How to Feel Connected to Loved Ones Despite the Distance
Find your own ways to maintain relationships despite social distancing.
I’m a 90s baby.
I remember my childhood as a mix of new technologies and brightly-colored cartoons. I remember playing with slime and building forts in the backyard. Most importantly, I remember doing all of this with my cousin Danny.
Danny and I did practically everything together. My aunt only lived 15 minutes from us, so she and mom would have tea dates while Danny and I played in the backyard. We would pretend to be astronauts and tell each other secrets. The emotional connection I had with Danny was unlike that with any other friend. He was the brother I never had.
When I was eleven, my life was upended. My aunt got a new job. In another state. Which meant that Danny-- my best friend in the entire world-- was leaving me.
For one reason or another, we sometimes lose touch with those who mean the most to us. Maybe a new job or a move to a new city has made it all the more difficult to find time for the in-person get-togethers of the old days. Whether for reasons in or out of our control, it can often feel impossible to set plans for quality time.
In this climate of social distancing, it can be very easy to feel alone. While we know how important it is to stay home and avoid gathering, we must be careful not to let these circumstances affect our mental health. Physical boundaries do not restrict emotional connections.
As I learned from a young age, it is possible to maintain an emotional bond with someone who is not next to you. Two decades later, Danny is still five states away, but he is also still my best friend. We’ve found ways to maintain our relationship despite our own version of social distancing.
Humans need emotional connection to thrive. We are social beings. Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned how to feel connected to loved ones despite the distance.
Engage in Weekly Phone Calls-- and Be Honest During Them
I love Mondays.
I know, that’s a stark contrast to the average adult-- but Mondays are my favorite day of the week. At 8PM every Monday, Danny calls. Whether he is driving, cleaning, or watching television, he never misses our Monday routine.
When we’re feeling lonely, we sometimes actually push people even further away from us. We’re afraid to reveal our vulnerabilities. It’s important to remember that everyone feels this way.
One of the easiest ways to relieve loneliness is to schedule weekly phone calls with loved ones. Hearing a voice has far more impact than sending a quick text message. Once you’ve found a time that works for both of you, stick to that routine. Not only will it give you something to be excited about each week, but it will also push you to continue building emotional connections even on days when everything feels too overwhelming.
Sometimes Danny calls and I have so many wonderful accomplishments to ramble about. Sometimes he calls, and I erupt into tears. Creating an emotional bond doesn’t require endless compliments nor commiseration. It just requires you to be real. It’s okay to let someone else know how you are feeling-- there’s no shame in being proud of your productivity, or in feeling a little off for the entire last week.
Social distancing is only physical-- we need to continue supporting those around us, and letting them support us.
Send Love Letters
No, love letters don’t always have to be romantic! Love letters are simply emotional bonds on paper. In this age of technology, the practicality of mailing letters seems questionable. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I’m always excited to get mail. I especially love unexpected mail.
I can remember every detail of opening the first letter Danny ever sent me. We were thirteen by then, and he had just watched a movie he thought I would love. Rather than mentioning it on the phone that week, he thought it would be a sweet surprise for me to find a letter in the mailbox.
Written notes can go a long way when it comes to maintaining an emotional connection. There is something powerful about knowing that your loved one held the paper that is now in your hands. If you think a friend or family member is really troubled by the effects of social distancing, send them a letter; it’ll brighten their week.
Reminisce about Shared Experiences
When Danny and I were nineteen, we used to love laughing about old memories. One night, while filing away some papers, I found a photo of the two of us, wearing our “astronaut helmets” that were really cardboard boxes. I snapped a picture on my phone and texted it to him. It was a bit blurry, and not as impactful as the actual photograph, but he got the point.
Over time, we continued to find and share old photographs from our childhood. However, I kept wishing for a way to transfer the photos onto a digital platform without losing their integrity. My hopes and dreams for emotional bonding were answered by iMemories.
iMemories turns your photographs into digital keepsakes that can be shared with the entire family. The results are professional-- gone are the days of guessing which baby’s blurry face is in the picture.
The best part about iMemories is how easy it is for you. All you have to do is order a SafeShip Kit, fill it with your favorite photographs, and send the box back to the company. They do all the heavy lifting, and send you access to a digital album of all your favorite memories. After finding an old video of Danny and I learning how to ride bikes, we were thrilled to find out that iMemories also converts VHS videos to digital files.
For the last few years, Danny and I have made iMemories our Christmas gift to one another. We’re able to preserve our family memories, and our emotional bond, with a few simple steps. Even better-- the results will last a lifetime.
Reminiscing on past memories is a great way to get through social distancing without forgetting the emotional bonds that make it so difficult in the first place.
Find Things You Can Do Together, Even When You’re Apart
Even social distancing can’t stop you from making new memories with loved ones. One of the best ways to feel connected across the miles is to share new experiences together. Buy the same puzzle, and see who finishes it first. Find a movie you’ve both wanted to see, and talk about it the next day.
Danny and I challenge each other once a month to do something new. Last month, we challenged each other to see who could learn the most state capitals (he won). Nothing, though, beats our video chats when we gather old photographs and videotapes to send in our next iMemories kit.
Genuine emotional connections aren’t contingent on distance. You will still love those you hold dear to your heart, and they will still love you. Small changes, though, can make the countdown to your next gathering a little bit less daunting.