I imagine that many of you have already experienced the loss of a family member or close friend through covid. It is obviously not an uncommon experience these days. Here are my thoughts in these times. It is the most sobering when one finally experiences it personally. All the theory of practicing gratitude and positive thinking; all the teaching about how one grieves and all the past experiences of living through the death of a loved one cannot prepare one for a new loss because each relationship and situation is different. No matter how much the person is liked or not – there is a loss; even when it is not your own personal loss you are bound to be affected by others around you.
Before the death there is the suffering of the illness. The stress of waiting to hear how the person is doing; and if and when they will die makes one feel like one’s life is put on pause. It is not a pleasant feeling. It’s like you are on pause because there is nothing that you want to do and yet you would rather be doing something pleasant to take away the uncomfortable feelings. You know that it is important to be supportive of those close to the person yet you also know that the person suffering can’t be visited due to the pandemic rules.
New Pandemic Rules:
The pandemic has brought a new set of “rules” like no hugging, and not being able to visit the person in person and not being able to attend funerals and memorial services. These are not uncommon factors these days: they are new rules of life and are difficult to traverse because as we have not been in these circumstances before. We find ourselves in a position of being unable to grieve in the manner we culturally normally do. We are forced to find new ways like memorials on Zoom and families organizing the “occasion” on line. It becomes a lonely affair. Grief is usually expressed communally. It is healthy to be together with the survivors in times of grief but now we are kept apart.
Why am I writing about this?
This week two people I know died: an old friend’s father whom I knew since I was 8 years old and my father-in-law. They were both from the village I grew up in. They were of similar age and ordinarily one would say they were ready to go. What was sad is that they had to go through it alone and that there was no way for family members to come alongside them and be there at the bedside as is normal. For some religions a priest normally comes to pray for the dying and that could not happen either. These are all strange things to be experiencing. The whole world is experiencing it. So it is both personal and impersonal.
All I know is, while your family and friends are alive:
- Keep short accounts with those you know; see that you apologize for offenses you have created and see that you take the time to tell people that you care for them. Try to reach out even if you feel hurt or hardness in your heart because sometime it might be too late. You will be the one left with the wound.
- It can feel like a chore visiting older people but they appreciate it, and if you at least take time to show that you care and that you remember them you will suffer less regret after they die.
For a loved one suffering bereavement:
- Be patient with those who have lost a family member because they have never experienced the feelings they are currently going through. It can be confusing or feel like a heavy weight, they might not be able to sleep or think straight, they might need you just to be there to listen, they might need you to gently ‘steer them to the shore so that they can find dry land.’
- Sometimes you might begin to feel unusual feelings of frustration or anger but remember it could be that you are picking up on their feelings. All feelings are allowed in grief: anger, frustration, confusion, desolation, denial, disbelief, regret, guilt, relief, acceptance, and many more. Try to be kind hearted and understanding.
If it is yourself that is suffering grief:
- Remember grief has no time limit or timeline; it has no formula and it has a life of its own. It can feel like it hasn’t hit yet in the beginning and then it can feel like it goes on and on. Try to remember that the person has left memories with you that you can call on at any time. You can allow the person to live on in the ways you remember them or if it is healthier for you, you can wish them well and let them go.
- Try to seek comfort in places and people that can support you and never feel ashamed of grief, it is normal.
I wish that life were different to what it is right now but as it is what it is I wish for each of you a Hope that surpasses all understanding in these circumstances.