We are past the one-year mark of this global pandemic and its world-and-life-altering effects. Yes, praise God there is a vaccine. Yes, thank God more populations around the world are gaining access to vaccines. Yes, we can feel the release of the clenching in our shoulders and stomachs and spirits from this unbelievably difficult and traumatizing past year. And yes, we can shout for joy as we begin to return to some of the rhythms and access we had pre-COVID—meeting friends safely, hugging our loved ones not in our pod or household, training ourselves not to feel afraid of crowds and people again.
But, this pandemic has not been monolithic in its effects globally. While some parts of the world begin to open and find their rhythms again, other parts of the world remain in the thick of the devastation wreaked by COVID.
My family are in the United States. I am on a very large island in the Indian Ocean. They are fully vaccinated and, in the states where they live, life is slowly opening back up. Here where I am, we continue total lockdowns on the weekend to mitigate a spike in COVID cases over the last few months. That means staying in your house or on your property from Friday evening to Monday morning. The first dose of vaccines just arrived this month.
It’s a strange thing to feel the world beginning to open back up again, yet feel so closed up and tied down at the same time.
I remember listening to podcasts and watching interviews from 2020 in which the hosts would say “This is day 49 of lockdown….This is day 101….” Back then we thought the pandemic might end after a few weeks. It’s uncanny that we thought there would be an end-point in sight where the counting would make a difference and mark time. Now that we’re many months into it, the question on my mind now is less ‘when will this end’ but more ‘how much longer will we need to keep going like this?’ Because this is the situation we find ourselves in globally. It is not just us, individually, family-wise, or even country-wise—this is a global pandemic. Every country on the face of this earth has been touched by this disease and its implications.
I know I am not the only one who’s ability to see loved ones has been impacted or impeded by COVID restrictions and immigration. I have not seen my family in the flesh in 21 months, and I still do not know when or if I will see them again and if it will be soon.
There is hope glimmering on the horizon—for a world where travel and reunification and hugging will be possible again. But in the meantime, we sit in the ache of being alone, far away from those we love, being restricted by forces beyond our control from being able to be with our families and friends.
So, for those who are not yet instagramming their family reunions and hugging grandparents in tears of joy and relief after a year or more apart, for you who can’t because you’re still far away from the ones who love you, I see you. God sees you. "Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). Jesus is with you in the mourning. Jesus will be with you in the rejoicing.
I know it can feel like you’re being left behind as some of the world returns to ‘normal’ and get to see and be with their people while you are still separated, still far, still waiting, still aching.
Even as you wait, you can be active. Maintain your mental, emotional, and your physical health. Below are several ideas on how you can keep focused on the positive and care for yourself:
When the blues (sadness, depression, despair, hopelessness) come, movement helps move that energy through and out of your body. Find a workout video on youtube (there’s EVERYTHING: 30-minute barre, 10-minute ab workout, 50-minute cardio-burn); dance in your living space; go for a walk.
Yes, we’re in COVID-times, but wear a mask, take some hand sanitizer with you, and go outside. Social distance yourself and take a walk. Sit in sunlight. The sun, the air, being outside will heal you in ways I know are hard to appreciate when you’re down, but they still will. It’s good medicine.
Feeling isolated has this terrible effect of us then not reaching out or maintaining connections because we feel so alone, yet connections is precisely what we need to feel vibrant and stay hopeful and feel alive. If a friend invites you on a walk, go do it. Or, you invite someone to go walk with you. I know it can feel like a big thing when you’re down, but it’s worth it, I promise.
Reach out to the ones you can’t see. Whether writing old-fashioned paper letters or real-time video conferencing, you can keep in touch with those you love. It's not the same as in person, of course, but it's real investment in one another. As much as you miss them is likely how much you are missed. Call as often as you need. Screentime is not the same AT ALL, but when you see them on your phone or computer, there is still a presence and connection forged between you, so don’t neglect that in this time of being apart.
See a therapist or counselor to talk through what you are feeling and experiencing. Talking is important for processing and being listened to is healing and empowering. It is not weak or unholy to seek this help out. You don’t need to suffer alone.
You have survived many months of pandemic living. You have done what none of us knew we could until we had to do it. You have God's Spirit within you to equip you to keep going. I know it’s hard. I know you’d rather not, I know you want this to be over. Me too. But God is with us, even in the most difficult of times. God walks with us through hard times (Psalm 23) and stays with us until the end of time (Matthew 28). Keep going. You are loved more than you can imagine.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster