COVID-19: Everyone Has A Story

Collective Grief

Since the beginning of this pandemic, I struggled with its reality while adhering to hand washing and social distancing. I followed government directed health protocols while traveling for March Break from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to be with my husband who is preparing to sell our house there this spring.

I work in education, therefore with the closures of schools because of COVID-19, I was able to prolong my March Break visit with my husband, and remain in British Columbia until I have to return to Nova Scotia and back to work.

Being with my husband during these unprecedented times is a blessing, but I still worried about family and friends back in Nova Scotia. I felt a great unease that I wasn’t able to articulate.

I then read this insightful article by Harvard Business Review’s, Scott Berinato on a worldwide collective grief because of COVID-19. Click on the below title to read the article.

That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief

This article explained perfectly, my response to COVID-19.

Personal Struggles During COVID-19 – Everyone Has a Story

Along with this grieving cycle and anticipatory grief (that feeling we get when the future is uncertain) caused by COVID-19, each one of us has personal struggles as a result of the virus.

According to One Year No Beer, OYNB, a program to help people be alcohol free, alcohol sales in the UK and United States have increased. I am grateful to be 48 days free of alcohol, especially now. I think of people in abusive relationships who have to work from home because of the virus, perhaps they are prisoners there without a safe escape. I also think of children living with abusive parents or caregivers, whose only escape was school. Now that schools are closed, these children are without a safe place to escape parental tyranny.

Sadly, descriptions of personal struggles are as exhaustive as there are people.

My Own Personal Struggles During COVID-19

I find myself in a unique situation because of the virus. While here in British Columbia, I am steeped in a past that is not my own and navigating through a new and challenging family dynamic. I find myself in this place of knowing what is the right thing to do but at times frozen in this place of profound sadness. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life because I am steeped in it.

Sometimes, I find it difficult to breathe. Sometimes, I feel I have the strength to get through this and do what is right.

What am I talking about? Let me explain….

Steeped in Someone Else’s Life

My husband’s past with another woman, who died a horrific death from ALS, is in the house in British Columbia. After she died in this house, what belongings she did not give away and everything else that remained, was packed and stored in the large crawl space under the house. After that, my husband rented out the house, moved overseas to work, then met me a year and a half later.

Five years after meeting and marrying me, we repatriated back to Canada from Qatar to settle in the province of Nova Scotia. While I remained in Nova Scotia to work, Michael returned to the house in British Columbia. His purpose: to sell it.

Our plan was for Michael to have the time to reconcile his past as he unpacked his belongings stored in the crawl space, sell what needed to be sold, keep what needed to be kept, repair and improve the house and property, then put the house on the market and sell it. Next, in a U-Haul truck filled with what remained, he would drive across Canada to Nova Scotia. His return to Nova Scotia was the start of another chapter in our lives of designing and building our dream home and property.

Fast forward five months to today.

Here I am, now steeped in his past with him. Everything that was once in the crawl space is unpacked, yes. Nothing has been dealt with. His time during these past five months has been focused on home improvements and repairs. I am surrounded by what was once his life with another woman, organized in neat piles throughout this house… this house that was once theirs, that is now ours.

These neat piles of her are her journals, art, family heirlooms, ALS medical supplies, bits of clothing, I am even drinking out of her personally decorated water bottle because there are no large glasses to drink from.

Delayed Response

My emotional response to this was delayed, as the virus was front and centre in everyone’s life.

I started to feel oddly out of place. A bit numb. Sometimes really sad. These feelings silently accumulated within me.

Then a new dynamic was added into the mixture during my second week here:

A Gordian Knot

Because of unusual circumstances resulting from COVID-19, my husband’s estranged adult son, whose history is his story to tell, is now staying with us in this house.

I have never met my husband’s son until now. Michael’s history with him is not a close one.

So, both Michael and I are complete strangers to him as he is a complete stranger to us. We aren’t so much walking on eggshells around each other; it feels more like the slow undoing of a gordian knot as we settle into living with each other.

My husband sees this time as an opportunity to make a positive influence in his son’s life. I agree. Together we try to reach his son, in hopes to plant a seed that change is possible. Yet, with awareness that only his son can decide if he really wants to change his life.

My Struggles Come Undone

With these realties happening within this house, sometimes I found it hard to breathe. Sometimes sleep was is difficult. I sometimes soaked in the bath for hours at a time.

After a series of seemingly innocuous events that triggered accumulated feelings within me, I realized I was emotionally overwhelmed.

I wanted to run back to Nova Scotia, back to what is familiar to me and away from so many emotional complexities.

I told this to my husband, that returning to Nova Scotia crossed my mind because here was too hard. I explained how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by his past life with another woman, and then be strong enough to navigate his son. As some conversations go, this was a difficult conversation that didn’t go very well.

