Last week I felt I was playing the game “What day is it?” The official fireworks were on a Saturday – in June, (although moving the fireworks to Saturday may seem blasphemous, I did enjoy sleeping in on Sunday morning since the fireworks ended an hour and a half past my regular bedtime); the July 4th edition of the Chronicle arrived in the mail on Tuesday, and the Center’s Saturday Bingo celebrated our independence on July 7th. But thankfully, the July 4th parade was on the fourth.
Holidays such as the Fourth often gives us a reason to spend time with friends and family. But what if one of them lost their spouse – someone they had depended on for so many years. And now they feel disconnected, isolated and alone. And making matters worse, needing to ask for help from others when they never had to before. It can be a real struggle – often causing a vicious cycle of loneliness and depression leading to isolation and grief.
We want to help in these situations, but what can we say that doesn’t make a person feel more isolated. In the Next Avenue blog post, “What Not to Say to an Isolated Older Adult”, Michelle Seitzer shares some ideas she has learned from talking to various experts.
First don’t say, “Oh, that was so long ago…” Each person’s grief is expressed differently and the time it takes to heal varies. It is not something you just “get over”. Instead give the person time knowing that it may take as long as a lifetime.
Don’t’ say “Let me know how I can help” – unless you really mean it. Instead, do those unexpected little things that show you care: bring them dinner or their favorite dessert. Little gestures can make a real difference.
Don’t say: “You must be doing better since …” They may have started a new job but getting more involved doesn’t erase the risk of the pain of isolation. They still must go back to their house alone. Instead be there when needed and stay in touch. Even when a person feels lonely or isolated, a phone call can be a lifesaver.
Don’t say: “You should go out and enjoy yourself more often…” You can be more socially active and still feel isolated and lonely. Instead suggest something more personal such as creative activities and new traditions. Or maybe the next Blue Zones Purpose Workshop where a person can rediscover the talents and interests they had once relegated to their “another day” file.
For people who feel isolated, getting past the “used to” or “can’t do” is difficult without us making it worse. When you want to help, maybe the best thing is just to be there and listen.
Because there is room for only twelve, I want to give you enough time to sign up for the next class in the Center’s series of Fourth Wednesday art classes provided by the Columbia Art Center. The class is on July 25th from 1:00 – 2:30 and it will give you a chance to try something new, improv theatre: a form of theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene, or story are made up spontaneously. No experience is necessary – just a desire to have fun.
The doctor who on December 3rd, 1967 at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant was Surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard. (I received correct answers from Sharon Hull, Lana Tepfer, and this week’s winner of a quilt raffle ticket, Virginia McClain.)
While serving in the US Army in Germany, this rock and roll star met his future wife when she was only 14 years old – and seven years later on May 1st, 1967 they were married in Las Vegas. For this week’s “Remember When” question, what were the names of the bride and groom in the most highly publicized wedding of 1967? Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a message at 541-296-4788 or send it with a stale slice of the six level, $10,000 cake served at the wedding.
Well, it’s been another week, looking for a cool breeze – not a windstorm. Until we meet again, take time to know what you really want.
“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln