A conversation with COVID-19
If you could have a conversation with the COVID-19 virus, or write a letter to it, what would you say? Members of St. Joseph’s Third Age Outreach Program had a lot to say as part of a recent virtual recreational group activity.
Through journal entries, group participants wrote to COVID, as if they were speaking to a person. “I am about to tell you exactly how I feel about you. You have caused me much grief, you have set me back just when I was starting to move forward and get back to my old self,” said one member.
The journaling dubbed, “A Conversation with COVID-19”, allowed the group to share their emotions candidly -without judgement - as each read their entry outload in a virtual group setting.
While blunt, the words are what many of us across the globe are feeling and the exercise was designed to bring isolated older adults together to talk about how the virus has impacted their lives. The journaling also helped to reduce their anxiety, and lay all their emotions out on the table to help empower them - in a world where so many individuals have felt at the mercy of this unprecedented pandemic.
Third Age Outreach is part of St. Joseph's Specialized Geriatric Services program. This unique hospital outreach service is located in London's Kiwanis Seniors' Community Centre. The program offers educational courses, group activities and therapeutic recreation promoting wellness, personal development, independence and improved quality of life for seniors.
When the pandemic hit hard last March, the program shut its doors, but quickly pivoted to virtual programming, which included an array of activities, including weekly journal writing, all conducted through a virtual group environment.
Another journal excerpt reads: “You came like a whirlwind and blew away so many of our dreams and plans. You filled our lives with fear as you set foot in like the biggest wrecking ball even seen. Our phone that annoyed us by constant ringing became a comfort as we hear from friends. The emails filled with silly witty things became a source of laughter, which made the day lighter and reminded us of those outside of our bubble. The beeping of a text message reminded us of someone else who cared to jump into our lives that day.”
Beverly Farrell, a therapeutic recreational specialist with the Third Age Outreach Program, says many of the people in the group rely on the referral-based program for social support and mental wellness. “It was a powerful experience for them to be able write their feelings down. As we read our entries – there were both tears and laughter – an array of emotions that ultimately made us feel less alone and less anxious.”
Judy, one of the group participants in the program, adds that "writing the letter to COVID-19 helped me express some of the anger I was feeling about the restrictions the virus had caused in my life. However, as I continued to write I found I was less angry and more upset that I couldn’t spend time with people I am close to. Listening to other group members letters made me realize that I am not alone with my feelings."
The groups next virtual journal session takes place next week and after cleansing themselves of some pretty heavy emotions and feeling towards COVID-19, their next topic will focus on gratitude.
Read the groups full journal entries below.
I am about to tell you exactly how I feel about you. You have caused me much grief, you have set me back just when I was starting to move forward and get back to my old self.
Because of you I cannot go visiting my friends and family as I would like to. Even shopping for groceries has become a burdensome task.
I don’t know where I will be spending the Christmas holidays, probably home alone as people are afraid to join together or travel.
I have been staying home by myself, very bored and anxious wondering when and if you will end. You have made my life miserable and caused so much sadness and illness for so many.
I need you to go away and let me get back to living my life. So now I hope for a vaccine so that people all over the world can get back to some sort of normalcy.
Please go away…NOW!
Nine months have passed and you are still hanging around and wreaking havoc on my life. You are literally keeping me hostage in my own home, a prisoner trapped, afraid to go out for fear of contracting your nasty germs or worse inadvertently passing the virus onto a loved one should I be infected and unaware I am a carrier. I am not able to go to work, see friends or family for fear of contracting the virus.
Gone are the days when I could meet a friend for coffee or have lunch at a restaurant and now that winter has arrived, I cannot even meet a friend in a park for a visit as it is too cold to sit outside. It has almost been a year since I have seen my family or had a get together. No Easter gathering, no birthday or Thanksgiving celebrations, no summer picnics and now, no Christmas.
The longer you stick around and the numbers continue to climb, the more you breed fear into people. The longer you are around the more I wonder if I will ever be free of you.
I look forward to the day I can be vaccinated and maybe my life can return to some kind of normalcy.
You came like a whirlwind and blew away so many of our dreams and plans. You filled our lives with fear as you set foot in our environment like the biggest wrecking ball even seen.
You tore lives apart without a war and yet so many families are still torn apart by you.
As you prolonged your stay and we became more accustomed to hearing your damaging tornadic storm, we began to see a new resilience that we began to develop. The home we used to leave behind to find enjoyment became our haven. Our phone that annoyed us by constant ringing became a comfort as we heard from friends. The emails filled with silly witty things became a source of laughter which made the day lighter and reminded us of those outside of our bubble. The beeping of a text gave us someone else who cared to jump into our lives that day. We were given summer as a brief careful respite from isolation and we saw some friends and shared something normal like a restaurant and coffee.
Once again we our back to our homes with phone, emails and texts and faces by Zoom. It does not seem so lonely this time as we did get to see each other for a short time.
So, we sit in anticipation for the next time where we can sit with others and share a meal, wine and dessert - and not worry about what could happen.
Thank you for the lessons you have taught us, but please go away as the lesson is well learned by so many.
I was hoping that you would be gone by now but I see that you are still here causing a global pandemic and havoc everywhere you go. I would like to tell you how you have impacted my life so far. I used to go to exercise programs three times a week and meet my friends there for coffee, but your presence has cancelled these programmers for now. The borders are closed so I can’t travel to see my family, I can’t visit my family in the long-term nursing home. I have to wear a face mask if I go shopping or to the grocery store and make sure I am social distancing from people and use the hand sanitizer before I enter the store. We are able to carry on because we have measures in place to keep us safe like our dedicated hospital staff who work tirelessly to make us well, essential workers, quarantine, hand washing and COVID-19 testing and more. Please COVID – go away – and let all of us get back to our everyday lives.