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JONESIE: Life lessons from readers after a year under a pandemic

March 12, 2021 - 12:00 PM



As you know painfully well, it’s now been a year under COVID protection measures.

I was going to bore you all with my own personal rundown of 2020, but that changed after I asked our newsletter readers this week to share with me their stories of what the pandemic was like for them. I want to thank everyone who wrote to me with their personal stories but two stood out to me in particular.

Denise is a senior in a small town in the North Okanagan. She titled her email The Year to Forget but she’ll never forget 2020. In January, her husband had a stroke after shovelling his and his neighbour’s driveways. It took three days to realize what had happened.

He was in Vernon Jubilee hospital until mid-February when talk of a new virus started to rise. Denise thought they were somewhat lucky he got out of the hospital just before the pandemic was declared, but only compared to her neighbour, who also had a stroke and remained in hospital.

"His wife was not allowed to see him for five months,” she wrote. "This was a man in his 80s with dementia who counted on her being with him every single day. How tragic for them. I’m thankful my husband got out of there before visiting was stopped. I don’t know what I would have done. I can’t imagine what people in that situation are going through.”

Remember I said somewhat lucky. Her husband got out of the hospital but his physiotherapy was cut off after just two sessions.

“We were on our own dealing with all of his issues, physical and mental. COVID took over and nothing else mattered, it seemed. We went through a long, hard struggle. There was no help for him or me. It almost ruined our marriage. A stroke is not something you go through without any help! After many months of dealing with unpredictable behaviour, he finally got a phone consult with a psychiatrist of all things and after that, I started to see my real husband return."

She described the situation as she saw it as “inhuman.”

"2020 is a year I’d like to forget and hopefully 2021 turns around because people were not made to be alone and unsocial,” she wrote. "The mental toll it has taken on myself has been brutal. I can understand why suicide rates have soared… even amongst our dear children.”

Like anyone, I suppose, I get stuck looking at an issue through the filter of my own life. It’s not until someone like Denise opens up you realize how hard it’s been on individuals.

Helene also talked about how her mental health suffered and she made me aware that perhaps I didn’t do as well as I thought I did. She’s far more aware of her own emotions than I am because when I read her email, I realized I’ve done the same thing as her but lacked the introspection and never stopped to interrogate.

Maybe you went through something similar.

She’s also a senior. She lives alone, but has lots of friends and a social life. She’s proud to display a positive attitude, something she works on.

"I work to keep my mental state in a positive way. I did pray for keeping me grateful for all the friends I have, phone calls from people needing to know if I am OK,” she wrote me. "I found that if I concentrated on how my friends are, what is happening in their lives, then this journey was not as bad. I realized that I am a strong woman, I have gone through a lot of challenges in my life.”

That’s where her story starts to turn. The same way music can conjure memories and the old emotions tied to them, the anxiety and early fear about the pandemic stirred up dark memories for her from many years ago.

She couldn’t shake them.

"I often got them at bedtime,” she wrote. "I actually thought that I was over the hurts of years passed. Why were they coming back? It was this upheaval we are in now. Over the years I controlled these and because we were in an uncertain time they crawled back.

"Recently I broke all ties with someone who hurt my family many years ago. I was done, nothing would fix what he did.”

Yeah, strong woman is right. Her email nearly brought me to tears. Not just because she opened my eyes to the same thing going on in my own head and heart, but because she helped me understand how to deal with it.

Listen up.

"I have positive, calm people in my life. I practise my deep breathing exercises. It helps me. This is what the past year of being isolated in my apartment has done to me.

Not to worry. I concentrate on living a happy life. I acknowledge that I am very lucky.”

What a great lesson and inspiration for anyone suffering through this pandemic.

— Marshall Jones is the Managing Editor of

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