Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Family and the Pandemic


In the last eight months or so we’ve all had an extreme case of separation, separation from our extended families, our friends, our jobs, and a way of life where we felt (more) carefree. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and it looks like, unfortunately, it’s going to continue interrupting life as we wish it would be for a while yet.

 For years I watched some of my extended family deal with their military children overseas and wondered how they could contend with that time and distance separating them. My children and their spouses live within a few hours from where we live, all four are in first-response and health/wellness, and I consider myself lucky having seen each of them (in person) two or three times each since February.

 So how have we coped? It really hasn’t been easy. Fortunately all of our immediate family and most of our extended family have gotten used to various visual and audio means of communication; of course there have been phone calls and emails as well. We watched, via the power of the internet, a niece get married, and a few months later a nephew tied the knot. We enjoyed a multi-household abbreviated Passover Seder together via ZOOM, and our daughter and son-in-law broke the Yom Kippur fast with us through the same online app.

 And we’ve had the opportunity to attend community board meetings and a few interesting seminars. I even got to attend my first ever Romance Writers’ Conference virtually! So we’ve had interaction beyond the occasional trips to the supermarket (where I feel like a bandit adorned with my mask!) and our routine doctor visits which have graduated from tele-visits to the office. With both of us retired, we haven’t had to deal with routine office work; except for the first-responders in our family, most of our working relatives have been working from home — we’re lucky in that several of our extended family have been able to maintain at least some of their employment.

 I can’t help but think back to my childhood and wonder how we would have survived without so many ways to virtually interact, or how my folks would have dealt with the concept of home-schooling my sister and me without online learning. How did folks and families survive the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic? Today in 2020 the separation stings… but the lack of communication venues more than 100-years before was so much less than today. I can’t even imagine. Right now I just want to hug my kids.

 And yet, even with all of our advances, so many of us are battling with depression and feelings of isolation. Even when we are outside, we can’t come near others, many grocery stores still have six-foot reminders on the floor. When we say hello to someone, we can’t even see their mouths because of our masks. I certainly am NOT advocating that we do not use masks or social distancing, more than 225-thousand deaths prove that we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones. But even when we are near others, the feelings of loneliness are enforced. Many of the things we used to do for enjoyment and socializing are now taboo, or at least severely limited… no movie theatres, limited restaurants, or other leisure activities. Everyday we seem to hear of another business closing permanently because they couldn’t survive the necessary shutdowns. It’s just sad.

 As we are heading into the holiday season we’re once again trying to juggle. Big family dinners are probably not going to happen; even if we feel safe enough to have some family together, we need to be wary of including some who might be quite vulnerable. Maybe we’ll need to turn to ZOOM again in order to share? Those of us whose major concern might be choosing between ZOOM or Facebook Rooms to share this holiday season need to remember there are those who have lost loved ones, who are in danger of losing their homes, or might not be able to put a holiday meal on their table.

 If you or a loved one is suffering from “COVID depression/anxiety”, take care of yourself and those around you (easier said than done?). Be sure to reach out to your family and friends, especially those who might live alone or feel more isolated from their loved ones — pick up a phone, send an email or do a “drive-by” and wave through the window. If you are able, think of others, send a pizza to an on-duty ambulance crew, or a boxed dinner on the doorstep of a neighbor who needs help. Helping others can help you to feel better. Get involved with activities in your own home, play board games, watch a movie on TV together, and look for on-line seminars and video tours. And if seems really too much for you, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.


We will get through this.




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