Guest Post By: Rachel Jessen, LCSW
COVID has been hard on people in so many ways: loss of loved ones, loss of employment, loss of housing, etc. Less dramatic, but still stressful has been loss of socialization. One comment I have heard from clients again and again is how disconnected they feel from friends. The lack of connecting with others has caused an increase in depression symptoms.
As you have lost your socialization routines, such as not being able to go to school, work, church, attend sporting events, or have a standing weekly lunch date with friends, you may have felt isolated, ignored, forgotten, or unimportant. It is important to acknowledge those feelings, but also recognize they may not all be 100% accurate. For example, while you feel ignored, it may be true that people aren’t texting to get together, but you aren’t necessarily being shunned, either. It’s important to recognize that your friends and community have also lost their routines.
Most people are not extreme extroverts and may have gotten used to their homebody routine after so long. Some may need a little push to start getting back into a social life. Also, friends typically are cautious about not stepping on others’ toes. People may be unsure what others’ boundaries are regarding socializing: (“Is my friend vaccinated?” “Do I have to wear a mask if we get together outside?”). So they may be reluctant to set up a date.
If you have typically been the person to call a friend and arrange a get-together, your friends may be waiting for your call. Or, if you are the person who waits to get that call or text, could you be the one to put the anxiety aside, and send a text? Are you anxious about talking to someone you haven’t talked to in a while? That’s ok. This happens all the time with relationships, even before COVID wreaked havoc.
A text could say something like, “I know it’s been a really long time, but I just wanted to catch up and see how you’re doing.” You could send a picture of you and your friend, pre-COVID, playing tennis, and say something like, “Can’t wait to get back to this.”It’s ok to own your feelings. Being able to say “I’m feeling a bit sad we haven’t talked in so long” comes off much better than “Why have you been ignoring me?” and opens up a space for the other person to hopefully acknowledge they’ve missed out on chatting with you, too. If you’ve been the one doing the ghosting, simply acknowledge it, and let the other person know you’ve missed them, have just been hanging onby a thread (a lot of us have), and you’d like to reconnect. If you’re not sure what your friend’s post COVID boundaries are, simply ask. “Hi! We haven’t talked in a while. I’ve had both my shots. When would you feel comfortable getting together again?”
We will be back to near normal soon. Chances are thepeople you miss hearing from would enjoy hearing from you, too.