregiving with and for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or brain changes is challenging in and of itself.  Add the layer of precaution and concern with coronavirus, it’s doubly stressful.  Add separation, it’s become an exponentially tightened tension.

Minnesota had prompt StayAtHome orders and no visitor rules for nursing and assisted living locations.  Good for prevention and heartbreaking when it’s been six or more weeks of being without your loved one.  When I hear about my aunt and uncle’s experiences, I twist with anxiety. I didn’t live through this type of separation when my Mom resided at a nursing home and I was already on edge keeping up with both of our lives. And it was my experience that group facilities depend on adult children and friends of the elders living there to support their wellbeing.  What do we do with this distancing?  It’s necessary and hearts are breaking open.

Yes, you’ve checked in and there have been IPad and phone calls, or staff may have read your letter aloud.  As caregivers we are truly grateful every day as the staff are providing as much support as they can under considerable duress and added responsibility.  In isolation, their job is even more complex, and our separation is real, and they feel a void too. I told my Mom; we’ll do this together.  I’m here beside you.  Yet, when there is not a physical solution we can act on while sequestering, we need new ways through the intensive uncertainty.

I am all about finding one’s own path through and when teachers show up in my life, I pay attention.  Two thoughtful, brilliant, tried and true mini lessons are described below.  What can we do to bring our attention back to what’s important? What’s important?  These are questions only you can answer for yourself and I find it helpful to hear how each of us has been coping.  During this time of coronavirus pandemic and social distancing, find out what serves to wiggle your anxiety lose, unlock your calm, and learn what works for you on this day.  It may change and may we find peace and compassion in what works in this moment.

The thoughtful, descriptive, calming audio offered by author Elizabeth Gilbert about her own path through dealing with fear and uncertainty (“Facing Fear with Compassion” free on Insight Timer) is a godsend. I found her insights revealing as she practices writing to her fear through love. What would love say to your fear? Skillfully she relates her experience with fear, describes practices that have served her and ends with “this may not work for you” and, yet, we must remember we are resilient as a species and as individuals.  We don’t know what will happen and love is with you through this struggle.   We are fearful and we are stronger than we know.  And no action is required until you’re able to take a breath or a step.  Love has you.  You’re not alone. Take what is useful and be merciful.  Tenderness will bring us through.  I highly recommend listening and trying it out.

I study practices that have worked to bring ease into our lives.  To paraphrase the marvelous Martha Beck, author and life coach, begin navigating (again) when all else has crumbled, begin again by noticing, narrowing and naming.  Although what I’ve included below is the most abbreviated explanation, it works.   I have found following this through it not only works, but functions on many levels.

  1. Notice what draws you in; be curious and investigate. Not only as a distracting rabbit-hole, but considering what about this is fascinating to me?
  2. Allow yourself to focus in on these answers. What fascinates me is ____ and I want to know more about x, y, and more, For example: Who does this? How? What does it take to make these?
  3. Then name it. Reflect on it. I am interested in_____.  I’d like to_____.  I am drawn to more of____.   I’d like to bring _____ into my life in some form.  How might you bring even a smidgen of this concept or idea forward now?  Symbolically if not actually—right now. See and test where this knowledge may lead you.

If allowing ourselves to be moved and changed by this experience of waiting and connecting from a distance is how we grow, taking the time to see how it is showing up for you makes a difference.  I was/am particularly bad at “naming” in this process.  I wanted to leave it open for more discovery.  However, I’ve learned that being specific gives one a concrete decision.  Even if it changes later on, when we are in a long-term ambiguous state of loss as we are now, being specific gives us a place to rest.  It is not generalized; it is as it is now.

As one focuses in, you’ll find multiple feelings occur.  Multiple beliefs may be revealed at the same time.  Yes, they may all show up.  Check to be sure they are still true for you (and let go of what isn’t) and you may find living in paradox is what it is for you (and for many of us). And that’s okay.  It may be glorious, and it may suck, and it is true.

Lastly, I am giving myself the assignment to notice how many ways love shows up.  Does this lead me to feel love?  Is this love connecting me with my loved one?

Name your own experience.  Feel it and allow it.  You may find that even though I am not in the same room, not in the same place, I am with you.  Allow this compassionate feeling to come through for your loved one and back to yourself.  Compassion that may summon love—in and for our loved one, support their caregivers and each of us moment by moment as we actively connect. Separately.