real life

"My heart has broken." 40 women share the moment the COVID-19 pandemic became real for them.

As the spread of coronavirus continues to worsen, there have been changes to our daily lives that made us realise how severe this pandemic has and will continue to become.

And although we have all known for some time that 2020 was not going to be a normal year, for many of us, there was a singular moment when this virus personally affected us that made us take a step back, reevaluate and think wow, this is actually real.

Mia Freedman’s thoughts on coronavirus. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

For some, that moment was going to the supermarket and seeing empty shelves, whilst for others, it was realising they didn’t know when they would get to see their loved ones next.

But that’s just the start of it.

Mamamia spoke to 40 women about what that moment was for them; whether that be one individual instance or a build-up of little ones.


“The moment COVID became real for me was when Scott Morrison said, ‘do not travel overseas’. At first, the implication of that was that I wouldn’t be able to visit my family in the UK as planned in June. But then a split second later, I realised I wouldn’t be able to go back at all, even in an emergency.

“That’s when I cried for the first time since all this started. Having absolutely no idea when I might get to see my parents again, if it will even be this year, is terrifying.”


“When my sister had her first baby yesterday and no one in our family knows when we will get to meet him.”


“For me, everything suddenly became much, much more real when New Zealand and then Australia both announced they were implementing two-week mandatory self-isolation for people entering the country. I’m a Kiwi in Australia and had held out hopes of being able to go home for a week or even days in April as planned, even though that seemed unlikely days before this announcement. That really was the end of that hope.

“Then, last Thursday when Australia and New Zealand announced they were closing their borders I panicked that if I did go home – which I’d love to do to see family (after quarantining!) I could have trouble getting back to Australia (where I’ve lived for nearly three years) because as a NZer, I am on a special-category visa that means I’m perpetually considered a temporary resident. So I felt trapped, and had a ‘shit, this is really happening’ realisation.”



“The COVID-19 situation became real for me at around midnight last night when I sent off an email to our wedding venue. Yesterday, after learning that my partner would be moving from full-time to part-time at work for the foreseeable future and watching Scott Morrison’s press conference, we came to the difficult decision that we have no choice but to postpone our August wedding (and honeymoon).

“For weeks, I honestly ignored any doubts in my head about our wedding because I wanted to stay positive and avoid any additional stress. But with the rules constantly changing and with it being a bit of a scary time financially, it’s the best thing to do.”


“When I realised I wouldn’t get to see my mum for a very long time. Or any of my family, for that matter.”


“As with a lot of news events, I feel sadness and empathy from the outset. But for the reality of a situation to really set in, sometimes it takes a moment of realisation about how it affects us personally.

“Call it selfish, but the moments when it clicked for me how real this all is are all to do with how I live my life. Cancelling travel plans. Not knowing when I will see my family again. Realising my job has changed completely and I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it anymore. Having to postpone a surgery I’ve waited two years for.

“None of the above are life-threatening and many are worse off, but it’s still OK to grieve those things along the way while we figure out what ‘normal’ looks like today, and tomorrow, and the next day.”


“I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy. So for me, it was when the hospital messaged me to say that they’re locking down visitors and support people in the maternity ward. I’d always planned to have my mum (a former midwife) and my husband at the birth. Now I have to choose between them.

“My two-year-old won’t be allowed into the hospital to meet her new sister either now. My priority now is to get in and out of hospital as quickly as we can safely manage.”


“I have an uncle who’s been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Has 6-12 months to live. It hit me at 2am on Saturday night that I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again.”


“For me, it became real earlier this week on my mum’s birthday. She has an autoimmune disease and struggles to fight off infections, so I made the decision to be safe and not hug her.

“When she realised that she couldn’t hug her eldest daughter on her birthday she looked heartbroken, which in turn, broke me too. But once I reminded myself about the severity of this virus, I knew I absolutely made the right decision.”



“I was in the supermarket with my mum and she was asking me if they’d moved the bread aisle. I said, ‘No mum, it’s just all gone’. Sounds so silly but it was THE moment.”


