SYDNEY, N.S. -- After months of being apart, residents of some long-term care homes in Nova Scotia were reunited with family on Monday.

COVID-19 has been a time of uncertainty and tragedy in nursing homes, and while Monday's first day of visits represented a milestone, it's one that came with a different feel.

The welcome mat was rolled out for families of residents at The Cove Guest Home in Sydney, N.S.

It's a day, that's been more than three months in the making.

"If I could touch them, I'd squeeze them to death," B.J. Singler said of his family visiting him.

It was hard to wipe the smile from the face of Singler, who sat six feet apart from his daughter. It's the first time the two of them have been together since mid-March.

"It was extremely hard," said Candi Singler. "Even coming here today and not being able to give him a kiss or hug, it's very hard, right."

Long-term care facilities across the province closed their doors in March in an effort to keep COVID-19 out.

Families had to book an appointment to meet their loved one Monday. They were only allowed to visit for a short period in a designated outdoor setting and had to wear a mask.

"It's something that we were always thinking about, is safety for our residents," said Cheryl Deveaux, the CEO of The Cove Guest Home. "COVID-19 is something we don't want to see in the building. It's becoming second nature now as to how we take precautions."

At Northwood in Halifax, the last few months have been a different story. With the deaths of 53 residents, there's been much heartache within the walls there.

Despite all of that, visitors were allowed Monday.

"The isolation is crippling. This is better than any pill or medication," said Linda Spears, who visited her mom at Northwood on Monday. "She is a happy lady, happier than she's been in a while."

Some long-term care homes are still working on safety protocols and have not yet opened their doors to the public.

Candi Singler says she was happy to be able to sit with her father, but she had concerns as the virus spread elsewhere.

"At first we were thinking, should we keep him in the home or should we take him out?" Singler said. "But I work at a corrections facility and I didn't want to put him at risk."

In the end, Singler says her decision was the right one.

"I love them, I miss them," B.J. Singler said.

Monday was a milestone they've been waiting for, but residents and staff alike admit there's still a long way to go before the virus is behind them.