Tags Posts tagged with "Opinion"

Opinion

Mockingbird. Photo from Unsplash

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is the time of year when our five senses go into overdrive. Let me enumerate. In no particular order of delight, I’ll start with sound.

The birdsong is sometimes loud enough to provide dance music at a wedding. There are all kinds of musical bars put forth: crooning, warbling, shrieking, hooting, gurgling. There is an incredible range of notes, from high soprano and countertenor to tenor and baritone, even bass. Sometimes the birds seem to be singing in a chorus, other times at counterpoint. If your bedroom window is open, they can wake you up at first light. There can be many birds in the trees or there may just be one mockingbird pretending to be an entire flock. 

The sight of the birds is as much a treat as the sounds, if you can spot them among the leaves. They can range from a nondescript small brown chick, who nonetheless utters the most melodious songs, to crimson or orange-breasted or blue-tailed or grandly multi-colored varieties of different sizes and shapes that perch briefly on the porch railing or snack on the front lawn. They can seem the model of purpose as they deliver food to the open beaks of their newly hatched offspring or of patience as they sit quietly atop the eggs and wait for the next generation to appear.

Speaking of sight, we go from the early purple of crocuses and joyful yellow of forsythia and daffodils to the lush pink of dogwood and cherry blossoms to the deep red of tulips and azaleas. All of that artwork is provided against a bright green backdrop of new leaves on the bushes and luxuriant attire for the tree limbs. Branches on either side of the road unite in the air overhead, creating sun-dappled tunnels as we drive the back-way routes.

The waves at the beaches are calm now, climbing the sand with rhythmic whispers, and the seagulls fly low, looking for a fish dinner in the clear blue water. Too soon, there will be motor boats and jet skis on the harbors and lawn mowers and leaf blowers keeping the landscape orderly — but not yet. The magic and peace of early spring are still, however briefly, with us to be treasured.

The smells at the beach of salt in the air and blossom-scent on the breezes are intoxicating harbingers of the season. Lilacs, that always know when it is Mother’s Day, perfume the neighborhood. And among us humans, there are always those early-bird few who fire up the grill and begin to barbeque on a sunny weekend afternoon. If we play our cards right, we might be invited to share in this primitive treat. The taste is so much better than anything cooked indoors.

Taste is tantalized by early fresh fruit, like locally grown strawberries, and by vegetables like baby asparagus and snow peas. Several different kinds of dark green lettuces are also ready for dining early in the spring.

As for touch, there is the sweetness of a gentle breeze, reduced on a rare spring day from a stern wind to a caress against the cheek. It carries with it the promise of a summer day and the seduction of a summer night.

Add to all of that, the temperature in spring can reach a universally perfect range. Now I know some people like it hot, really hot, even up in the 90s when they can happily sweat. And some people like it cold, even freezing, during which time they can feel energized and stimulated to ski and ice skate. But all humans feel comfortable moving about in a temperature of 75 degrees. Knowing that could be found most months in San Diego almost prompted my husband and me to move there some 50 years ago. Of course, there were other things to consider, and we ultimately moved to Long Island.

Not for a moment do I have any regrets. My five senses are glad we live here.

Photo courtesy of SCCC

Education prepares people for the future, helps them achieve their goals and increases their odds of living a life where they not only survive, but thrive.

As blues musician B.B. King is famously quoted as saying, “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

President Joe Biden (D) gets that concept, and last week he asked Congress to enact legislation that would allow Americans to attend community colleges for free. Under the American Families Plan, $109 billion would be slated to make two years of community college free for all students. There would also be an $85 billion investment for expanding federal Pell Grants, which is awarded to undergraduate students who display financial need and have not earned a degree. This is one important way to help our young people who are unprepared for the workforce after high school.

For many, a community college has given them an advantage that they may not have had otherwise. From those whose grades were less than ideal in high school to those whose can’t afford to attend a four-year university or are undecided on what they want to do with their lives, a community college provides a stepping stone that is local and affordable for most. 