“When Europe escalated to stage three. My business is importing from France and the realisation that my business could collapse. I had pain and tightness in my chest and slept a total of about five hours over three nights.”


“Packing up food to take home from the cafe’s kitchen after I’d been told I didn’t have a job anymore… very emotional.”


“When I left school drop off and another prep mum (new friend) broke down at the gate. Sobbing and I couldn’t hug her. She and hubby would be losing their jobs and didn’t know what they would do. She just couldn’t stop crying. I have only known her for seven weeks and didn’t know what to say.”


“My girls arriving home after being overseas for five months and collecting them from the airport without being able to hug them.”


“Pulling in the driveway after lunch on Monday, after making the call with my boss on that morning that we would shut our swim school. That morning at work there was plenty to do, one foot after the other, but once I got home it was all over for who knows how long.”


“I don’t think it was one moment, I think it’s been lots of moments. The week COVID came to Australia, I was made redundant, got a cold and broke up with my boyfriend.

“When COVID hit, I was in grief over my relationship. I missed the panic buying and then had to go to a couple of different shops to get enough supplies for myself. COVID has hit me hard this week though, I realise I cannot go out, don’t have companionship, won’t see anyone for a while… and my uncle could die in isolation and I will never get to say goodbye.”


“I watched a grandfather run up to his grandkids so excitedly out the front of my building. Then as he approached them he slowed down, and gave them an elbow tap. It was so clear how much he wanted to hug them.”


“The day I had to email all of our casual staff that there would be no work for them for the foreseeable future – two weeks after sending a different email asking them to provide as much availability as they could as this would be our company’s biggest month in recent history and we were desperate for casuals to cover shifts.”


“Explaining to my severe asthmatic five-year-old why he can’t go to school or see his friends for a little while and having him burst into tears asking if he would die if he went outside.”


“The moment COVID-19 became really real for me was when my ex-husband messaged me to say he thinks our children need to just stay put in one house for the time being.

“We agreed my house is best as they have their own rooms here and can have their own space for home learning, and my heart broke for him for making the sacrifice of spending time with his daughters.”



“When I spoke to my grandfather on FaceTime and told him that I won’t be seeing him for a while and he got very upset and confused. He has Alzheimer’s so I’ve decided to tell him ‘I’ll see you next week’ when he asks. It is heartbreaking!”


“It was yesterday. I called 10 chemists trying to find an asthma puffer for my two-year-old. I finally found a shop and they said they couldn’t hold it for me so I left ASAP. It was a 10km drive and I had to leave my newborn and toddler at home with my dad. I got to the chemist and there was none left.

“I got really teary and could barely breathe. I realised how I’ve been suppressing my anxiety about all of this. It’s not as urgent for us as I’m sure it is for others but I realised that I couldn’t give my son what he needed because people are panic buying medication and you don’t need a prescription for asthma meds.”


“When I realised my parents-in-law won’t be able to hold my soon-to-be newborn for a while.”


“On Monday, three of my colleagues were made redundant and my stomach dropped when I heard. At the same time, it was announced that QLD (where I live) would be closing its borders. My partner is currently in Tasmania doing a course and is due to finish next week, but now we aren’t sure if he will physically be able to come home. That was the day it all became real for me.”


“When I found out the cruise ship my parents are travelling on has passengers with ‘flu-like symptoms’.”


“When my gallbladder removal surgery was cancelled this morning. It’s considered ‘elective’. I’ve been in pain and suffering since August. There was finally light at the end of the tunnel to be pain-free. I’m so upset. I know it’s a pretty nothing problem in the world right now but I’m having up to four attacks a day.”


“My husband found out two weeks ago he has stage four cancer plus other health issues and I can’t get his Ventolin or loo paper (not desperate yet). My niece had to cancel her wedding and I had to get a refund for motel and airfare.

“Another niece’s husband had his job put on hold and they just bought their first home and have two kids. My grandsons are now being schooled at home. My two sons work in construction and work is dwindling. I feel desperately sorry for all the people who have now been laid off and are casual workers with no pay.”


