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Posted in Family and Friends | October 2014

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

long distance relationships
At some point in our lives, we may find ourselves physically separated from loved ones. Going away to school, choosing to live in a city you’ve always dreamed of, or moving across the country for a job opportunity can make staying connected to your family and offering them support during difficult times a challenge. Moving away from home and family isn’t something anyone takes lightly, but sometimes life requires us to make big leaps. The secret is finding ways to close the distance even when you’re still far apart.

Modern Love Long Distance has some fantastic suggestions for ways to maintain those close bonds when you’re far away.

  • Make an effort to stay in touch. The fact is, the onus is often on the person who left to stay in contact with the ones left behind. People are resilient, and find ways to carry on in the presence of loss, so reach out to family and friends regularly in order to continue being an important part of their lives.
  • Make your life an open book. You’ll still be able to conjure up a clear picture of home when you’re no longer there, but your family and friends won’t know what your life looks like anymore. Share it with them by sending pictures, stories and videos that give them a glimpse into what your new life is like. You might even consider starting a blog to keep everyone up to date on your comings and goings.
  • Talk, talk, talk. Emails, texts, blogs and videos are great, but technology can’t replace the comfort and connection you get from talking directly to someone you love. Pick up the phone and call regularly.
  • Come home. It may not be easy to visit as often as you or your family would like, but make visiting a priority and budget for trips back home. There’s nothing better for building relationships than being within hugging distance.

If you’re the parent of a child who has gone off to college or university, the separation can be hard at times. It can also be difficult to know how much contact you should make with your child, since those first fledgling steps are critical for building independence and self confidence. But don’t be afraid to stay connected—they still need and want your presence in their lives.

Sending regular emails is a simple way to touch base with college students. Just don’t expect to get a 12-page essay in return—or even a timely response. Know that reaching out to stay in touch matters and is appreciated. Of course an old-fashioned, handwritten letter is a cozy and meaningful way to bridge the distance gap too, and a monthly care package filled with treats from home is the next best thing to a big bear hug from mom or dad. Visit Family Education for a list of the top 10 items to put in a collage care package.

The miles may seem even greater as our loved ones age and require more hands-on care that we can’t provide from a distance. But there are still ways to support aging parents and relatives when we’re not physically with them:

  • Phone home. One of the most important things to do is to stay in touch regularly. Make time to check in by phone a few times a week, or daily if possible. If you’re speaking with your parent regularly, you may be able to tell if there are any subtle changes in mood or manner that might indicate concern. Talking often will also help you both to feel more emotionally connected and close.
  • Arrange for care. Even if you can’t be right there to lend a hand yourself, you can always help out by arranging for additional home care (hiring aides and nurses or a cleaning service, for example). If possible, you can even pitch in and help pay for some of these additional services to ease the financial burden on your aging relative.
  • Research. If there are family members who live closer who are responsible for day-to-day care, offer to help out by doing any necessary legal or medical research that might help your relative or ease the burden on the primary caregiver.
  • Ask. If you’re feeling like you’re not doing enough or don’t know what else you can do, just ask. Your relative or their caregiver may be able to suggest useful ways you can help from afar.

You only have one big, beautiful life and being happy and fulfilled has to be a priority. If traveling the world is part of that plan, it doesn’t mean you can’t still stay connected to the ones you’ve left behind in a very real and meaningful way.

For more information about long-distance caregiving, visit the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer Society of Canada.

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