Here at TBR all three of our current editors attended Suffolk County Community College, which in turn paved the way to making obtaining bachelor’s degrees at other institutions more manageable.

According to the website joebiden.com, approximately six out of 10 jobs require education beyond a high school diploma. To succeed in a world where the economy is globalized and technology driven, people are going to need more than 12 years of education.

The website also goes on to say that one can do a lot with an associate degree. 

“Today in the United States there are an estimated 30 million quality jobs, with an average salary of $55,000, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree,” according to the site.

Free college tuition for community colleges would mean even more young people being able to achieve the American Dream. It can also keep college-aged students in the area, frequenting local stores, which stimulates the local economy. And in the long term, with less student debt to pay, it may increase the odds of people staying on Long Island and settling down.

Two years can make a difference and transform a life. Our sincere hope is that Congress will take this proposal from the president seriously.

At the same time, we hope a better look is taken at our current public school system in America. Even before the pandemic, American children were not receiving an equal education from state to state as many schools are funded through local taxes. The more affluent an area a person lives in, the better the education tends to be. Also, there is a need for more pre-K classes across the country to provide children a head start in learning, both academically and socially. Most of all, everybody should be required to complete 12th grade and not be able to drop out of school at 16.

The education system in the U.S. needs a lot of fine-tuning. Let’s start by providing high school graduates a chance to get the skills they need in today’s competitive world.

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Strange as it may seem, I always wanted to be a mother. Even before I was in elementary school, I remember hoping someday to be a mother. Thinking back on my early years, I was really more of a tomboy, playing stoop ball and stick ball on the block with the other kids. I did have one doll that I loved. It was quite a progressive doll for its time. I could give it a bottle, and it would subsequently pee. My mother would make sure the baby bottle that had come with the doll was filled with water and not milk. But other than that, I wasn’t particularly given to imaginative girly games like playing house or cooking. I just knew that when I grew up, I wanted to be, among other pursuits, a mother. The idea, of loving a child, teaching a child, nurturing a child, made me happy.

Then I grew up, married a man who also loved the prospect of having a child, and in a short time, we had three. That is, we had three boys within four years and two days. Ever hear the old adage, be careful what you wish for? On the one hand, I adored my boys. I fed them, bathed them, dressed them, played with them and hugged them a lot. On the other hand, I well remember a moment when I sat at the kitchen table, my head down on the crook of my arm, and cried. The three of them were screaming “Mommy!” and chasing each other around my legs with two of them needing diapers changed at the same time. There were dishes in the sink, the next batch of dirty laundry was behind me in a pile, waiting to be put into the overworked washing machine, I had not had a chance yet to change out of my nightgown, and I was seriously doubting I would ever get out of the kitchen alive. This from someone who was never much for crying except in sad movies.

They were exceptionally good communicators. I was convinced that they caucused every night before bedtime and arranged for each to wake me up during the night with a loud scream at a different time. One of my neighbors, catching sight of me putting out the garbage one morning, commented to another neighbor that he had never seen anyone look so tired. Yup, that was me.

But then there was the other side of the experience. They got a little older, made friends who, it seemed, always lived at the farthest reaches of the district, and of course I drove them frequently to play dates. It gave me a chance to meet lots of other mothers. I drove them to weekly music lessons, which enabled them to join the school bands and orchestras. We proudly attended their initially cacophonous concerts that over the years turned into remarkably good classical music and jazz performances. They played baseball, joined the swim team and the tennis team, and we thoroughly enjoyed cheering each at bat, each match, each meet, even if we sometimes melted in the heat or froze in the cold.

Their academic efforts gave us great satisfaction. They studied diligently and sometimes won contests and awards, which gave us vicarious joy. Of less satisfaction would be a trip to meet with the teacher for discussion of any less than perfect behavior.

Then it was prom time. And suddenly, for it seemed sudden, they stood before us in tuxedos, with young women on their arms who they were squiring to the dance. They were all grown up. It was the signal that they would shortly be leaving, eagerly leaving the nest and their parents behind. Yes, they came back regularly from college to have their laundry done and for some good meals. And I like to think for some great hugs. But they were off now, busy with their exciting lives, developing their careers, finding the women they would marry. And the best prize: grandchildren.

