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In 2020, I was in awe at the resilience of families. Here’s why

The advice to “be strong, be brave, be well” called to mind people I wrote about this year, and how we can help each other be well.

SHARE In 2020, I was in awe at the resilience of families. Here’s why

Justin Christensen, 42, smiles at his wife Rayna, while sitting with their four children outside their Grantsville home on Thursday, May 28, 2020. “It’s not biased,” Rayna said about the virus. “It doesn’t choose who it affects.”

Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

Editor’s note: Deseret News InDepth writers reflected on their work in 2020. Here’s what they learned:

I am in awe of resilient families who face unexpected and sometimes devastating crises and manage to rise, caring for and lifting others, too.

As COVID-19 blew through like an unrelenting hurricane, that resilience in the face of crisis is found pretty much in all of us, as the 2020 American Family Survey found. It captured challenges and victories in the pandemic. And because family is my beat, I have been privileged to share some of the most personal stories of strangers — not always pandemic-related.

“Be strong, be brave, be well,” the Rev. Amos C. Brown, pastor and civil rights icon, told me for an article in our new upcoming magazine, Deseret. Great advice that called to mind people I wrote about this year.

Natalie Clark’s strength despite her vulnerability stays with me. She grew up in and out of foster care. Her “parent” was the state of Utah — a decent parent in many ways, but never as good as having functional, loving parents. Like others who go straight from foster care into adulthood, she’s faced dilemmas most of us never encounter. Who co-signs to help you get an apartment or car? Who offers life advice or hugs you tight while you’re crying over a breakup? Natalie’s strong and brave and I really hope she’ll be well.

The Rev. Brown, of course, was referring to our response to the pandemic, for which the world was not prepared.

Family is where COVID-19’s most heart-wrenching impacts are: Adult children forced to stay away from elderly parents for fear of sickening them, though sciences says not hugging others hurts us. There’s a hidden cost to keeping older adults safe by isolating them, too. Teens who never got a graduation ceremony — yet may have fared better in mental health than many adults. Parents trying to decide if school is safe for the whole family. And if it’s not, how to juggle work and online schooling.

This was the year family sometimes dropped a loved one at the hospital door and drove away. Rayna Christensen did that when her husband Justin got so sick he was transferred by ambulance to the University of Utah Hospital, miles from his home. He was desperately close to death for weeks, although he had none of the risk factors we’ve all been told can lead to dire coronavirus complications. Rayna and their children held themselves together by an emotional thread while he was intubated and the medical staff battled to save him. Against the odds, Justin’s home. They have been strong and brave and he is well.

I learned more than I wanted to know about COVID-19, interviewing experts to explain how COVID-19 attacks the body, myths surrounding the disease and how Utah will decide who gets care if intensive care units are overrun. I know how much pain people felt this year, too. My husband’s younger sister died in an ICU a state away, felled by the virus.

But I have seen so much joy and resilience. Families developed habits and strengthened relationships. There are activities they’d like to keep.

The lesson of 2020 to me, really is that we are strong and brave — and there are ways we can help each other be well.

Here are some of my top family stories from 2020:

One woman’s journey out of foster care and the daunting task of ‘aging out’ for vulnerable youths

The hidden cost of keeping older adults safe from COVID-19

Losing touch: What 6 feet of safety costs us

Inside one Utah man’s harrowing battle with COVID-19

Lessons from family quarantine

Does going back to school mean walking into danger?

Why teens’ mental health may have fared better than adults’ during quarantine

The surprising way COVID attacks your body