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The Grief and Exhaustion of Being Apart From My Husband Because of COVID-19

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Five weeks ago today, my husband moved out to keep our high-risk daughter safe from the coronavirus (COVID-19) exposure he might receive as a school bus driver.

Every family works differently, but my husband is integrally tied to nearly every part of our life as a family. Both our girls have complex needs of different types. Hell, I have complex needs too, with sometimes precarious mental health and struggles with trauma recovery. He is steady for all of us, and he gives the best hugs. He cooks for us, makes me tea in bed, and can diffuse a teenage girl meltdown faster than I would have ever thought possible.

He keeps me steady so I can tend to our girls in the ways that don’t play to his strengths. 

Eighteen years ago, when we were first married, my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t stand to be away from him for even a night. I had found this safe harbor in the turbulence of my life and I wasn’t leaving. I couldn’t. I would have panic attacks and it felt like the world was closing in. I had never felt such terror. These days, after years of therapy and healing, I proudly stand on my own two feet. But I never forget that he was the one who held me when I couldn’t hold myself, who cheered me on as I learned to be stronger, and who believed in me when almost no one else did. 

Somehow, while we were in seminary, he saw through the façade of the aloof, awkward, desperate classmate to the wild but wounded woman inside. Because that’s Ben. He collects the people who feel awkward or uncertain or lonely and brings them inside this giant circle of his joy and hospitality. They are accepted and welcomed and often find others with whom they connect. He’s done it his whole life.

So, these five weeks have been hard. And there is no end in sight. 

There have been times when I thought I couldn’t make it. That I felt desperate just to have him here. Times I’ve been so worn down and tired from trying to hold it together. Times that trying to tend to our girls’ needs has felt like drowning.

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My kitchen floor is dirty. My bathroom is nasty. It’s all I can do to keep up with the dishes and the school work and the food and the trash and the doctors and the horses and the shopping and planning and chaos. I want to lie my head down on Ben’s chest and breathe. This weariness feels like the kind that comes with grief and loss. Two counseling sessions ago, all I could do with that precious time was repeat, “I am so tired. I’m just so tired,” over and over. We ended early so I could take a mini-nap. 

This is all true. It’s love and grief and exhaustion. Those are real. They’re valid. Knowing others have it worse or don’t have a husband like mine, to begin with, or have lost someone they loved to COVID-19 — that doesn’t take away from how hard this is right now for me, or how hard it is for my girls who miss their father so much. Or how hard it is for Ben who needs human contact like he needs air. I get resentful when people try to minimize this life, this work, this pain.

I’ve had plenty of moments too where I am proud of us — the strength of our family, the work we are doing, and how we are willing to pull together (apart, ironically) to keep each other safe. I’ve felt grateful that I am able to do the hard work of caring for our girls. I’ve been grateful that we can still see each other outside. We do have it so much better than so many. And sometimes I feel lucky.

But today, I’m tired. I miss my guy, I hurt and feel like there is no end in sight. “Feelings are for feeling,” as Glennon Doyle says. So I’ll feel it all. I just won’t set up camp and live here. And in the midst of hard feelings, I am grateful beyond expressing to have a partner like mine.

Struggling with anxiety or parenting due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community:

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Originally published: September 25, 2020
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