After Losing a Loved One to COVID we gather our extended family. 🤗 Virtual hugs extend through the computers that stand between us, reflections of our 😰 isolation. Screens bind us to our grief instead of each other. This is a new way of mourning en masse, in a time unlike any other.
Screens separate us from all that we cannot touch. The hand we cannot hold. The hug we cannot give. Mourning trapped, incompletely expressed. Grieving death in the time of the coronavirus pandemic is different. It's darker and lonelier.
As I write this, the US government has announced that 49,861 people have died of Coronavirus. One of those is from our family. Another is a friend. Two of the many dead have names and faces for us. Still. None of the others are just numbers.
Coronavirus has killed more than 49,000 Americans. That is sixteen 9/11s in a few weeks. Americans have lost family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. This is a tragedy of extreme proportions. And because we were not prepared for this war, we have no way to grieve the fallen.
I pray that none of you go through what our family has been through in the last week. Why? Beyond losing someone, current circumstances make this one of the worst times to grieve.
With the highly infectious nature of coronavirus, we are unable to say goodbye to our dying loved ones. Visits are not allowed. Because it is a pandemic and things are so chaotic on the front lines, you may not be able to contact a loved one. Or they may be intubated, sedated, and unable to speak. This too is not uncommon.
After death comes the screens. Often there are no funerals because it's too dangerous to gather. No memorial services. No gathering of loved ones to say goodbye. Forget about being with family and friends. You will not get a hug, you will get a text message. If you have someone to organize it, you'll sit shiva and mourn on Zoom calls.
Coronavirus has upended so many of the routines and traditions that are integral to our lives. Death, funerals, and grieving are no exception. In one article on Vox Media entitled, How Coronavirus is Changing the Way We Grieve and Mourn the Dead, a rabbi was quoted saying, “the normal healing process has been disrupted.” Sadly, my family has experienced this firsthand.
Here are some of the ways that grieving death during the coronavirus pandemic has changed from prior times. This is our new normal:
Coronavirus has caused death and along with it a simultaneous barrier to proper grieving. The suddenness of all this is another shock. It is as if 50,000 people died in car crashes in a few weeks. There is an incompleteness to these deaths. No goodbye. No gathering. Nothing. And it hurts.
With no way to say goodbye, thousands of times over, our country is in a state of collective grief that has turned into shock. This is a massive amount of trauma for people, and a country to absorb.
This swell of loss may very well turn into a tsunami of grief in the coming months if the virus is not contained and controlled by those in command.
This article called 6 Ways to Help Loved Ones Grieving Death During the Coronavirus Pandemic shares thoughtful ideas for supporting friends and family who are grieving a death right now. Here are a few ways you can be of support:
This is what is happening with me. But what about you? Have you lost someone during this time? Someone dear to you? Or a friend? A colleague? A neighbor, or acquaintance? It doesn't matter if it was from coronavirus because we're all in the same boat, taken by surprise and deprived of the rituals that anchor us when death visits. How are you coping?
People from around the world responded when I wrote about Coronavirus and My Family. I'm so grateful that you came to talk to me from your homes in South Korea, New Zealand, France, Ireland, England, Israel, and the US. During this time of isolation, you are a lifeline for me. So leave a comment and let me know how you're holding up. I want to know how you're doing. Hugs to you and all and stay safe!