How lucky I am that my wish came true.

Photo by Pixabay

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I have two friends whose sons are contemplating important choices. The first son, Matt, is trying to decide where to attend college.

He has gained admission to two elite schools. He can’t go wrong, as his parents have told him repeatedly, with either choice. Making this decision in a normal year would be hard. In a pandemic year, it’s almost impossible.

Matt can’t stay over at each school for a weekend or even attend a few classes. He can’t get much of a feeling for the “vibe” of the school because he can’t go into most of the buildings, even with a mask and with his letter of admission.

He can compare the national rankings from U.S. News and World Report, check college guides, talk with his guidance counselor, chat with graduates from his high school who attend each school and stroll around each campus. 

He can’t, however, fully try on the school, the way he might a tailored suit. Masks cover the faces of most of the people at each school, which makes it impossible to search for smiles on the faces of his potential future classmates.

He recently found himself leaning toward school A. The same day, his father spoke with a friend of his whose daughter was attending school B.

His father showed a picture of his friend’s daughter to Matt. The friend’s attractive daughter caused Matt to rethink his tentative decision.

That brings me to my other friend’s son, Eric. In his mid-20s, Eric has been caught in the same social world that has limited the options for everyone else.

Eric has been dating a woman for over two years and is considering the future of the relationship. He is not sure whether it’s the appropriate time to consider living together or getting married.

Eric is incredibly attached to his girlfriend, who has been one of the few people he sees regularly in real life during the pandemic.

Eric is not sure how long this altered reality, in which he works from home, speaks with family and friends virtually most of the time, and sees his girlfriend during his limited social hours, will last. In the meantime, he’d like something in his life to move forward.

Matt and Eric are weighing their options. For Matt, the choice of college may well come down to the last picture of another student he sees before he pushes a button.

Choosing a college can, and likely should, involve more significant factors. Then again, both of the colleges line up so well that he is likely to have a similar experience, albeit with different people around him, at each school.

Eric’s decision, however, isn’t so interchangeable. It involves a leap of faith that those of us who are married have made that relies on our own criteria. We can consult family, friends, and counselors as we weigh the pros and cons, but, ultimately, the responsibility and opportunity rest with us.

Coming up with his own questions and his own scale to evaluate the relationship is challenging, particularly when everything seems somewhere between good and great right now. He can’t possibly know what life will look like in two, five, 10 or 20 years from now.

I don’t envy either Matt or Eric as they contemplate these decisions. I do, however, agree with Matt’s parents: he can’t go wrong. For Eric, the decision has more significant longer-term ramifications and likely reflects variables that are difficult to imagine, particularly amid the uncertainty of the present.

METRO photo
Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

Would you like to be different? Would you like to change your personality? Perhaps you would like to be more extroverted. Or more open to new experiences. Or even just more organized. Well, thanks to the pandemic, here is your chance. 

People can and do successfully change their personalities even as adults. Now we are about to emerge from the isolation of lockdown and quarantine and rejoin the larger world. The stage is set for a new you. But this transformation will take work. To start, one could embrace the “As If Principle,” proposed by Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire in England. This would require one to behave as if one were already that different person, and after a time, the new behavior and the person would sync. Famously, that is the story the debonair Cary Grant told of his early life, which started on the Bristol docks as Archie Leach and wound up at the pinnacle in Hollywood. “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me,” Grant said, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian.

An article in the April 11 issue of The New York Times took up this subject. Headlined, “You Can Be a New You After the Pandemic,” written by Olga Khazan, the story states the following. “Researchers have found that adults can change the five traits that make up personality — extroversion, openness to experience, emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness — within just a few months.” 

