New Love in the Time of COVID-19

By Emma Pearson

June 22, 2024

Main picture courtesy of street artist Ruben Rojas, in Los Angeles

17 May 2020

How does a new relationship, even one that truly feels right, profound, rich, loving… how does it survive, how can it survive, in the time of COVID-19?  How can Zoom sessions, WhatsApp calls and texts, photos, and even the occasional letter, be a substitute for lovingness, comfort and support?

Any relationship needs nurturing, whether it is brand new or decades old. Sunlight and warmth on it, watering, gentle digging and airing of the ground, and some weeding where necessary. It can’t just be left untended.

The worst of me has crept in, insidiously. Slowly at first, then more and more voraciously.

Anger at being isolated, unsupported, holding some semblance of being functioning. Again and again and again.

Frustration at lockdown rules being different in France and Switzerland, the border of which sits 2km from where I live.

From BBC News Website, 16 May 2020

Medjool being able to see friends and colleagues, travel around by bike and car and train, swim in the lake, climb a mountain, when I am stuck within the confines of a 1km circumference. The case at least till this last week when I can go further afield. In France.

Him wanting to see me – he could see me, illegally – but I am holding hard boundaries to ensure Ben is healthy for his ongoing 2nd year uni exams, and so we can have a much-needed visit to my parents (more for us/me than for them, and they happen to live in a beautiful part of France). I will not risk taking them the slightest whiff of COVID-19. They are, after all, in their 80s and I need them healthy for a good while yet. I cannot have another death – or even illness – in my life. And nor can Ben & Megan. Not yet.

Carrying interdependent pairs of emotions is the norm during grief. Everyday stuff.

Joy & Sadness
Gratitude & Despair
Relief & Trauma
Past Memories & Future Yearnings
Courage & Emptiness
Hope & Fear
Love & Grief
Alone & Not Alone
Holding & Imagining

It’s heavy work. It’s lonely work. Exhausting. Debilitating.

I am thrown back to feeling best accompanied by such a minuscule community – my fellow grievers, (or experts at sitting with me in the shit). The ones nothing needs to be hidden from. The ones who don’t course-correct me. Who don’t comment on how angry I sound with criticism in their voice. The ones who can let it be without judging, correcting, nudging, or putting a positive spin on things. Or start a response with “At least…”.

Because they know that like all things this is a phase. Another shitty phase. And it’s my “now”.

Many days, I feel the presence of my dead husband more strongly than the presence of my alive boyfriend.

Image from

What is so wrong with that? It just is. Right now, in these times. Living in a house that we shared for 16 years, in a partnership that we created and nurtured over almost 30. Of course I feel Mike’s presence more than Medjool’s. We have only had a matter of months, and all of that has been complex, if also beautiful. Horrendously beautiful.

I have had another inexplicably tragic death to contend with, to attempt to absorb, to try to fathom, in that time, weeks after we started seeing one another. He has had a much more recent one. It’s tough for him too.  He misses his person. I get that. It’s just all round messy, treacly, sticky grieving landscape to wade through.

The needy needing the needy. The lonely longing for the lonely.

And I feel Mike and Julia’s absence desperately desperately desperately. And an absent boyfriend doesn’t compensate for that. Cannot compensate.

It’s just another interdependent pair to carry.

Presence & Absence
Life & Death
Solid Form & Essence
Love & Pain

One of my wisest buddies wrote to me yesterday:

I hear your exhaustion….and your anger with Medjool…and I know that love can also be expressed as anger. My sense is that you are sitting in the middle of your love for your parents and clear commitment to be with them and do them no harm…and Medjool seemingly both wanting to be with you but not (it appears) ready, willing, …or able to make the necessary choices to ensure he is free of COVID-19. 

At a systems level you hold the tension between the French and the Swiss way of engaging with COVID-19.. the choice is his to make…and whatever choice he makes does not mean he doesn’t love you Emma…that’s my ignorant insight from listening (to you).

The complexity we are holding in all our relationships is like no other time I’ve lived through…and like no other time in history. Settle on your choice, for you, your lovely children, all three of them, your heart full of Mike, and your parents.

Move steadily …”You don’t need to see the whole staircase…just take the first step” Martin Luther King ❤

I love you.

That is healing balm. That is allowing. Being seen. Being held.

Soothed already.

None of this is criticism. It just is. My experience, right now, these days.

It will get easier. A couple more weeks. I can do that.

About Emma Pearson

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