Valuing people and slowing down: lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic


Mercy Totaro, 62, of Laval, Quebec, says the COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on her life – a pandemic that can never be canceled.

On April 14, Totaro lost his father to the new coronavirus. Four days later, his mother died from COVID-19. What started as a few coughs turned into something deadly within a few days.

“My life as I knew it before the pandemic has not only been radically changed, but it is in a state of endless pain,” she told in an email on May 17. “I am now an orphan.”

Totaro also contracted the virus herself during a visit to her mother at the Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital, she said. After living for almost three weeks with COVID-19, she has since recovered.

“I stayed with my mother in her COVID room so she wouldn’t have to die alone,” Totaro wrote. “I knew the risk and would do it again.

“Knowing that this is his last breath, you are forgetting the virus,” Totaro told by phone on Tuesday.

Mercy Totaro and her mother - COVID Course

Although the virus has undoubtedly changed his life in a physical way, it also highlights a change in outlook on life. The experience of losing both parents and contracting the virus herself, she says, has helped her realize that life is shorter than she thought, and that it is important to make the most of it. gone from the present moment.

“No one is promised tomorrow,” she wrote. “I have always enjoyed life – attending family and friends parties, traveling spontaneously and even going out for a late night drink.

“I will continue to travel and have fun …[and remembering] to take advantage of those with whom I am, “she said.

Totaro’s story is just one of the many ways the coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives of Canadians. She says she hopes it will encourage others to share their own stories and give hope with all the good things they can get out of it. asked Canadians to share the lessons learned from any changes taking place right now, as well as new ideas or routine changes that may remain in place after the pandemic is over. Here are some answers.


Margaret Cook reports the death of her husband during the COVID-19 pandemic as teaching her the importance of showing appreciation to those around you.

Cook’s husband died last month of a heart attack and stroke. Although his death was not the result of COVID-19, the physical distancing measures put in place as a result of the virus have always had an impact on plans for a burial.

“We couldn’t have had a proper funeral for him – he was only 65,” Cook wrote to

Margaret with her husband Garry - COVID Course

With provincial borders closed to domestic flights, her husband’s siblings from Manitoba were unable to attend the ceremony in Lethbridge, Alberta, where she lives. According to Cook, the service had only 15 people, each standing two meters apart in the rain, unable to kiss or hold each other while the minister held a short ceremony at the site of burial.

“I don’t think I said goodbye properly,” Cook wrote.

The 66-year-old woman says that this experience of losing her husband, coupled with the lack of intimacy with loved ones, has taught her to be more grateful to those around her.

“What I put in my” thank you “note in the newspaper is to kiss someone today, because you don’t know if you will have them tomorrow,” she told CTVNews. .ca by phone Monday. “I wish I could kiss my husband today.”

In addition to hosting a full memorial service for her husband, Cook says she hopes to hug people a little harder when he is sure to do it again.

“You don’t know what the future holds,” she said. “I hope everyone goes out and hugs a stranger when it’s over – that’s what we need. “


Amanda Wright also says that the pandemic has underscored the importance of caring for those around her, especially family members.

“Something like this is happening and you realize that your immediate family is the most important thing,” Wright told by phone on Tuesday. “In a situation like this and in life, you have to be there to support each other and … to be each other’s soundboards to get through difficult times. “

Amanda Wright with her family. Lessons learned from COVID

Mother of two from Sarnia, Ontario. says that during the pandemic, she spent much more time with her children doing things like cooking and watching movies every night. Although physical distance measures prevent her from seeing her parents, both 70, she still talks to them on the phone every day.

Maintaining this strong bond with family members during the pandemic also caused her to think about all the expenses she was spending, she said, and how excessive it was. This is something she does not think she will return to after the pandemic is over.

“We return to the basics of life, the building blocks that would have always been there … but that we have lost sight of,” said the 44-year-old. “I can’t understand this [support] to go to a store and buy something, but I can get it by spending time with my family and … being for each other. “

As a result of this, Wright says she is not likely to resume these same spending habits once the pandemic is over.

Jeanette Wu of Ottawa believes that the ongoing pandemic has not only helped strengthen the importance of family and friends, but has also caused her to reassess the attention she would give to professional sports.

“It may sound mean and envious, but I have learned that I never fail to watch professional sports [anymore]”She told in an email on May 14.” The lives of my loved ones are far more precious than watching an already millionaire chase over a baseball, a golf or a hockey puck. “

The 57-year-old says that spending time with those around you is far more meaningful than being drawn into the world of professional sport. Some of the sporting events she loved before after most included hockey and NFL playoffs, as well as the Tour de France.

Although these competitions and many others have been canceled for the time being due to the pandemic, Wu says she has no plans to return to supporting these leagues or athletes once things have calmed down, whether in the form of watching them on TV. or buy tickets for a game.

“I think the athletes and their support leagues are overpaid,” she told by phone on Tuesday. “There has been too much emphasis on the dollar for these people. “

Shauna Berrigan echoes this feeling of focusing on family and friends and how it is more valuable than material things or money.

“The biggest thing I have learned in changing my life is that money is only important for what you need, not what you want,” Dartmouth, NS A resident told in an email on May 14. “It’s nice to be able to follow the Joneses, but it’s not as important as feeling healthy, safe and secure, and being surrounded by family and friends. “

Instead of missing out on purchases, she describes the desire not to be able to buy money, including spending time with family members whom she does not see as often due to physical distancing. While Berrigan describes herself as someone who has always been family oriented, she says that the pandemic has made her realize that family is not only important, but the most important thing in life.

