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Image / Self / Real-life Stories

‘This summer has been an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see my family again’

by Shayna Sappington
12th Aug 2020

With lingering travel bans and rising cases in the US, my summer has been plagued with anxiety and uncertainty

For the last four months, I have been in a constant state of limbo, unsure of when I will be able to see my family in the US again.

I have been in Ireland for nearly four years now. And, as I have always been close to my family, I usually visit them in California at least twice a year.

In April, my sisters had planned a trip out and this July, I was supposed to visit homenone of which can happen now.

Good days and bad days

My summer has been an emotional rollercoaster. There have been good days and bad days, some marked by uncertainty and discouragement while others are filled with energetic hopefulness.

I am constantly checking what travel bans Trump has enforced recently and praying that the EU doesn’t ban travel to and from America as cases continue to rise there.

But at the same time, I can completely understand if it does. The US now has the highest number of cases compared to any other country and it feels as if it is split in two, as Democrats and Republicans continue to battle it out over police brutality, Black Lives Matter protests and insane political conspiracy theories tying Covid-19 to election ploys.

“The desire to see my parents and siblings, to hug my little niece and nephew, has been overwhelming”

To be honest, even if I was guaranteed a safe return, I would be fearful to travel back. The risk of catching coronavirus on the plane or in the airport and infecting a family member would most likely haunt my entire trip. 

But the desire to see my parents and siblings, to hug my little niece and nephew, has been overwhelming. My family regularly calls me for updates on when I can visit, and I have had to give the same answer for the last four months: “We will have to wait and see.”

A mental toll

It’s been nearly nine months since I have seen them, the longest period to date, and it has taken a mental toll. The current pandemic, plus the bold ignorance with which Trump has led thus far, has me more worried than ever about the possibility of traveling home being postponed for some time.

And while California governor Gavin Newsom has issued a second lockdown to help curb a rise in cases, the Facebook videos I see of fights over wearing face masks and overly crowded beaches are not exactly reassuring. Somehow, in the midst of a global pandemic, Americans have found a way to label community restrictions as the removal of essential individual freedoms.

And now that the wearing of face masks has become more of a political issue than a health and safety one, a united front against the spread of the virus seems impossible and international travel even more so.

Establishing an Irish support system

I fully empathise with those facing similar situations, unable to visit home and see family during such a troubling time. I encourage them to practice what has helped me through this. 

Lean on your Irish friends and community, make sure to schedule regular calls with those at home and try to remember that we all feel isolated right now.

Although it doesn’t seem to be ending soon, this time will pass and taking steps to prioritise your mental health is vital.


Read more: Spain imposes second local lockdown for 70,000 people following an increase in coronavirus cases

Read more: The HSE’s Covid-19 tracker app has launched – here is how it works

Read more: ‘Expect the best but plan for the worst’: who knows what September will bring?

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