Support Through the Storm

Cindy will never forget the moment Michael asked her to marry him in 2017. Handsome and loving, he was her soulmate.

Cindy, who struggles with mental illness, has been receiving services through VOA-Greater New York’s Community Support Services (CSS) in Middlesex County, New Jersey, since 2004. CSS provides a range of housing and clinical services to individuals with behavioral health issues, to help create stability, so they can live as independently as possible.

After the engagement, staff helped Cindy and Michael move into a one-bedroom apartment. The pair loved to travel and go to comedy clubs. In 2018, they adopted their cat, Snickerdoodle, from a local shelter. Michael was very caring toward Cindy, helping her cope with her psychiatric symptoms and reminding her to take her medication. They were happy.

But when the pandemic struck, Cindy’s life was thrown into chaos. On April 20, Michael, who worked in a nursing home as a Licensed Practical Nurse, tested positive for COVID-19. Two days later, he passed away. Cindy was devastated. She experienced depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide.

And then, she tested positive for COVID-19 herself.

For 18 days, Cindy had to quarantine inside her apartment, alone and still in mourning. VOA-Greater New York staff were her lifeline during this incredibly difficult time. They spoke to her on the phone every day and visited face-to-face through her apartment window. They shopped for groceries, picked up her prescriptions, and connected her to a grief therapist. The team took Snickerdoodle to the vet when Cindy worried he might be sick.

While Cindy continues to adjust to her new circumstances, staff are there to help her through, encouraging her to keep at her mental health treatment and teaching her to complete the tasks that Michael used to do for her, like cleaning the cat’s litter box.

Gradually, Cindy is getting used to life without Michael. It isn’t easy, but she has learned to take one day at a time. She is grateful for the "VOA family" that stayed by her side, guiding and encouraging her, and helping make one of the worst years of her life a little more bearable.

Cindy is grateful for the "VOA family" that stayed by her side...helping make one of the worst years of her life a little more bearable.