• Sarah Lyall-Neal PsyD

A Few Thoughts on Relationships and Life: An Open Diary

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

It’s officially the middle of September and March’s pandemic is going strong. How many of you thought back in March that we would still be wearing masks and feeling the need to hibernate for safety six months later? I know I didn’t.

Honestly, I’m glad I couldn’t see into the future. These past six months have been challenging to say the least. As a nursing home psychologist by day, I have witnessed the devastating affects of isolation on my residents. Many of them have passed away and several others have experienced increasing symptoms of dementia. These cases are admittedly on the extreme side, but even if you haven’t been in a nursing home, chances are you have witnessed or experienced at least some form of isolation.

In the beginning of the pandemic, my husband and I stayed away from our families for weeks. We were planning our wedding at the time and worrying about whether or not the pandemic would end in time for our big day. It didn’t, but we preceded anyway.

In June, at the time of our wedding there was a tiny window when cases of the virus were plateaued. Two weeks after our wedding the numbers started rising again. I’m grateful that we were able to have our wedding and that no one got sick as a result of celebrating with us.

The other day I was thinking out loud to my husband (anyone who knows me, knows I’m a verbal processor), I said, “you know this year has really stunk.” He responded by saying, “we got married this year.” It’s really sad, but I wasn’t even thinking about that. I was so stuck in the trenches of all the sadness, loss, and chaos of our world that I had completely lost track of what was important in my life.

Then another thing happened. A thing that shook me. A good church friend of mine and my husbands passed away. His death occurred by way of a tragic accident. I was at work at the nursing home when I saw the news on my phone. My whole body felt numb. I tried to text my husband and for some reason my phone wasn’t cooperating. I tried several times and the message wouldn’t go through (I don’t know why). In that moment, I felt completely alone. I needed someone to talk to and process what had just happened and I had no one who would understand. I worked the rest of the day in a daze remembering our last moments with him and thinking about his wife. His wife is one of the most faithful people I have ever met.

I’m rambling a little, but sometimes I think that’s okay. Maybe for the first time since all of this chaos and confusion started in March, I’m starting to feel the real human affects of the changes that have taken place in our world.

I am currently being tested twice a week for the virus so I can go into work, waiting 15 minutes a pop to be cleared by the rapid test. I am having the same session over and over at the nursing homes, trying to reassure residents that things are going to be okay, that their homes will be reopened, and they will see and hug their families again. Internally, I feel the guilt, knowing I can go home to my husband and be with him every day. My residents tell me their treatment isn’t fair and they are right, but what is the alternative? It would be unthinkable for the virus to get in my facilities like it has so many others.

I don’t think I have ever felt the importance of relationships more in my entire life. I am blessed with some of the best relationships a person can have. I have a supportive family, an amazing husband who came with yet another supportive family, and great friends who support me. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it this far without them. Who are you relying on to get through this mess? Have you told them how important they are to you lately?

As you have been reading this, what came up for you? Did you think about your own life over the course of the last 6 or 7 months? How has your life been affected by covid-19? the rioting? the general chaos of our world? Have you been keeping your head down and powering through? Are you getting tired? It’s okay if you are…I’m tired too.

Jesus has something to say about this:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” -Matthew 11: 28-30

One last thing, before I close this open diary. The wife of our friend who passed said at his funeral, “I have to believe that God has a plan. I wouldn’t be able to handle this just being an accident.”

Although she was talking specifically about her husbands passing, I started thinking, maybe everything that is happening is part of God’s plan and he is actively working to bring us back to him before it is too late.

If you are feeling the stressors and burdens of life a little more acutely, write down the verse above, highlight it in your bible, and memorize it. I don’t have to do this alone and neither do you!

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