“When I got sick (thanks to a student) last week and started to self-isolate. When I found out I could no longer have my doula in the room when I give birth in May.”


“When we found out my father-in-law is in hospital in South Africa dying, and we can’t leave the country to be with him.”


“It has come in waves, my heart has broken many times. I have cried for all of our older community members and how their twilight years have been darkened especially my father who has cancer; for friends on the front line in hospitals who will face this head-on knowing they will possibly see people they love suffer; for the people who have lost their jobs not knowing how they will survive; seeing a fellow teacher so anxious she absolutely lost it in the middle of town during a conversation, symbolic of all teachers trying to cope; the moment I told my kids they couldn’t go to school; the older teens and twenty-somethings who have found their feet in the world only to have it crumbled beneath them. And finally, survivor guilt knowing I am ok when so very many are not.”



“When the hospital I’m going to give birth in told us no visitors and that my mum couldn’t be in the delivery room along with my partner. I’m a first-time mum due in three weeks and am scared about being in total lockdown when we bring our baby home.”


“Looking at my class of seven students today, standing metres away from them while I mark the roll. I am not allowed to teach them and I just saw their big eyes staring up at me, some filled with tears, and I could see how confused they were and how they were trying to figure it all out in their minds. It broke my heart.

“I love my students and I can’t teach them and I am too scared to be near them. In a job where relationships are EVERYTHING, this is so hard and I know that they know something bad is happening but they’re too young to fully comprehend what’s going on. Schools are absolutely not running as normal. What’s happening is awful.”


“As a community pharmacist on the frontline with frightened patients with chronic disease who are at risk and we are begging to stay home. A shortage of many necessary medicines such as Ventolin and paracetamol and inhaled corticosteroids that we have to ration and pick and choose who is most at risk and who gets it. Having to send my kids to school while all their friends are at home because as a regional pharmacist there is a shortage of us.”


“It became real for me when I found out I couldn’t attend the funeral of my aunty, but I’m forced to go to school and teach in an unsanitary environment.”


“Visiting my GP yesterday and talking through our plan for the next eight weeks before I’m due to give birth. The clinic has had a full makeover to protect their frontline admin and nursing team.

“It didn’t hit me when we decided to cancel our baby shower, not when we cancelled our babymoon – but seriously slapped me across the face driving home from that appointment realising you can’t just cancel the delivery of your first child.”


“Postponing my flight to NZ last Saturday (a long-awaited holiday to see family) then hearing the next day that the borders had closed – which was a shock.

“Feeling separated as though by the Berlin Wall, and tearfully thinking I should have abandoned my single and newly-jobless life in Melbourne, got on that flight, and gone to lockdown with my sister and nephew, and at least be close to my parents.”



“We’re both students and work in retail. My partner has been made redundant (kept on as a casual at half his usual number of hours), I’ve just been asked to cut back for the foreseeable future… sh*t just got really real in our house. I’m currently (as in right this minute) working on our budget.”


“My terminally ill father was trying to get home from his final ‘holiday’. Every flight home for a week was cancelled and I was worried I would never see him again. He got the very last plane before the transmitting country closed their borders. I can’t describe the amount of relief I felt. He’s now comfortably in his day three of quarantine.”


“On the 6th of March, I messaged my husband saying that I don’t think we should throw our daughter a fifth birthday party in April. I knew it would get this bad and as sad as it is, I knew we would need to cancel it.”


“When we were told someone at a function we were at had tested positive. I had been there with my husband and kids. The next day I was called by DHHS to say I had to self isolate because (can you believe this) I am a teacher. I haven’t taught all year but the people who had the function had to give them the names of healthcare workers, childcare workers and teachers who were there (there were 230 people there and I don’t even know the person diagnosed who was on the other side of the room).

“So other friends who aren’t teachers that sat on the same table don’t have to self isolate but I do and as a result so does my family. I wouldn’t have minded had it not been that I have some other health issues that have been made more complicated because DHHS rang me! Such confusing times!”

When did the COVID-19 pandemic become real for you? Let us know in the comments.

Feature image: Getty.

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

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.

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