Covid-19 : Holding onto our humanness…

…because pandemics are universal but they are also deeply personal.

rachel audige
3 min readAug 2, 2021

I was heading out to walk our border collie, this morning, and saw my neighbour and her husband walking slowly up the street. I crossed over to greet them and while I chatted with Annie*, I noticed that Geoff was unusually quiet. I turned to him and when I did so, Annie said that he’d had a stroke on Friday and was lucky to be standing.

He had been delivering steel sheets on a large truck and just moments after his last delivery, he collapsed on the ground. Fortunately, someone saw him and got him to the hospital in under an hour. We marvelled at his good fortune at having someone nearby and at not having been on the highway when it happened but while we talked about him, Geoff burst into tears. Instinctively, I reached out and hugged him. I shouldn’t have but I just did.

In normal circumstances, we don’t think twice about this sort of gesture. But, as we all know, what we are going through is anything but “normal.

I heard an Australian politician say something that struck me as at once obvious and profound:

“Covid-19 thrives on our being human.”

It stands to reason that to outsmart Covid-19, we need to be less than human. And this is taking its toll on all of us.

My husband lost his mother in France in October last year. In ‘normal circumstances’, Eric and I would be on a flight within 24 hours to celebrate and farewell her and to support our French family. Instead, he went alone, lived like a monk to avoid catching anything while there and then endured — like thousands of others — 2 weeks’ quarantine in a hotel in Sydney while grieving.

Our children and I attended the funeral virtually. We did our best and sent our texts to be read and messages of support. We dressed up to honour the occasion. But we were observers; we were not part of this important milestone. We missed out on a deeply human ritual and, in some ways, I feel as though I haven’t registered her passing.

Just 9 months later, Eric lost his father. Neither death was due to Covid but they were during Covid.

This time there was no question of either of us going over. He, like many others, was forced to be a long-distance spectator at his own father’s funeral. We all rallied round the screen and honoured the moment as best we could but it was painful for Eric and difficult for us to to go through a second time. Technical issues compounded the sense of distance and dislocation. We had missed the opportunity to see him in his last months. We never got to hold his hand at his bedside and laugh with him. We never got to pull our weight and help the rest of the family care for him.

All of us are grieving something:

A loved one.

An important milestone.

A missed wedding.

A grandchild we haven’t yet met.

Family in another state (in Australia that is enough to make them inaccessible) or in another country.

A job we’ve lost.

Revenue we have foregone.

A year 12 formal we never had.

A cancelled holiday.

An aborted gap year.

Access to a real office.

More personal space.

A sense of safety.

The warmth that comes from seeing a stranger’s face unmasked…

With grief comes anger, anguish, sadness, a sense of languishing…

I have a dear friend who is handing out “free passes” to everyone — including himself. I love this. We need to cut ourselves some slack.

We also need to give each other the opportunity to vent our own, unique personal pain and to resist the urge to counter someone else’s story with our own personal challenges. We all need moments to simply say that our very own version of being less than human sucks.

Rachel is based in Melbourne and works at the intersection of innovation, culture and marketing. She is the author of ‘UNBLINKERED: The quirky biases that get in the way of creative thinking…and how to bust them’. She is driven by a purpose to make each encounter matter.

*names are changed.



rachel audige

Unearthing resourceful ideas hiding in plain sight. I am a Franco-Australian facilitator, trainer and writer on innovation and creative marketing & strategy.