real life

Simi lost her husband to a virus in 2017. Last month, she and three loved ones fought COVID-19.

Australian-born Simi Polonsky Hoffman lives in Brooklyn — a diverse, culture-rich, buzzing borough of New York City — where she and her sister have established their modest-fashion label, The Frock NYC.

A little over a month ago, before COVID-19 lockdown emptied the city’s streets, she was among thousands of locals celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim; people were visiting houses, delivering presents, gathering in their neighbourhoods.

Within the next three days, some started falling ill.

Brooklyn is one of the epicentres of New York’s crippling COVID-19 outbreak, which has so far infected more than 106,000 people and claimed more than 7,300 lives. Among those diagnosed were Simi, her husband Yaniv, her sister and her brother-in-law.

Mercifully, Simi’s was a mild version of the illness.

“I was like, ‘Why can’t I taste anything? This is so weird.'” Simi told Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast. “I didn’t really know what was going on. I was feeling a bit of nausea, dizziness, and I was like, ‘This is manageable. I can manage this.’ But then my sister called…'”

Listen: Simi returns to No Filter to talk about COVID-19, grief and new love.

Simi’s brother-in-law suffered far more severe symptoms. He had a fever of 39.4C that lasted two weeks. Medics had to visit his home every two days to administer IV fluids and check his oxygen. As they did with thousands of others.

“You usually hear sirens in New York,” Simi said. “But those two weeks, you could hear sirens every 10 minutes. It was very scary. It was really scary. And my sister was dealing with all those things. I kept trying to tell her [her husband is] going to be fine. And she’s like, ‘Simi, what if he’s not?'”

Sirens. A virus. People she loves falling ill. Triggering doesn’t seem like a strong enough word, given what Simi had been through less than three years ago.

‘This is called the circle of life.’

Simi lost her first husband, Shua, on November 9, 2017, when a rare virus attacked his heart. She was four months pregnant at the time and raising their two young children.

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The loss floored her.

“I was so angry,” she said. “I fought against God, and I said, ‘Bring him back, because I’m not doing this.’ And I did that for a very long time.”

 

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Simi ultimately had to make the choice to live; for their children, for her family, for herself, and for Shua. Making that choice meant choosing a life without him.

“Surrendering to a plan that was far darker than my prior, colourful, postcard life came with the pain of a reality I had been fighting with every ounce of my human strength,” she wrote on Instagram recently.

“The next step was to figure out what my new postcard was going to look like.”

It’s a far happier picture than Simi could have possibly imagined then. She’s now newly married to Yaniv, a musician who came into her life unexpectedly, beautifully, when she was ready to reopen her home to family and friends for Shabbat (the weekly day of rest in Orthodox Jewish faith). Shua’s brother had invited him along that evening.

“I remember I said to my mum, ‘If I’m ever going meet someone, I promise you Shua is going to send him to my door.’ And there he was, there he was that Friday night,” she said.

“It doesn’t take away from how present Shua is and how much I love him and how much he’ll be there for my kids. Because I can hear Shua saying, ‘Sim, this is what life is about. This is called the circle of life. This is what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re not supposed to be sitting there for the rest of your life sobbing and crying. You’re supposed to be happy’.”

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“It was like the death talk again.”

When COVID-19 leeched its way into her life, at first, she didn’t relate it to Shua’s death.

“Shua, to me, was so so another realm and [this time] it was really just ‘get to action’ right away. But then after a few days of my sister talking to me about her anxiety, and the sirens… I was like, you know, bad things actually do happen; things don’t always have a happy ending.”

Her own anxiety swelled. She started crying, and couldn’t stop for several days.

“It was like the death talk again, it was like that whole cycle,” she said.

“I really had to do a lot of self-talk about faith over fear, faith over fear, faith over fear. Which is weird how I can do that now, because I didn’t have that happy ending. But that’s how I have to live.”

Weeks on, her family have now recovered, and she can finally begin to breathe again and to re-embrace her new kind of happy.

“I feel at peace with the love that I have and the happiness that I have. And I don’t feel guilty about it. The sadness is something that I realise is a part of my life and my being and my family’s lives and a part of my understanding of reality,” she said.

“I feel like I’ve been given a second chance of life.”

Read more:

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus – How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.

Feature image: Instagram.

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