Another psychology professor, this one at Columbia University, asserts a similar theme. Geraldine Downey, who studies social rejection, has found that “socially excluded people who want to become part of a group are better off if they assume that other people will like them. They should behave as if they are the popular kid. Getting into social interactions expecting the worst, as many socially anxious people do, tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” In another example of change, “people were able to become more extroverted or conscientious in four months just by listing the ways they’d like to change and what steps they would take to get there,” according to the NYT article. If one wants to be more outgoing, one can make a list of upcoming events in which to interact or persons to call for lunches, and after enough such efforts, the act becomes natural.

It can help in this transformation to see a therapist, research recommends. One such example described a person with neuroticism, “a trait responsible for anxiety and rumination.” After a short burst of therapy, in which the “warm, comforting presence” of a therapist encouraged the idea that the client is a valued person, neuroticism receded, and the studies showed the effect lasted for at least a year.

But not everyone can afford a therapist. Mirjam Stieger, a postdoctoral researcher at Brandeis University, and her colleagues developed an app that “reminded people to perform small tasks to help tweak their personalities, like “talk to a stranger when you go grocery shopping,” to prompt extroversion. The app then asks them if they had done that. According to the study, after three months, the change had stuck.

Agreeableness, by the way, involves “greater empathy and concern for others.” And so, being agreeable after this pandemic could mean being gentler toward one another. We now know, for example, how much essential workers sacrificed during the pandemic, many even their lives. That would suggest greater kindness and patience toward someone who, during the pre-pandemic, might just have been dismissed as annoying. We don’t know what exactly has been that person’s recent experience. At least that can be a conscious thought to modify behavior in what otherwise might have been a contentious situation.

For those who wish to change or live differently, as the NYT article says, “your personality is more like a sand dune than a stone.”

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

About 16 years ago, I stood on the warning track and held my then one-year old son high in my arms above the blue, outfield fence in right center field of the old Yankee Stadium. We asked him to extend his glove as if he had leapt in the air to catch a home run.

Now, as he prepares to graduate from high school, my wife and I are pondering the end of an era filled with the numerous triumphs and challenges of youth sports.

In the last few weeks, while we have awaited the time outs, batting glove adjustments, pauses to look for signs from the catcher, and warm up tosses by each pitcher, we have been replaying our own montage from his years on a baseball field.

A few years after his Yankee Stadium debut, our son donned a baggy uniform that hung from his slight four-year old frame, standing with his left arm out, hoping to catch a ball I tossed with a slight arc toward him.

As the years advanced, his skill set and intensity for the game grew more rapidly than the developmental rules of the sport.

Station-to-station baseball was an abomination for him. When he was six, he caught a ball at shortstop, tagged the runner jogging from second and stepped on third for, what he considered, an unassisted triple play. He tossed the ball to the mound and jogged off the field, only to hear that everyone hadn’t batted so he had to stay on the field. I can still see the disappointed look on his face as all the runners moved to the next base.

Every moment wasn’t athletic heaven. He struggled to find the strike zone when he was pitching, swung and missed at pitches he knew he could hit and suffered through the inconsistent coaching and advice of everyone from his father to the parents of his teammates to semi-professionals eager to give back to the community.

Despite playing a game of failure, he continued to venture to fields close and far for another opportunity to compete, get some exercise and join teammates who have become long-time friends.

He learned how to pick up his friends after their moment in the spotlight didn’t end the way they wanted.

He took us to places way off a tour guide’s map of the eastern United States, as we drove from single traffic-light towns, with their one gas station and one diner, all the way up to Cooperstown.

We paced along frigid sidelines, hoping darkness or snow would grant us a reprieve from frozen bleachers and numb toes. We drove on roads in which the car thermometer read 113 degrees.

When he was old enough, he stood on a 90-foot diamond, looking from third to first as if he needed binoculars to see his teammate and a strong wind to help his throw reach the target.

As he got taller and stronger, the distance became more manageable. 

As parents, we made our share of errors on the sidelines and in the stands. While we told him it was the effort that mattered, not the result, he could see the joy in our faces after a win and the slumped shoulders after a tough loss.

While he’ll undoubtedly play other games down the road, that road won’t be as close as the ones we’ve traveled together. 

