TORONTO -- The grief and separation everyone has felt during the pandemic mirror what immigrants in Canada and their children have felt for years, a pair of podcasters say.

“We have been challenged to find new and creative ways to show our love from afar,” co-host of the “Living Hyphen” podcast Justine Abigail Yu told in a phone call.

“But for those of us who are part of a diaspora or who have been displaced in some way – voluntarily or forced, right here on this land or abroad – that is simply a normal way of life for us.”

The new podcast’s first season, which launched on Wednesday, features people from a wide swath of backgrounds touching on the theme of home -- what that means in a pandemic context or as part of the diaspora.

She noted that words such as “social and physical distancing” or “Zoom fatigue” are new vocabulary for very old concepts, especially for those with family in other parts of the world.

“As a Filipina-Canadian, for example, my family and I have always had to find creative ways to connect with my family back home in the Philippines,” she said.

“But there is this this shared experience suddenly. And I feel like [everyone] are getting a very small glimpse into this experience of what it's like to live ‘very far apart’ from our families.”


Throughout the podcast’s seven-episode run, Yu and her co-host Trisha Gregorio will look at many shared experiences people felt during the pandemic.

For example, Yu said the bread-making craze early last year told her that people, in general, were really “drawn to food and the comfort it brings and the joy it brings.”

And this idea is echoed by many in the diaspora. “We turn to food for like so much of memories. So much of tradition is passed down from cooking, mostly mothers who are teaching their daughters or their children how to cook.”

Meanwhile, Yu’s episode on grief touches on many facets ranging from needing to grieve loved ones from home to those simply grieving how the much of their world has changed.

So she explores how before the pandemic, immigrants or first-generation Canadians routinely mourned family passing in other countries, and also how they feel mournful for how much they left behind.

The “Living Hyphen” podcast is essentially an extension of Yu’s online magazine and writing workshops of the same name.

“With the audio format, we’re able to dial in on a different kind of intimacy,” said Gregorio, the show’s co-host and podcast producer.

“There’s something so special about getting to hear all these stories in the podcast directly from the voices behind them, and to be able to bring these, in this form, to listeners,” she said.

“Living Hyphen has always been about the closeness and warmth of having a storytelling community to belong to, especially for those of us from underrepresented communities.”