Did you know that loneliness is on the rise? Even before COVID-19 hit, studies have shown that despite the world being more connected than ever with technology, people are lonelier than in times past. Studies have also been showing that younger generations are reporting feeling more lonely than previous generations . This, along with COVID-19 restrictions have made an already challenging time even more challenging for many of today’s new parents and pregnant women.
Not enough support during the highs and lows of pregnancy and baby’s first year
Pregnancy and birth are special times for many people. For the mother of course, but also for partners, families and close friends who eagerly await and celebrate new additions to a family. This is true whether these milestones are baby showers, first month, first hundred-day birthday dinners, or simply well-wishers dropping by with casseroles. When women are told they need to put these celebrations on hold, not only do these milestones miss out on the attention they deserve, but women miss out on the emotional support that come from loving family and friends.
We know it has been a struggle for women to have to choose between birth support partners – a doula or a partner – to attend their child’s birth in the hospital. It has been hard for grandparents to stay away. For those who have suffered a miscarriage – already a lonely and difficult experience – this is made harder still with physical distancing and the lack of hugs from close friends.
Four Ways to Cope with Loneliness
Begin by acknowledging the loneliness:
Ask yourself, is this loneliness brought on by social isolation or a feeling of loneliness?
“Loneliness doesn’t only stem from heartache. We can also feel lonely amongst our friends, our coworkers, or our peers. Loneliness can stem from a lack of authenticity in our relationships.” – Hannah Rose LCPC
2. Don’t hide the pain:
When we try to hide and mask pain, it often just gets us down even more. Even if it feels shameful to voice loneliness and pain, it is often healthier to express how we feel – whether this is to another person or through outlets that give us life (e.g. writing, going on a run). Read about how one mom moved past the shame she felt and got in touch with her authentic self again. Not sure who you really are and how you can find your authentic self? Here are 20 helpful tips on authenticity.
3. Assess your existing relationships:
Are there certain relationships that you would like to try going deeper with? Ask yourself, ‘Can this person be the kind of close friend that I would like to get to know or can depend on?’ Choose one or two (or more, whatever you feel is manageable) and reach out. If there isn’t anyone in your current friend circle, maybe look for new friends by trying something new. While that may be difficult with physical distancing, perhaps there is a local group with similar interests you can join online, or volunteer programs that are running even with COVID-19 restrictions. In some cases, you may need to initiate more to begin with. Then have patience and see where the friendship goes. Remember that relationships take time to develop. Your new friend may have a full plate already but as you get to know each other better, can make time for you.
4. Keep lines of communication open with your partner:
Relationships can be tricky to begin with. Add pandemic restrictions and it can be even trickier, whether you are a couple living together, dating long-distance, navigating custody, married and expecting… everything is harder if communication isn’t clear. For some couples this can be a time to strengthen their relationship and communication skills, for others it has been a more stressful time.
Our research has shown that the quality of partner support is one of the most telling factors for a mom’s emotional wellbeing both during pregnancy and in postpartum. One way to help a struggling couple is to make sure both parents are getting the support they need. Some men are suffering too from loneliness. Some new dads may find it hard to adjust to fatherhood in normal situations, but with quarantine and the possibility of a layoff, this is even harder. It’s important to care for a new dad’s mental health as it helps everyone involved – dad, mom, baby. If you think your partner may be suffering from depression, here are some signs to watch for, and some ways to help a new dad cope.
Getting Help for Your Emotional Wellbeing
Your emotional health is more important now than ever – yes, even during the busy season of transitioning into parenthood. If you find your struggles with loneliness is tipping into anxiety and depression, please ask for help. There is no shame in getting help, and is in fact, an act of courage.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
- Canadian Women’s Foundation:
List of shelters and services divided by geographical location for women at risk of assault, abuse or sexual violence.
- Canada Suicide Prevention Service:
The Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available 24/7 for phone calls and 4pm to 12am ET for text messaging. Call 1-833-456-4566 or text ‘Start’ to 45645.
- Women looking for a list of mental health helplines, suicide hotlines, and depression advice centers listed by country can click here.
- COVID-19 Mental Health Resources
 Richard E. Cytowic M.D., 01/22/2020, “Does Loneliness Eat at You? Social Media MayBe to Blame.” Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-fallible-mind/202001/does-loneliness-eat-you-screen-media-may-be-blame
 Neil Howe, 05/03/2019, “Millennials and the Loneliness Epidemic.” Forbeshttps://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2019/05/03/millennials-and-the-loneliness-epidemic/#7ac1325e7676
 Hannah Rose LCPC, 08/21/2019, “Why Am I So Lonely? Being alone and feeling lonely are two different experiences.’ Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/working-through-shame/201908/why-am-i-so-lonely
 Keyonna Summers, 04/22/2020, “Love Under Lockdown: How Couples Can Cope During COVID-10,” University of Nevada, Las Vegas – News Center https://www.unlv.edu/news/release/love-under-lockdown-how-couples-can-cope-during-covid-19
 Suzy Weiss, 03/18/2020, “How to handle coronavirus tension with relationships and roommates,” New York Posthttps://nypost.com/2020/03/18/how-to-handle-coronavirus-tension-with-relationships-and-roommates/