More time outside and more time with family, pandemic silver linings

B.C. families on what mattered to them this year


By Christi Walter

While COVID-19 upended the world this past year, some B.C. families have found a stronger sense of connection and clarity about what really matters.

When the pandemic rolled through B.C., along with social distancing and stay-at-home protocols, it brought tragedy, anxiety and steep economic cost. Throughout this year though, some British Columbians found deeper gratitude for simple things, like nature and appreciation for loved ones.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. School recitals were cancelled, campuses all but shuttered, sports teams saw their seasons go down the drain, all while people in B.C. were asked to keep at home. While restrictions loosened in the summer, winter was spent at home with few organized activities.

Some find a new appreciation for the outdoors

Allyn Whyte, a White Rock resident and mother of two young sons, said while it’s been hard for them seeing their activities cancelled and plans changed, her family’s had the chance to appreciate the outdoors in a whole new way this year, spending time at the beach and hiking trails.

“We live in such a beautiful place for that,” she said. “My boys are always outdoors a lot because they need to be.”

Whyte said they’ve always spent plenty of time outdoors, but this year’s COVID-related restrictions made them appreciate nature even more.

They’re not alone. According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, there have been thousands of bookings for BC Parks since reservations opened earlier this month. Camping reservation records were broken in 2020. For other British Columbians, the pandemic reminded them of what they care about most.

Leisl and Milan Spremic at White Rock Beach, B.C., March 13, 2021. Photo: Christi Walter

Pandemic shows what’s really important in life

Sue Maharaja, a Vancouver retiree, said that this past year, despite its gripping challenges, has been a chance to focus on priorities, like reaching out to family. “When you have that time to actually sit down and think about things, you realize what’s really important in life,” she said.

Maharaja’s family is spread out in two different countries, both with COVID-related restrictions. She has siblings in the Caribbean she can’t currently travel to see, and a son in Prince George. “I haven’t been able to see him, but I talk to him a lot on the phone,” she said. “We communicate more. Communication is the key. We communicate more now than we ever have before.”

Reaching out to loved ones can bring reprive

The Canadian Mental Health Associations’ B.C. division, also advises staying in touch with family and loved ones any way you can, since this year, more than ever, people need to feel they aren’t alone.

Palvisha Shaheen, from Chilliwack, finds she’s connected more with family long-distance than she did in the past. “We have some family in New York,” she said. “We’ve gone on Zoom with them more this year than we used to.”

Shaheen has been able to meet with B.C. relatives for the first time in a long time now that B.C. has lifted restrictions on outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.

Hear more of Sue Maharaja’s thoughts below:

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