In a recent game, our son raced back and caught a ball against the wall, in a place on the field similar to the one where he extended his tiny glove at Yankee Stadium. We have shared such a long and inspired journey between those two mirrored moments.

METRO photo

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Why, if there are 9,700,000 Americans looking for work now, some six percent of our population, are there so many signs outside businesses seeking helpers? Granted, many of those signs are in front of restaurants looking for waiters and shops needing salespeople, service industries in the main, but why the disconnect? And this is not just a regional problem but one in large cities like New York, villages like ours, as discussed at a recent local chamber of commerce meeting, and even rural communities. 

The situation could have some unwelcome consequences as the economy tries to recover. “It could act as a brake on growth and cause unnecessary business failures, long lines at remaining businesses and rising prices,” according to an article in last Saturday’s The New York Times, entitled “Businesses Challenged to Fill Jobs.”

The story, written by Neil Irwin, goes on to offer some possible answers. First is the suggestion that benefits are too generous. “The government is making it easy for people to stay home and get paid. You can’t really blame them much. But it means we have hours to fill and no one who wants to work.” That’s a quote from a pub owner in upstate Baldwinsville, New York, that appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard and was reprinted in the NYT. 

Some people can make as much or more, thanks to the expanded weekly unemployment payments and the various stimulus cash that has been delivered by the government, at least for awhile. With the reawakening of restaurants and services now, there are more jobs than applicants, which doesn’t drive workers to seek work, compared to the opposite, when the pandemic first hit and jobs were disappearing. The recipients of the cash are doing what economists hoped they would do: spending it. That encourages businesses to reopen, but without enough help. Hence the problem. But it may cure itself when expanded benefits run out in September.

There are other reasons workers may not be inclined to rush back into the workforce. Some, especially those with public-facing jobs, may be afraid of getting sick themselves or perhaps bringing the virus home to vulnerable family members. There does seem to be a relationship between vaccinations of people and a rise in their employment rate, according to the NYT. Researchers have found that a “10-percentage-point increase in those fully vaccinated results in a 1.1 percentage-point increase in their employment.” It would make sense that vaccinated people are more comfortable serving the public.

Here is another possible explanation for the labor shortage. Some of the workers are still needed at home, especially women who might be caring for children, some taking classes remotely, or elderly members of their family. The Times goes on to quote a survey indicating that 6,300,000 million people “were not working because of a need to care for a child not in a school or day care center; and a further 2,100,000 were caring for an older person.” Many of those people, especially women, have disappeared from the rolls of the unemployed and are not even counted any longer. The answer here, as in everywhere else, is in conquering the virus and establishing herd immunity so schools and day care centers can open.

For those businesses that have thrived during the pandemic and have been able to raise the wages they pay workers, like Amazon or construction companies, there is less of a supply problem. But those businesses take away potential workers from industries like restaurants, with thin profit margins. And those workers may not return if they have found better berths for themselves elsewhere.

These issues will sort themselves out eventually, as public health improves and supply-and-demand comes to equilibrium. But one thing is certain. The return to any sort of “normal” will not happen without bumps in the road.

by -
0 673
Stock photo

Recently I was in New Jersey with my former college roommates. 

We had been Zooming and planning to get together for months. The yearbook came out and we laughed over it. We tried a yoga pose to alleviate back pain, discussed the kids and uses of turmeric. 

We moved to the subject of CBD oil, and dispensaries, when “Sheila” handed us each a small, light weight, paper package.

The next day, retelling this to my 22-year-old, she surmised that, as early 80s college grads, the package likely contained something illicit. 

The envelope, however, contained compressed laundry detergent sheets. 

I was cautiously impressed. My roomie-tribe had vowed decades prior to reject plastic packing when possible. 

The envelope label read in part, “eco-friendly, cruelty-free” and “biodegradable anionic and non-anionic surfactants.”

 To this point I had used powder detergent. I buy the cardboard boxes locally and they do nicely in the outdoor fire pit when empty.

