During a home visit last week, one of my patients who lost her husband during CoVID said: “I always look forward to your COVID piece. Can I make a suggestion?” I’m always open to suggestions so I assured her she could. Here’s what ensued.
We hear a lot about death during CoVID. Those who died of CoVID. Those who died during. But what about those left behind? How has CoVID changed grief? How many missed the chance to say goodbye because of visitor restrictions and public health regulations?
Grief during CoVID is two-tiered: the grief of the world we’ve lost and the devastation of losing a loved one.
My patient had a terminal cancer diagnosis so one might argue that it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But it did. The morning of his death, I sat at his bedside, his caring eyes between my hands trying to provide reassurance, but all he said was: “you get me home.” His family was home, of course, restricted from visiting at the time due to policies.
He quickly went downhill that morning and his wife did have the opportunity to come and be by his bedside, despite restrictions. I’m not sure that would have happened in a bigger centre. Yet she can’t help but wonder if it hadn’t been for COVID, would she have already been there that morning. Probably.
All the new rules and policies put pressure on patients, families, and hospital staff. Patients died alone. Family members struggled to understand and grieve. Deaths were further complicated by rules of no memorials or funerals due to number restrictions. The opportunity for closure and goodbyes virtualized, minimized.
Then around the world and on social media, people mocked COVID. Created parodies and skits. Others dismissed it as a flu - something not serious and over-exaggerated. But for those who suffered through illness or the loss of a loved one - or continue to suffer - CoVID isn’t a joke. The absence echoing through a house ten times worse than the silence of isolation.
The UK and Germany announced memorial services to honour coronavirus victims. But all deaths during this time are due to coronavirus, whether directly or indirectly. We watch the numbers rise but we must remember that these deaths are worth more than a tally.
There’s a double ache. A double loss. A weight we will take years to truly understand, but never forget.