People describe the huge sacrifices they have made to stick to lockdown rules
Lockdown is hard on everyone.
We are isolated from our support systems, struggling with financial hardship, grief and anxiety. Amid all that, we are trying to parent, care for vulnerable relatives, keep our families safe.
But the strict lockdown measures are necessary for the greater good. People are doing all they can to protect the NHS and save lives – even at a cost of great personal sacrifice.
We asked people to share their stories of sacrifice and struggle in lockdown.
The hardest moments they have faced – from illness, to the loss of family members – and the great lengths they have gone to to stick to the rules.
Lucille and her husband, from Kedington, Suffolk, tested positive for Covid-19 on 30 April – even after strict social distancing for weeks.
The pair have five children at home, and they all became unwell at the same – two of the kids were really sick with classic coronavirus symptoms:
‘Close to midnight, we woke to a scream. I flew into the children’s bedroom to find child number three, sat on top of his sisters’ bed shaking like nothing you’ve ever seen in your entire life, gabbling incomprehensibly.
‘He was cold and he was shaking. Shaking like you’d sat him on top of a washing machine during the spin cycle, and he was saying that he couldn’t breathe.
‘Then on Thursday, child number four went down. The same high temperature. The same panic. The same struggling to breathe. I could no longer stand and I couldn’t keep anything down at all, not even water.
‘It went on all weekend. Holding the sickest children close and laying very still. Until finally, on Sunday afternoon, our doctor called for an ambulance.
‘They arrived by 9.30pm and in I went. There is honestly nothing quite like kissing your family goodbye, not knowing what will happen next.
‘I was lucky. Beyond lucky. Two bags of I.V fluids and I was discharged with anti-sickness medication.
‘It took another week before I could get out of bed and stand without falling. My husband went to back to work, symptom-free after his 14-day isolation and our new-normal resumed.’
‘I’m beyond relieved that we made it and beyond thankful to every single member of the NHS who helped us. At the moment, they’re doing the most impossible job in the world.’
Jenni runs a charity and lives with her husband and six-year-old daughter Stella in north east London. Jenni became very unwell in March with a high temperature, extreme tiredness, a cough and gastro problems.
Things got worse for the family when Joe had a bad fall on the stairs in April.
‘When I reached him he had lost consciousness and seemed like he was having some kind of fit.
‘I had to drag him down the stairs and get him onto the landing in the recovery position. I was shouting at Stella to bring my phone but she was very distressed and crying herself.
‘In the end I had to leave Joe to grab my phone and run next door as I was calling 999, knowing I was breaking rules momentarily. My lovely neighbour came into my home and looked after Stella and let the ambulance in when they arrived as I stayed with Joe, who was beginning to gain consciousness.
‘He was taken to hospital alone because of the restrictions and we were also asked very firmly by the ambulance crew for the neighbour to leave the house. Which she did.
‘Joe was then in hospital by himself for three days. He had broken his ankle and they were worried about why he had collapsed (we still don’t know if it was shock or something worse.) He had metal put in his leg and was released with instructions of limited mobility.
‘The first few days were the worst. Joe was post-op and in a lot of pain. I was still experiencing pretty awful Covid symptoms. We were also all very traumatised over what had happened. Especially Stella who had witnessed both her parents being really unwell in the space of a few days.
‘We have a wonderful support system. My sister who lives in Dorset knew how much we were struggling and offered to come and help us but we all knew this was not allowed.
‘My mother in law lives in Sheffield and we even discussed the idea of all of us somehow getting to her house so she could look after Stella while we were unable to, but this was never an option.
‘She is over seventy and although we were then officially past the 14 days of self-isolation we never really saw it as an option.
‘I also have many friends in the area, they were able to help by dropping off food etc. but at no point did we ask them to come in and give real help.
‘There were around four days where neither of us were able to provide any real childcare.
‘Stella spent time with both of us in separate bedrooms mainly with the TV and iPad. She made herself sandwiches and ate a lot of snacks.
‘The whole situation has had a massive impact on my mental health. I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder which is generally managed very well but I have found myself incredibly low. It has been so much to deal with.
‘We are through the worst of it now. I am beginning to feel better, Joe is hopefully getting his cast off in a couple of weeks and somehow Stella has made it through.
‘However, we have been in desperate need throughout this of help from friends and family. We have been lucky.
‘Even at our lowest points (and there were a lot) we would never have broken the rules, or put others at risk.’
Anna, from Cambridge, says that she and her husband looked after two small children while they were both very unwell – and she is sure thousands of other parents in the UK will have done the same.
‘First my youngest got what looked like a cold. He had a fever so we put the whole family into lockdown.
‘At this point, my biggest worry was sourcing food deliveries as none of us could go out.
‘Then I got ill. I was totally wiped out and couldn’t do anything. My biggest worry was how we would keep the kids occupied, safe and fed, especially if my husband also got ill. It never occurred to me to drive anywhere or ask anyone to come into our home to help as that would have put them at risk.
