While the world continues to adjust to COVID normal, many families and friends living in different countries face the prospect of being separated from each other.
As well as the sense of loss caused by not being able to freely see family and friends right now, there’s the worry and subsequent impact on mental health and wellbeing linked to having loved ones in countries still deemed high risk in terms of COVID-19.
For Annie and her husband, moving to the other side of the world to live in Australia had been a long-time dream in the making – and turned out to be one of the best decisions they’ve ever made.
But like many people living overseas, Annie really misses her family and friends, and particularly while the COVID-19 pandemic means that heading home – or having visitors come to Australia – is out of the question for sometime.
“My mum was due to come visit us in December but that’s obviously a no-go now. Naturally, we feel sad about that, especially as instead of being here with us she’s facing another wave in the UK,” says Annie.
Dealing with the distance
On top of the sadness is a feeling of constant worry for her family in the UK.
“My mum lives alone, is 74 and has underlying health conditions, so I worry about her, particularly in terms of her possibly contracting the virus. I’m also concerned about her getting lonely.”
“I try not to think about what would happen if mum or dad got COVID-19, and the logistical and emotional challenges that would follow, as I find it too overwhelming. If my mind does start to wander there, I feel so, so far away.”
“Fortunately, my brother and sister live fairly close to both my mum and dad, and I know they’re all supporting each other, which gives me such peace of mind,” says Annie.
Although it’s obviously no comparison to seeing loved ones face-to-face, for Annie, technology has without a doubt made living on the other side of the globe a lot easier, and during the global pandemic her whole family have relied on it more than ever.
Technology has really helped us all stay connected, it’s all we’ve got right now.
“My dad is pretty savvy, but my mum would always just pop to the local library to go online. So, we got her fully kitted out with a smart phone, a laptop and broadband before the UK’s first lockdown so she could stay connected with family and friends. She’s now a prolific WhatsApp user and loves a meme (or ten!).”
In terms of the future, Annie and her family are taking each day as it comes and hoping for the best.
“We feel very lucky that my dad and step-mum visited back at the start of 2020. They flew back to the UK around the time the coronavirus was starting to dominate the news in Australia and Europe. They got home and pretty much had to go straight into self-isolation,” Annie recalls.
“I’m extremely grateful that we had them here with us not all that long ago and that they managed to enjoy a break before having to go into lockdown in the UK.”
They’re just going to have to ride it out – and so do I in terms of the worry
“Right now, I wish I could transport all my family over here where it’s warm and bright most days instead of gloomy and cold, but most of all because it feels safe here now.”
“I know this is wishful thinking and that they’re just going to have to ride it out – and so do I in terms of the worry.”
*Not her real name