In mid-May, I was visiting my parents in New Jersey. Being fully vaccinated, we went to a Korean restaurant that was open with reduced capacity. We chose to sit by the propped door. The breeze through it made us feel safer or at least less anxious. As I looked around other occupied tables, I murmured, “It is nice to hear others speak Korean.” (Korean is my native language.)
Back at home in Providence, my partner and I noticed that the streets were busier than in previous months. There were more cars, pedestrians, and gatherings. Although I knew that people did not pose a threat of transmitting a deadly virus to me any longer, my anxiety rose around them. Seeing people’s full faces without masks and talking with them in close proximity felt strange. Watching a large crowd felt scary. All the changes felt sudden.
Even though you dream of running around while wearing a cast on your leg, you shouldn’t do so when you’ve just taken it off. Our body and mind need time to adjust, and some people might find this transition out of the pandemic more emotional than others. For many, a loved one who was there at the beginning of the pandemic is not there any longer. The worse part of it is that they were “robbed of” an opportunity to grieve and experience closure properly. Donna Perry from Brooklyn talks about her losses and 15 plus Zoom funerals she has attended in an interview on Death, Sex, and Money. Traditionally in her Black community, friends and family would come over with food and sit together to memorialize the deceased, which could not take place during the pandemic.
I was lucky not to lose anyone very close to me. I experienced a fair amount of terror when my parents contracted the virus in April 2020, but they both survived. Many haven’t. I heard the news of loss left and right from people around me. I asked for their addresses and wrote cards for them. With each card, I re-experienced the terror, sorrow, and helplessness.
Father of my high school friend (Seoul)
Father of my colleague from grad school (Iowa)
Grandmother of my best friend (Iowa)
Husband of a friend from my vegan community (Iowa)
Mother of a new friend in Providence (Arizona)
Father and grandmother of my high school friend (NYC)
Two coworkers of my father (New Jersey)
Husband of my mother’s former coworker (New Jersey)
(The cause of death for some on the list might have not been COVID-19. When the information was not shared openly, I did not ask.)
A brewery where my partner and I have been picking up cans during the pandemic just opened up its tables again. We sat there and looked out at the blue sky with the glaring sun. It is spring again, which usually brings a sense of hope and beginning. But then, my body and mind are struggling to wake up. They are still carrying the fatigue from a year of living in a survival mode.
Are you vaccinated? How are things changing around you? How are your body and mind reacting to the changes? Give them time and compassion. Transitioning out of a pandemic might be as hard as getting into one.