‘Even after I caught it I decided to isolate for 14 days not seven, as I felt that the government’s advice of seven days was not sufficient to keep people safe.
‘Once my husband got it, then my biggest worry was that I would push myself too hard looking after the kids and make myself more ill again.
‘That happened, and for weeks the two of us have been getting better, doing too much child care, getting tired again. It’s been a slow recovery and my husband has just got breathless again.
‘I worry one of us will end up with post viral fatigue or ME. I worry that being stuck in doors for so long is bad for the kids development and that they are getting stressed from seeing us stressed or ill so much.’
Carina’s cousin’s aunt died in March, her great aunt and cousin were taken to intensive care two days later. Three weeks later another of Carina’s aunts sadly passed away. Her family has been facing unimaginable grief – and they have been unable to comfort each other.
‘The one thing that has devastated me during this period is not only the loss of family members, but not being able to mourn with them.
‘I broke down in uncontrollable tears following the news of each death, the only person in my household to comfort me? My 10 year old daughter.
‘I’ve had to learn to juggle my own grief whilst managing and comforting the grief of my daughter, all whilst not being able to hug those dear to me.
‘Aunty Dawn died on 26 March, three days before my 35th birthday.
‘My younger sister’s fiance, John, was taken to intensive care on 27 March and my sister was unable to visit, we were unable to visit my sister. We had to rely on video calls to try and support her and alleviate her fears that there was a very real possibility that he could pass away from Covid.
‘Fortunately he was discharged a few weeks later.
‘On 29 March, my birthday, my great aunt Dell was taken to intensive care, whilst her daughter, my cousin, was also in intensive care, both with Covid. We couldn’t visit, talk to them, nothing.
‘My cousin came home, but aunt Dell, sadly passed away on 15 April. Again, we weren’t able to mourn as a family or support each other as we typically would in a Caribbean fashion.
‘Another very close family friend died a few weeks ago from cancer and also a family friend’s Dad, and again, we haven’t been able to visit the family.
‘Aunty Dawn’s funeral was live streamed on Zoom with hundreds of people tuned in from UK, Jamaica and Canada. Her Nine Night was the same, it took place via Zoom.
‘The funeral for another of our family friend is taking place today (Tuesday) and again we are having to rely on Zoom to be able to feel some sort of presence at the funeral and pay our
‘I normally visit my sister and niece and nephew every other week and I’ve missed key milestones. I’ve had to play hide and seek with my two-year-old nephew over Facetime whilst watching my eight-month0old niece learn to crawl via the same means.
‘I’ve had to attend four funerals now over Zoom, Nine Nights and my 35th birthday celebrations. I’ve been heartbroken and grieving all whilst being on lockdown and not being able to be supported by or support those closest to me.
‘I, like many others, have had to make huge personal sacrifices and miss key moments in our lives that we will never be able to get back.’
Before lockdown even began, Oz Izzet – who owns a hairdressing business in London – had to say goodbye to her children as she went to stay with her parents when her father became critically ill.
‘I said goodbye to my children when I dropped them off to their dad’s and went to go care for my parents. My father was in a critical condition.
‘Four home visits by GP, three ambulance calls and a rotation of hazmat suits, masks and dettol got me through the days to come.
‘By the time the last ambulance visited, they said my father most likely wouldn’t return home and we said goodbye to him.
‘I screamed, I shouted, I broke down. I stood, I aimed and told myself I was strong, then repeated this same process endlessly.
‘No one could go to the hospital with my Dad and we couldn’t visit, and he didn’t even know what was going on. He looked like death and I felt like it – he was pale, frail, skinny, eyes barely open, couldn’t eat, couldn’t speak and couldn’t move. It was torture for us all.
‘I tried to help my mum. Her blood pressure was high, she had news that her brother in Cyprus had died and lay in bad telling me about her and my father’s
funeral plans (that would never be possible because of coronavirus).
‘Feeling like I lost my father, my mother and not being with my children until who knows when, was the ultimate sacrifice of my life.
‘Each day, I called my dad and told him to just listen to my voice and guidance. We didn’t know when his last breath would be and I had the awful job of telling family not to call him, at all.
‘I told him; “stay strong, your children send their love, mum is going to cook your favourite dish when you get home, think happy thoughts, we all love you deeply.”
‘Dad recovered. This didn’t mean it was the end, in fact it still feels like the beginning of something every day. When he came home we had to kick in a new set of rules, routines, communications and transitions.
‘I told my mum: “Mum, you can’t hug dad when he comes home, you can’t kiss him, touch him, eat at the table with him, you can’t be in the same space and you definitely can’t go out until… probably forever!”
‘She asked when I would reunite with my children. “I don’t know”, I told her.
‘Each day brought new bullshit. My uncle passed away abroad, then his wife followed, then my sibling’s mother passed away. I asked myself – has our family not struggled enough?’
If you have a story about overcoming heartbreak or struggles in lockdown, we want to hear from you.