Barbara, left, and Marissa Barnartt pose for a photo outside their condo building in Thornhill, Ont. on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Barbara, left, and Marissa Barnartt pose for a photo outside their condo building in Thornhill, Ont. on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

COVID-19 brings some families closer together, as bonds strengthen in times of crisis

‘I didn’t realize how much all these people meant to me’

Marissa Barnartt doesn’t have to travel far to see her mother on Family Day on Monday. All she needs to do is open her bedroom door.

In late 2019, the 34-year-old financial advisor moved back in with her mother in north Toronto after giving up her apartment because of an issue with her landlord.

But the shared living arrangement turned out to be “a blessing in disguise,” says Barnartt. The COVID-19 pandemic has extended her stay for more than a year now, bringing mother and daughter closer together than ever.

After losing her father about a decade ago, Barnartt says the crisis has given her the chance to reconnect with the woman who raised her — this time as roommates. And while she wouldn’t mind a bit more space, there’s no one else she’d rather shelter-in-place with.

“Our lives were always very busy between school, work, extracurriculars,” she said. “It is nice knowing that we have that quality time now that we didn’t necessarily have with my dad… Even if it’s too much sometimes.”

While pandemic-related restrictions have separated many families, some Canadians are reuniting with relatives to support each other through the crisis, often rekindling bonds that had perhaps been neglected in the bustle of pre-lockdown life.

The Barnartts said they’ve not only had to relearn how to live together, but have discovered new ways they can rely on each other.

Barbara Barnartt said she’s happy to spare her daughter the cost of rent in return for some help with a home renovation.

“She’s got somebody to talk to, and I’ve got somebody to talk to,” Barbara Barnartt said. “It’s really helped us both.”

Times of crisis tend to pull families together, often because of increased pressure to pool resources such as money and housing, said Barbara Mitchell, a professor of sociology and gerontology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

ALSO READ: Readers weigh in on change to B.C. Family Day

But the process of sorting into social bubbles has also forced people to think about the relationships that matter most to them, and more often than not, close family members tend to outrank the rest, Mitchell said.

“Families are incredibly resilient,” she said. “They have this capacity to weather storms and bounce back from adversity in ways that can actually make them stronger.”

For Karen Avey, the pandemic presented the inadvertent “gift” of being able to see how much her son has grown since moving to Shanghai five years ago to study traditional Chinese medicine.

Late one night last March, Avey heard a knock on the door of her home in Brantford, Ont., and was stunned to find her 24-year-old standing on her porch.

“You’re going to be mad,” he told her, explaining that he’d been quarantining at his father’s house for two weeks without telling her, because he knew nothing would stop her from trying to see him.

“That was absolutely true,” Avey said. “Then we sat on the sofa, stuck together like glue.”

After he left for school in 2016, Avey said her son had only been able to visit home a handful of times because of the rigours of his program. Now, he’s just a short drive away at his father’s house while working together at his medical clinic.

Avey said her son will only see her outside on the porch to reduce the risk of exposing her to the virus, but she still manages to sneak in the occasional hug as she marvels at the accomplished young man her boy has become.

“It’s a whole new level of pride in who he is, what he wants to do and what he’s doing now.”

Melanie Billark said her grandmother was her “rock” growing up, so when the 82-year-old needed someone to take care of her, she didn’t hesitate to return the favour.

A few months into lockdown, Billark said her grandmother was hospitalized for a psychotic episode after she stopped taking medication for her dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Since then, the 30-year-old artist has been travelling from Toronto to her grandmother’s long-term care home in Oakville to help her relearn routines and counsel her through her mental health struggles.

“If the roles were reversed, which they were before, she would have done anything for us,” she said. “I feel it’s my job now to help her.”

Billark admitted that her new role as caretaker has been both “a blessing and a curse.” With every visit, she has to weigh the risks of infection against the psychological toll of social isolation.

“I have all of this responsibility on my shoulders,” she said. “But it’s the benefit of her own mental health and stability and having contact with someone that it kind of outweighs everything for me.”

While Allison Bradley in Kelowna, B.C., can’t see her parents on a regular basis, in some ways, she feels like she’s spending more time with them than ever.

Bradley said video chat has allowed her and the rest of her family to “visit” her 87-year-old mother and 90-year-old father every weekend, giving them a chance to see their first great grandchild grow up from afar.

She’s also taken the time to digitally reconnect with relatives across the globe, some of whom she hadn’t seen in years.

“I didn’t realize how much all these people meant to me,” she said.

“All of a sudden, we’re not so wrapped up in our own little worlds, and we’re remembering to reach out to the people that we care about.”

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusFamily activities

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

Amanda Vance, executive director of the DDBIA, said the business organization will host a workshop for its members on how to deal with customers who refuse to wear masks. (File photo)
Workshop to help Duncan businesses deal with customers refusing to wear masks

DDBIA says businesses continue to deal with anti-maskers

The Raptors Rescue Society will receive $387,350 from the province to help construct its planned Education Centre. (File photo)
Raptors Rescue Society to receive $387,350 from province

Funding to be used for new Education Centre

Police are investigating after a man was killed at a home on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police investigating early-morning murder in Duncan

One arrested after man killed at Cowichan Lake Road home

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Most Read