A Pastoral Note to One-Person Households in a Time of Physical Distancing

A person sitting in a window reading

I’m thinking of so many Unitarian Universalists I know who live alone. I'm remembering the times I lived alone and really feeling a lot of compassion for everyone for whom "physical distancing" means being without the physical presence of other humans. I see you. I care about you. I love you. I know how easy it would be for me to slip into depression and not take good care of myself. So, here are some reminders of things you already know and some suggestions I've seen.

Please take care of yourselves. You matter. You are loved.


We all need connection now. Creating a web of caring connection across distance is the ministry of your congregation right now. And you have gifts to offer. We need the gifts you offer!

Within Your Congregation

  • Reach out to parents and ask how you can help. Maybe you can be one of the adults who reaches out regularly over video chat. Toddlers find grownups they know singing silly songs and doing finger plays fascinating. Preschools like to be read to—and to tell you all about whatever they love. Have them do “show and tell” for you! Elementary age children can read to you. And you can read them a chapter book one chapter a day. Offer to listen to kids’ practice their instrument. End each call with a suggestion for next time: art, jokes, a song. More ideas (link) If you can’t do video chat, make phone calls and send mail!

  • Help your congregation create a network of buddies so those who are alone like you have someone to call every day. Imagine what a relief it would be for your minister to know everyone was talking to someone every day and someone would be able to alert the minister if someone is spiraling into depression or getting sick?

  • I know it may seem like your friends with a partner or children at home have someone to keep them company, but remember they’re all likely to get very crabby with each other soon if they aren't already. Your calls and outreach will provide such a needed connection.

  • If you have a UU small group ministry take it online and if you don't have one--start one! Meeting on video to share a chalice lighting, check in, inspirational readings, and share reflection time together is one of the group spiritual practices that works well online. It’s possible to do this over the phone if you are unable to use zoom.

And Beyond

  • Keep up your connections with out of town friends and family. Create a plan to stay in touch--more often than usual. It can help to set dates so you know you will connect.

  • Find friends who want to play online games with you!

  • If you can spend time on video with people you love--it really can help to see people. Laugh. Play a game like Pictionary​. Just keep each other company while you eat dinner.

Set up Your Own Buddy​

Find someone you can check in with daily and be there for each other.

  • Exchange doctor and family contact information in case something happens.

  • Talk about what should happen if either of you get sick.

  • Talk about how you feel about being isolated. If you have tendencies to anxiety or depression, tell your buddy what will be helpful for you to hear if this happens.

  • When you check in, be sure to touch base on the basics like eating, sleeping, fresh air, exercise and drinking water. When life is stressful, sometimes we forget to do the things that help keep us stable and having someone remind us helps. None of us is perfect at self-care!

Take Care of Yourself Emotionally and Spiritually​

  • Talk to the trees. If you can, get outside every day.

  • Garden: Dirt is good for our mental health!

  • You can walk or roll, talk to your neighbor from the sidewalk. Just stay 6’ away from people--and wash your hands and face when you get home.

  • Keep a routine. Routines help us feel grounded and safer. But, be flexible too. Everything in moderation.

  • If you’re working from home, don’t work all the time! And don’t spend the rest of the time glued to the news. Make time for movies, hobbies, and fun too.

  • Keep up your spiritual practice. Or start one. If there are ways you can experience this as a kind of retreat, even if unchosen, you may find more gifts.

You are a gift and a blessing. You have a gift to offer the world and your community now. Stay in touch!

About the Author

Evin Carvill Ziemer

Evin serves as the Developmental Lead for the New England Region. Evin holds a Masters of Divinity from Earlham School of Religion and Bachelor of Arts from Carleton College.

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