Michigander Jessica Barrow, 33, released three balloons this year for those she lost; each with lessons along the way.
Macomb County, Mich.—Not one, but three balloons let go into the sky in honor of those she lost.
Unable to attend her loved ones funerals, Jessica Barrow, 33 of Macomb Township, has seen the devastation of COVID-19.
Barrow, who works as a lead technical consultant for the digital firm Perficient, has had her working life flipped upside down during the pandemic, and has also lost three family members since the virus first hit the state of Michigan at a large scale in March.
“There’s been quite a lot of death in my family actually, my friends and family were hit pretty hard,” Barrow said. “I’ve had an uncle, an aunt and a cousin pass away, so it’s been a struggle all around with the fear of the virus propped up a little higher because it hit so close to home.”
Two of Barrow’s family members passed away after contracting COVID-19, while a third died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs.
Like most Michiganders in 2020, Barrow was not able to attend their funerals. Her family improvised by releasing balloons into the sky instead.
“We can’t really do anything at this point because of the virus,” she said.
Changes to Work, Home Life—And Finding the Silver Linings
Despite the immense difficulties of losing her family members, Barrow’s job stepped up to the plate by giving her time off to grieve.
“My work was very, very understanding; they were great in giving me time off,” she said. “Even though we had a very tight deadline, they were understanding of my circumstances.”
Since the virus hit, Barrow’s job has changed in a significant way, she said.
Barrow works to update or modify clients’ data warehousing processes, but she wasn’t able to travel as per usual and has instead been working remotely while managing home life with her partner and children in the household.
“I used to travel all the time and now we’ve had to completely shift our client work to be remote, which has presented its own unique set of challenges,” she said. “It was like an abrupt stop, the switch was jarring almost.”
With two children at home, privacy is at a premium and the arrangements are still being worked out.
“It’s been harder with the children being at home all day too,” she said. “It’s also been challenging for them to have me in the same house and to not be able to speak with me with my office door being closed.”
Instead of working on the same floor with her co-workers, Barrow is now attending Zoom meetings with as many as 13-14 people.
“It takes an hour now to do what we used to get done in 30 minutes,” she said.
Despite the loss in efficiency, Barrow and her co-workers have gotten to know each other personally on a whole different level. Dogs barking and children playing are common experiences to be expected during one of the company’s hectic Zoom meetings.
“It hasn’t been bad at all, we’ve learned to view each other as human now and learned a lot more about each other’s personal lives than we ever thought possible now that we’ve been forced to work from home or other locations,” she said.
“My co-workers have also gotten to know my son, they know his voice very well.”
While pandemic life has been tough, Barrow says she and her family have also adjusted by learning to enjoy the little things, like renting a movie on Amazon or going for ice cream.
“It kind of keeps them from feeling like they’re locked up, that’s been the biggest mental toll, not being able to travel and go out with friends and do the things that we usually do,” she said.