The deepest impact that COVID-19 has had for me has been the palpable separation from my family in the United States.
As an expat living in the UK, these past 16 months have really brought to consciousness the preciousness of life and family, and the bittersweet nature of living so far away.
I've been giving space to so many (sometimes big) feelings.
And I have a sense I'm not the only one grappling with:
- Not knowing when in the world to feel safe, or to let go of fear around family members becoming ill
- A series of long, stringent lockdowns and homeschooling preventing the possibility of travel
- Worry about the safety and logistics of being able to travel with a child who is too young to be vaccinated
- A deep bow of recognition that so many life events have been missed; not just the impact of birthdays and holidays usually spent together, but also the day-to-day moments of sharing a meal, playing games and just sitting in company
- Not being able to serve as in-person support or comfort for my faraway family
When my daughter and I finally had an opportunity to travel this past May, we jumped! Wonderfully, knowing the impact COVID-19 has had on families, her school was so agreeable and encouraged this reunion.
It was absolute elation when we landed. My brother and nephew were at the airport to greet us, and when we hugged hello, it finally felt like we could collectively exhale. This immense joy we felt was such a visceral experience.
We had the gift of three weeks dedicated to being together. What felt impactful about this time was moving through our day without an agenda: enjoying big, messy family meals, with kids and toys all over the place, being a part of daily activities from swimming to bedtime routines, and a lot of laughter.
We appreciated every minute, reminding us of the simple, yet poignant pleasures of life.
(And did I mention loads of cuddles?)
Close to my heart was the reunion we didn’t think we were going to have, that with my grandfather. He was moved into hospice just three weeks before we arrived, and being 99, we weren’t sure how long he had left.
Thankfully, we had time with my grandfather, for him to see his great-granddaughter, and to laugh and hear about our lives.
Sadly, he passed the day we flew back home, but I'll forever hold close to my heart the opportunity we had to be in company.
Being with family was an embodied heart practice: listening, sharing, expressing the deep joy and sadness of our years’ experiences, and simply holding space to BE together.
Life is precious. May it not take a pandemic to remind us of this.
Janine holds a Master of Public Health and is a RYT vinyasa and yin yoga teacher. She is a certified Wellness Coach with the Institutes for Integrative Nutrition, and is currently enrolled in the 500 Hr Insight Yoga Institute. You can learn more about Janine on her website or @janinetandyyoga.
Feature photo via Rido/Adobe Stock