I shut down for the night. I needed to process. I needed to think. I needed to find me again who seemed lost in all that was and is my husband’s life before me

I wondered, where do I fit while I’m here?

I wondered, where do I belong while I’m here?

Love Knows The Next Right Thing

Love, authentic love – knows what the next right thing is.

The following morning, while making blueberry & flaxseed pancakes, his warmth towards me softened my heart. There is absolutely no way I could not be beside him during these difficult days.

Together we will step, then step again… as we:

  • Process my husband’s past, to hold safe space for him when he talks of her, or shows her belongings to me; to allow him, in his own way, to decide what to do with her personal effects.
  • Gently offer his son our support, kindness and love while promoting a life more fulfilling.

I do fit here, in our house, this is my reality. I’m not living someone else’s life. I am bringing my energy into our life, here and now.

Where do I belong?

Right beside my husband, is where I belong.

March 16th - Campbell River, Vancouver Island - Willow Creek Walk

For Everyone Struggling During These COVID-19 Days

Whatever your personal struggle is, as a result of COVID-19, think of Anna from the movie Frozen II. Maybe, you can take a step. Then step again…to do the next right thing. To help us rise up and above these dark days..and perhaps inspire others to do the same.

I send you so much hope and joy,

Stephanie, ❤️

The Next Right Thing

17 Comments Add yours

  1. dovalpage says:

    Thanks for sharing. “To do the next right thing.” Yes! You are an inspiration. Wishing you, your husband and his son the best.

    1. Thank you so much Teresa!! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. This post was so beautiful to read. I was reading it and my heart was screaming… You have an important place there, and loved to read you got to that too. It is such a gift that you can help your love process these things and such a chance for you both to grow closer, share, grow and learn. Stay safe, and again thanks for sharing so openly. Beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much Mr. Alchemist!!! Everyone is faced with their own unique challenges during these COVID-19 days. Love really is a cure all, just takes some honest work to always return to it. ❤️ You too stay safe, healthy and happy!! 😀🤗❤️

  3. Margie says:

    Oh Stephanie, I wish I had not seen this post before I turned off my laptop as my heart is so heavy for you right now.
    But then, I also smile as I know how strong you are and your strength will be your guide!
    You and Michael have an endearing love and that love shall overcome all obstacles.

    The video made me weep as that has been so me and dare I say you as well.
    But I felt a strength from watching the video too.
    Thank you so much for sharing the video.

    Be strong,be brave and know that I am always wishing you unbounded joy today and every day!
    <3 <3 <3

    1. I watched the movie, Frozen II on the plane from Toronto to Vancouver. The line in the movie that based the song “Do The Next Right Thing”, really stood out to me. I always know what the next right thing is, but doing it willingly isn’t always easy. That is when a return to love will help me take that step, then another…to be brave and do what is right!
      I bet you could connect with the song. About love and loss and moving forward. ❤️❤️❤️
      I too, wish for you a day, and every day filled with unbounded joy!!! 😀😀😀

      1. Margie says:

        <3 <3 <3

  4. Margie says:

    Hope ~

    My hope springs up
    in spite of blows
    higher after every
    fall ~
    Down the road of
    life it goes
    bounding like
    a rubber
    ball !
    (that poem was written just for you, right here, right now, dear Stephanie.)

    1. Oh Margie!!!!!!!!! This is so ME!!!!!!!!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️ Especially the bouncing ball part!!! 😀 This poem is a beautiful articulation of what hope actually is, it is that springing up even higher after every blow!!!!!!!! So much love to you my friend!! ❤️❤️❤️

      1. Margie says:

        Yes, this is so you!!!
        Thank you for your kind words dear Stephanie.
        Lots of love back to you.
        <3 <3 <3

      2. ❤️❤️❤️

  5. mama says:

    I agree with THE ALCHEMIST ” “I was reading it and my heart was screaming… You do have an important place there, and loved to read you got to that too. It is such a gift that you can help your love process these things and such a chance for you both to grow closer, share, grow and learn.”
    Stay safe and know you are both loved very much…mama 💜💜💜

    1. Michael and I love you and DV very much too!! ❤️❤️❤️

  6. What a difficult time for you, stay strong.

    1. Thank you Maggie… ❤️ It is challenging, for sure. Yet, these difficult times seem to get a bit better with each day. ❤️ Writing about my struggles helps me get clarity and perspective. It traces a map for me from where I started, where I want to be and how I get there. Same with all my blogs that relate to my personal life. Even my travel blogs help me feel the reality of being there, as sometimes the whirlwind of travel can make me feel only the whirlwind rather than steeped in the location and culture! Wishing you and Richard both health and happiness during these crazy days!!!

      1. I understand. I love reliving our travels by writing about it. As you say it sometimes feels like a whirlwind when you’re there. We’re healthy here, stay safe. Maggie

      2. ❤️

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