The COVID-19 blues hit me hard in the days after Thanksgiving. Both my parents are long gone from this earth, and I have no siblings, so for many years Stacy’s family has been my family, the folks we celebrate the holidays with.
On Thanksgiving morning, Stacy and I got on FaceTime with her mother. By the time we finished, I had tears in my eyes. I realized in that moment exactly how much this dreadful disease had taken from me. Gone was the Thanksgiving morning cooking in tandem with my mother-in-law. Gone was the time I spent in a big recliner after the meal, listening to the clatter of pots and pans as Stacy cleaned up the kitchen. But what hurt most of all was the absence of physical closeness, contact, hugs.
It hurt — enough to keep me feeling sorry for myself for much of the weekend. But I’ve learned something over the years about self-pity: It is a selfish, self-centered beast. It does me no good, and it offers no comfort to anyone else in my life.
I can’t imagine I was alone in these feelings. So many friends I talk to feel beaten up by this pandemic year. We are exhausted, exasperated. We all wonder when — for heaven’s sake — this will all be over.
I think we’ve all been damaged by the loss of something at the core of who we are as humans: communion with each other. Small things to which we once didn’t give a second thought — handshakes, hugs, pats on the back — have been delayed for months. The ability to deliver some homemade food to someone we love who might be hurting has been made difficult at best. The smallest acts of kindness require the sort of preparation and care we once never imagined, because they also require us to do everything we can to make sure we don’t unintentionally spread or catch this dreaded disease, which, at the time of this writing, has killed more than 273,000 Americans.
Personally, I thank God every day for our ability to maintain a sense of communion with those we live with, and I pray for blessing on all those who live alone.
We all mourn the broader sense of communion we once took for granted — the ones we shared with friends and families, with our religious communities, with other people in all kinds of settings. We are all humans, and part of being human is to crave being part of a community — folks who understand us, support us, and love us.
I struggle, almost every day, with how to fill these missing pieces. I wish I had a cure-all, not just for myself, but for all y’all, too. I do not. But I do have small steps that I’ve learned to take every day that help me fight off these COVID-19 blues.
The first step happens inside the little house Stacy and I share. Every day, we try to talk deeply, to open up and be honest with each other about the pain brought to us by this pandemic, to talk about what we miss right now and — more importantly — to envision the gladness we will feel when all this is past.
Second, I try to skip quick text messages and actually use my phone — as a phone — to call my friends and talk. The conversations remind me that I’m not alone. In fact, most of my friends feel the same way I do. They mourn, they feel hopeless sometimes, they each fight with the knowledge that the pandemic is something we have absolutely no control over. But in the talking, we always learn that the old saying is true: Pain shared is pain lessened.
Third, believe it or not, I thank God for Zoom. Almost every day, I get on a Zoom call with this group of friends or that. We share our stories, our heartbreaks, our joys, and we are all surprised by how heartening it can be simply to see each other’s faces. We all yearn for the day when we can see each other in person again, and we all talk about how glorious it will be to wrap our arms around each other again.
I recommend all these things to you. They are pain-relievers. They remind me that our human community can stay together even as this virus forces us apart. They remind me, most of all, that I am not alone.
And please remember: You are not alone either. All those people who love you — friends and family — are still there. Just reach out to them. If you need help, ask for it. One simple connection can lift you both out of these blues.