Once home, I gave my 20-year-old Kenmore a whirl. The sheets worked well in both cold and hot washes. 

My kid said they are easy to use. The thin 6 by 10-inch, lightweight envelope takes up minuscule space in the cabinet and the perforated sheets will do 60 loads. 

I foresee fewer shopping trips for me, fewer transport ships and trucks and a reduction in carbon emissions. 

The efficiency in cold water is especially important, I think. Globally, cold water is what humans have greatest access to. 

E.B. White once wrote, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 

I suffer the same affliction. When shopping, my first thought, after “How many carbs?” is, “How big a carbon footprint?” Thus, I began deeper research. I was curious about the manufacturing process of the emerging hydrate-at-home cleaners if I am to use them. 

As a Long Islander I am not always convinced that dirt is worse than harsh chemicals. Dirt and I are not so different.

Nutrients for humans come from food directly or indirectly through plants grown in soil. If a cleaner breaks down dirt, it breaks me down on some level as well, no? 

What I found is, although all forms of laundry detergent manufacturers have, in response to consumers, removed most phosphates, other substances known to pollute the environment remain. 

With regard to packaging, most people I know are putting plastic into the recycle bin. 

A quick survey of friends in Brookhaven who use liquid detergent, revealed that half had purchased plastic laundry jugs stamped with an HDPE ‘2’ symbol. 

The other half either found no recycle number stamped on the plastic at all, which I found alarming, or, the symbol was high. Not in a good way. 

In either case, these cannot be recycled in Brookhaven. I found one of my own shampoo bottles cannot be recycled. 

Although I have found vegan laundry sheets, cleaning action and chemical ingredients seem equal.  

The choice then for me, is either heavy thermal energy use at the front-end drying process for sheets or on the back end with disposal and transport of plastic jugs. 

After discussion with the family, we are abandoning boxes of powder for laundry sheets. I will throw the envelope in the chiminea when it is empty.  

On a personal level, my goal will be to do fewer loads of laundry and wash my hair less often. You’ll likely find me in dirty jeans and a bandanna covering my hair — flashback to senior year.

Joan Nickeson is an active member of the PJS/Terryville community and community liaison to the PJS/T Chamber of Commerce.

Pixabay image

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Virtually everyone seems to agree that when the pandemic is finally over, life will not be the same as it was pre-COVID-19. Prominent among the changes will be some degree of working remotely. Before the virus descended, requests to work from home at least part of the week were typically refused by employers. Enter “Zoom” in lock-step with the pathogen.

Technically, Zoom was among us before the virus but only a small segment of the population used the platform. Once we were restrained to our homes, we laypeople discovered how easy and useful it was “to Zoom,” and the name became a verb, much like Xerox or Google. So certainly Zooming will remain with us for a long time to come. But what are its unintended consequences?

For one, there is the phrase that has now entered the English language: Zoom fatigue. We, who are on Zoom regularly and for long periods, understand this term. According to an article in National Geographic, published this past Tuesday and written by Theresa Machemer, new research offers data on this phenomenon to confirm our perceived discomfort.

Here are some interesting bits of information. On average, women report 13.8 percent more Zoom fatigue than men. Here is more: besides long days full of calls with few breaks that are the culprits, the self-view video, the crowd of faces on the screen, the expectation to stay in view of the camera, and the lack of nonverbal cues all tax the brain. I would add to that the lag between what is said and its transmission is tiring for the eyes and frustrating to the point of encouraging us to talk louder, which too is tiring.

OK, so we can agree that remote working has its perks: “no commutes, flexibility to handle household tasks, and easy access to conferences for all workers, including those with disabilities.” To an extent, we can now live where we want to live, and we can attend class even if the school shuts down due to an emergency or natural disaster. (No more snow days, sorry.) 

So here is what the scientists who specialize in the interactions between humans and technology developed, according to National Geographic. They created a tool to measure fatigue, called the Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale, or ZEF. They then used this in large surveys to measure that fatigue, in addition to how long each person spends on Zoom and demographics. Here are four factors that affect teleworkers.

