On top of the disruption COVID-19 has caused to our daily routines, the virus has also made social connections with those outside of our immediate household strained, stressful, and downright scary for many. As a single mom, I rely on close personal bonds with like-minded women. They are a lifeline for me. These women inspire and encourage me, console and uplift me, and praise and congratulate me. On those days when I just can’t do it all, they step in without hesitation to help me whenever, wherever, and however needed. It’s what makes these relationships so powerful and rewarding, and rare. And it’s also why I have leaned on them so heavily to get through the pandemic.

I have always felt that same-sex friendships were more important to me, and other females in my life, than to males with whom I regularly interacted. According to a study conducted by Georgia State University in 2019, there is some validity to my personal observations. GSU researchers concluded that females find same-sex social interactions to be more rewarding than males.

I began relying on my close circle of female friends more and more in 2020, due not only to the pandemic itself but also to its impact on my family. My dad’s health deteriorated in recent years due to the crippling effects of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and dementia. I found myself spending more and more time in hospitals and rehab facilities, eventually visiting him in the nursing home when we could no longer provide the level of care he needed. My circle was there for me so that I could be there for him.

The restrictions of the pandemic made meaningful interaction with him challenging at best and downright impossible at worst. My mom, brother and I visited him as often as we could, but, for most of 2020, we had to do so through a cracked window to his room from outside of the facility. There were so many nights I went home thanking God that we at least had that because other residents in interior facing rooms did not. Unfortunately, it became obvious very quickly that our efforts to engage with him this way were not enough. His health declined rapidly and, in late September 2020, I got the phone call no child ever wants to receive. Mom told me I needed to come home quickly because my dad was slipping away.

While I will never know if the ultimate outcome would have been different without the effects of COVID-19, I feel certain that the virus expedited his transition. He desperately wanted to be with us, talk to us, hug us, and love us in ways that simply can’t be expressed through a cracked window. My family experienced the toll isolation takes on the elderly firsthand, and it is one of the most devastating things I have witnessed in my lifetime.

So if the past 11 months have impressed one thing upon me, it is just how irreplaceable and invaluable relationships are to our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Despite the heartache of losing my dad during the pandemic, my experiences also made me immensely grateful to be a woman supported and uplifted by a strong circle of female friends.

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