The global pandemic has put the world at a standstill and showed us another view of death and grief.
During these past Covid-19 months, we talked about the importance of professional caregiving, the role of caregivers, and the health care system. We also featured works about family caregivers, including Gaccetta’s book about taking care of elderly family members. Recently we discussed topics such as dealing with anxieties, challenges in caregiving, and bereavement. However, we have not yet tackled the issue of grief and death in these times of global pandemic. The health protocols, the travel ban, isolation, and social distancing all shaped a new perspective on death and how we have mourned the passing of our friends and loved ones during the past 12 to 13 months.
Death during Pandemic Are Exponentially Sad
If there is one thing that many of us, especially health workers and family caregivers, have witnessed during these Covid times, it is the evolution of death and bereavement. The pandemic has now claimed 2.9 million lives. In the United States alone, the record shows over 530 deaths. However, deaths due to covid and those by any other means all share the same dilemma- immediate burial. Dead bodies are isolated, cremated, or buried immediately. In countries where there is a shortage of coffins, corpses were disposed of through other means. Because there is only a short time for preparing the dead body and most flights are grounded, many of those who died in foreign lands were buried without being seen by relatives.
For Christians and many other religions, this means no funeral rituals or burial rites. Worse, this means that many families were not able to say goodbye to their deceased loved ones. The passing of a dear friend or a family member is painful enough, and not being able to hold and see them one last time is just unimaginable. Even if a family is allowed to hold a funeral for their dearly departed, health protocols and social distancing prevent the social gathering of any kind, including vigil, wake, and even holy mass for gathering crowd. The absence of physical comfort from friends, relatives, and colleagues makes it hard for the family during this grieving period. The loss, emptiness, anxiety, and depression are amplified multiple times because of this.
The Lessons and Reminders from the Pandemic
“There is a need for a deep reflection on the psychological, anthropological, sociological, and medical point of view of the death-dying process in the context of the new SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, seeking to reconfigure the symbolisms, signifiers, and meanings that this process took from 2020 and how the absence of this process impacts people’s mental health. After all, the COVID-19 is robbing families of the chance to say a final goodbye.” – https://www.frontiersin.org/
The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the futility of life and how important it is to adhere to safety protocols and take the virus seriously. It teaches us the lesson that in these times of restrictions and isolation, all the more that we need to check on our friends, relative, and loved ones. Bereavement in this time of great pandemic is not the same as before, and now more than ever, we need to take care of each other. We can do this by constantly communicating, learning the proper ways of dealing with anxiety and depression, and introducing new and effective processes of handling death and dying. For health workers, caregivers, and other medical frontliners, the great task of providing care and comfort during these times require extra effort, empathy, and kindness.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us a new type of grief, and it is up to us to respond, adapt, and overcome if we are to recover and move forward.