The “lack of nonverbal cues is stressful because people cannot naturally convey or interpret gestures and body language when just their colleagues’ shoulders and heads are visible.” That presents a constant struggle to the viewer for proper communication.

Here is another, perhaps surprising response. “During video calls, people report feeling trapped in one spot so they can stay within view of the webcam.” As a result, they feel stressed, according to the researchers. Further, the default window, in which users see themselves constantly, can cause “mirror anxiety,” a self-consciousness that can result in distraction and has been linked to depression. 

Finally, there is something termed “hypergaze,” in which the viewer feels that the other person or people on the call are staring at them, their faces appearing so near and so intense as to cause discomfort for the brain.

The survey confirmed that women who spend more time in meetings, with shorter breaks between them than men, reported greater mirror anxiety and felt more trapped by their video calls.

How to cope: use a standing desk to feel less trapped; an orange filter on the screen may reduce eye strain; take at least ten minute breaks between video calls; ask conferencing companies to limit the maximum display size of heads on the screen; use some form of hybrid scheduling for home-office work.

I cannot let this subject go, however, without thanking the tech companies for making it possible for me to “see” my family members during this separation of more than a year. It has kept us connected and sane.

 

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

After a year filled with various kinds of losses in 2020, many residents are coping with emotional burdens, including a calendar filled with anniversaries of painful memories.

Called the anniversary effect, people who have been grieving losses are approaching and, in some cases have passed, the one year anniversary of the death of a family member, the last time they saw a family member in person, or the day they dropped a friend who couldn’t breathe off at a hospital.

“It’s good to acknowledge an anniversary is coming up,” said Mandi Zucker, a licensed social worker with a certificate in grief recovery and in thanatology, which is the study of death and dying. Those who feel comfortable offering their support might want to ask someone who is grieving what they are doing, if they have any plans and how they might spend the day.

Zucker, who is the founder of Inner-Harbor, a center that helps young adults who are grieving, cautioned that reaching out to someone only as an anniversary approaches might backfire.

If the anniversary is the only time someone reaches out, “that might feel disingenuous,” Zucker cautioned. People who are grieving might wonder “where you’ve been for the past year, if you are reaching out as if the other 364 days have not been difficult.”

People eager to provide support to the many residents who are dealing with the symptoms and after effects of grief should first make sure they are comfortable enough with their own lives to respond to their family and friends.

“Don’t ask if you’re not ready to hear it,” Zucker suggested. “If you’re going through something yourself and you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time, don’t ask.”

Support often takes the form of listening, rather than interrupting or talking. Zucker suggests people encourage those who are grieving to speak, without interrupting them, sharing their own anecdotes or judging them.

While it might not sound like long, two minutes is considerably longer than most people can offer their thoughts and feelings, as others typically interrupt well before then.

“There is nothing we can say that’ll fix” grief, Zucker said. “Our goal to be supportive is to let them say more. When you’re talking with them, think about why you are talking.”

Commenting on someone’s experience, by acknowledging that their description sounds sad, scary or painful, gives them an opening to continue to share.

When someone says, “It’s been rough with COVID,” almost everyone can offer their own experiences with the virus, the losses of freedom, and opportunity that they’ve felt, she said. Even though a supporter might want to share their experience to relate, the person who is grieving is likely better off having an opening to continue to share and experience their feelings, Zucker suggested.

Sometimes, just allowing the person to tell you to go away gives people control over a life that seems out of control.

“You can give them space, [but] you can also send an email or text saying that you are still thinking about them,” Zucker said. “You don’t have to imply that they must respond.”

Zucker is a fan of handwritten notes, which provide a material connection when someone doesn’t feel like talking, but can see a physical reminder of their connection to others.

If people notice that someone who is grieving isn’t getting dressed or showering, they can comment on it, letting them “know you see them.”

Zucker has a contrary view to the comment people often receive about being strong. For her, people show strength by being vulnerable, not by masking their feelings.

People who might be experiencing grief might also need to diversify their sources of support and strength. That could include meditating or going for walks.