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COVID-19: Our Dark Secret

We love our families. We love spending time with them, they mean the world to us, they enhance and enrich our lives - except when they don't. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us come to some quiet realizations about ourselves and our circumstances, which through guilt we dare not bring to light. One of our unspoken truths is a particularly difficult one with which to grapple: COVID-19 has given us well-needed space from our families.

While we've heard about the devastating mortality of COVID-19, and we've heard about COVID-19 forcing some in unhappy familial situations, especially those cohabitating, to come into more conflict, and we've witnessed the great sadness of loved ones being cut off in desperate times from family in nursing homes and hospitals, we haven't heard about the blessing that space from families has created.

This is because it is considered a sin to speak this way. You must be a terrible daughter, son, sibling, or parent to need space from your immediate and extended family - especially when mortality is involved. But we do. We are steeped in the ways of our families enough so that we cannot see the good or bad of their cultural legacies. It is only through balanced individualism, a separation of self from the whole, the space to develop an identity apart, that we can understand who we are, really.

This doesn't mean turning our backs on our families. But it does mean examining our attachments and questioning what benefits and what detractions our closeness yields. Many individuals don't understand that they are too enmeshed with their families, that the liberation of space which COVID-19 brought could also be seen as an opportunity, not a disaster. Because of our enmeshment, which stems from wanting the security of meaning and definition in our lives due to our underlying, imagined terror of the loneliness of dying, we cling to our familial identity, afraid of letting go to develop ourselves in freedom. We define ourselves by what we're given, rather than what we unearth and create.

It is far easier through acceptability to write about the other truth, that we've been brutally cut-off from our loved ones in this mortal pandemic. But I feel it's worth mentioning also, that not all breaks and space are bad - each individual's situation needs to be appraised differently. Time to be on your own is essential for growth, and we've been given that in these times. It's worth pondering.


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