“It made me realize that life goes by too fast and that we have to embrace who we have, not what we have,” she wrote.


Berrigan also stresses the importance of staying mentally healthy, not only during a pandemic, but in general.

At first, she says, she was looking forward to having a few weeks for her while working from home as an early childhood educator. She explains that she hoped it would provide her with a mental break and allow her to focus on things that she would not otherwise have had the time to plan, such as summer programs.

But after months at home, isolation began to affect not only her, but also her retired husband and mother, since they all live together. This, she says, has affected her mental health and caused growing frustration.

“I had a crisis and we all discussed and resolved our frustrations,” she told in an email on May 14. “We have been very good since.”

Berrigan emphasizes the importance of expressing feelings and sharing them with others rather than bottling them indoors.

“I think we all have to speak out,” she wrote. “Your feelings, whether positive or negative, are OK – these are your feelings and you have the right to have them.

Casey Johnston of Winnipeg shared his personal struggle with the impact of isolation.

“Being locked up at home with nothing to do and nowhere to go, my depression is at its lowest level,” she told in an email on May 15. “The isolation has caused a major change in my feelings and react to life as a whole. “

Not being able to see the people she relied on for support to get through this difficult time was difficult, said the 22-year-old. Even if she admits that she is able to keep in touch with her friends, family members and even her therapist through phone calls and video chats, it is not the same as being able to see in person or hug them and tell them she loves them.

Johnston says easing physical distance restrictions in Manitoba has helped improve her mental health. Being able to go outside for a walk or shop makes her feel less lonely, she said.

However, she realizes that not everyone can be as easy to cope with the pandemic, which is why it is essential to get closer to loved ones to see how they feel.

“As a community, we should check our neighbors, family and friends because mental health is a real problem,” she wrote. “People with severe depression and other mental illnesses need help during this time.”

Johnston says she will definitely make more efforts to check on her loved ones during the pandemic and once it is over.


Along with prioritizing mental health comes the idea of ​​the importance of not being so busy. Megan Thomson of Ottawa says it was something she achieved during the pandemic.

“I felt like I was running a 100 meter dash all day and I needed a few clones to follow [with] the pace, ”she told in an email on May 15.

Although she is still busy working from home, Thomson says that not having to travel has given her two hours of overtime in her day. She says she started using this time to walk her dog and keep track of household chores. Slowing things down in life, she says, has greatly improved her quality of life.

“My partner and I get along better; we seem more in tune and [are] take care of each other, “wrote Thomson. “I can’t believe the difference in my overall ability to relax. “

Emily Hunter of Beamsville, Ont. also explains how slowing down and not being so busy has helped improve your life.

As a mother of two – a toddler and a six-month-old baby – Hunter says she’s struggling to keep up as a stay-at-home mom and cope with the idea of ​​not being so busy all the time.

“I remember when my maternity leave started, feeling like I didn’t know what to do with myself – it was like my life was paused,” she told in an email on May 14. “When the pandemic started, I remember thinking,” I know what it feels like, I’ve been through this before. “

She describes this reality of a hectic lifestyle as a kind of safety blanket used to cover up some of her fears.

“And if I don’t know how [to] spending my days with two little ones at home all the time? What if I can’t ask my parents for help? And if I’m not the mom I want [be] and I can’t run and be busy hiding my real fears? “Wrote the 31-year-old man.

Having a lot more time to spend, she says, has not only helped dispel much of this fear, but has also helped her realize the importance of making room for downtime with her family. .

“We have established beautiful routines at home,” she wrote. “We play, we read, we sing, we imagine, we talk and we eat together.

“For the first time in my life as a mom, I’m not rushing into any of these precious moments and I’m not unsure of how I’m going. “

These activities are all things she plans to continue once the new normal begins to take hold.


Not only is it important to do what we can to stay healthy and comfortable, but also to make sure that we do things that make us happy, says Karen Norton, especially during a time of sadness.

In an email to, the 73-year-old woman says that while being isolated for about two months, she learned a number of new skills, including making bread, making CDs for children, the manufacture of crystal earrings to send as gifts. and more.

Karen Norton earrings - COVID course

” [These are] all new skills for me to learn [with] time to do it safely, and ultimately a product to share, ”she wrote on May 14.

Despite being a retired school principal, the pandemic has caused Norton to spend even more time at home. All the time in her hands motivated her to spend time doing something productive, she says.

” At my age, [government and health officials] say, “you’re an older person, you better stay at home,” she told on Tuesday by phone. “We really need to find interesting things to learn and do while we’re at home so that we don’t get depressed and feel sorry for ourselves.”

Making an effort to spend her time doing things that are productive and giving back to others has brought her satisfaction, says Norton, and has helped her realize the importance of doing things that make her happy.

“That’s the main thing I get out of it – it’s such joy in the product, such joy in action, such joy in just thinking,” wow, I didn’t even know I could do all that! “”

She says she plans to continue these activities at her home near Red Deer, Alberta. once the pandemic is over.

“I wish I started this 40 years ago,” said Norton. “It took me a while to get started – hey, maybe I will for the next 40 years. “


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