North Texas Daily

The pain of grieving during the pandemic

The pain of grieving during the pandemic

The pain of grieving during the pandemic
June 18
11:25 2020

As I’ve watched the COVID-19 coverage and heard horrifying stories from the healthcare frontlines, I believed naïvely that no one close to me would test positive or die from it. I assured myself I’d be able to celebrate birthdays and graduations soon, despite social distancing measures and increasing COVID-positive cases across the U.S. 

I naïvely believed COVID-19 would circumvent my life, leaving no trace and letting me get on with my life. That naïveté was killed the moment I found out my grandmother was on her deathbed and kept in isolation. She would later die in her hospice room and social distancing measures would ensure there was no funeral to openly grieve afterwards. 

I did not expect to be grieving for a family member during a global pandemic. I did not ever expect to share the same grief as hundreds of people for not being with a loved one while they died.

Without funerals, the grief of losing someone feels like you’re dragging around wet laundry, letting it mold all over when you could simply hang it up to dry. My grandmother’s funeral was meant to dry the wet laundry, to allow me and my family to grieve together and reflect on her life. There doesn’t feel like there’s been any closure and the moldy laundry just worsens, despite saying my last goodbyes over the phone. 

My grandmother’s decades-long, diabetes complications resulted in her electing to be taken off her dialysis treatment. It was her choice, although an unexpected one, that led to her living in a San Antonio hospice room for the remaining month of her life. To protect their most vulnerable patients from COVID-19, the center barred family and friends from visiting. 

A little over a month after her admittance into hospice, my grandmother died alone in her patient room. Family photos taped to her window were put up by my extended family. A tent was set up outside her window for the family to gather and talk to her through the window without risking infection and sunburns. She died alone in that hospice room and the regret of not being by her side will live on in me. 

There was no funeral, no public display of grief for our family and friends to come together. We decided not to hold a funeral over Zoom and to hold off on a memorial for the foreseeable future. 

My family isn’t the only one grieving in isolation. In Texas alone, there have been 1,983 COVID-related deaths, with an estimated 89,108 total cases, as reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services

Hundreds of excess deaths are expected in the next year as cancer treatments, referrals, dialysis and clinical trials have been pushed back as hospitals try to protect their patients and piece together their struggling health systems, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Funerals, as horrendous and cruel as they may be, are meant to acknowledge that someone we cared about has died. They provide a support system for friends, family and the community to lean on. Funerals allow us to reflect on life and mortality while relishing in the memories of our deceased loved ones.

Self-isolation and social distancing have been hard on everyone. Humans are a social species; we are not made to be isolated and kept from our people for long periods of time. Despite this, preventing the spread of a deadly virus, protecting our most vulnerable populations and placing our public health above the individual is necessary.

I can only think about the numerous families across the U.S. grappling with the grief of losing a loved one to COVID-19.

Maybe I’m lucky that COVID-19 didn’t kill my grandmother, but it might also be the cruelest part of the grief process. I can’t point the finger of blame at the pandemic or our late-to-act government, just simply bad health and old age. The only solace I can find is knowing deceased COVID-19 patients and my grandmother have found peace and will not feel the suffering of COVID-19 or isolation anymore. 

Featured Illustration: Srinidhi Shukla

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Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg

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