My closest friend of decades died Tuesday but today is just like Tuesday last week or any other Tuesday two months ago for me.
She’d been comatose and unresponsive for over a week. I’d been praying for days for mercy from her pain and discomfort and that she would be surrounded and touched by loving hands and words.
When I was told just minutes following her death that she was finally at ease, my first response was an overwhelming relief that she was at peace.
My second was a grateful acknowledgement for being called and an offer to make calls to others if her precious guy desired.
Still midday when those brief calls were made, I hung up wondering what to do next. The announcement of her death to those I’d called were much like the brief updates I’d been sharing when others often called over the past months and weeks on her condition. Her death was peaceable and her guy was with her. What more need be said.
There were no others with whom I wanted to talk with at more length. My feelings were too personal and too deep to risk sharing. There were no tears. Only silence enveloped me in my aloneness since the COVID-19 isolation of early March.
Nor were any of the time honored rituals or usual actions one would take at the time of the death of a beloved available to me now.
I had not seen my friend in weeks. Although I’d continued to talk to her by phone, I had not heard her voice in many days.
Although I’d written to her and her beloved and checked on him by phone, I had not and still could not be with him physically to offer in person comfort. I couldn’t prepare a meal to take over as has been a first action in the past. Ordering a catered and delivered meal is a poor substitute at best.
The funeral plans they’d made a few years earlier are now being challenged and changed by my friend’s daughter. Final plans have not yet been announced. If a memorial is conducted in the cemetery chapel, I cannot attend.
This is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I have lost my friend to death and even prayed for her release from suffering. I’d been informed and had informed others by rote however, none of this news seems real. My days are no different from the many weeks leading up to now.
The pandemic has changed so much for all of us but for those who have lost someone to death and cannot gather to grieve or commemorate that person’s very unique loving, laughing, compassionate, generous ways, it is a time of surreal unreality.
I’m following the daily routine I’ve been following since March. I am cyber sharing in groups and with others as though nothing has changed. Yet everything for me and those who loved her has changed forever. Hopefully, this a temporary state of shock or of denial. However, I fear that grief will be prolonged because the usual ways of mourning are not available during this extraordinary time of pandemic. Yes, the pandemic will eventually pass and people will resume their daily lives more normally. However, I wonder if present circumstance will only make the reality of loss longer and more difficult with the passage of time.
I remind myself throughout each day as I take my routine neighborhood walks or prepare a meal or work in my yard or respond to another’s post that I’ll never again hear my best friend’s voice; I’ll not be able to turn to her for counsel or encouragement or just the joy of knowing that she always has my back regardless.
How am I supposed to feel now? How am I to grieve? What will make this event of passage real enough that I can mourn her loss, celebrate her life and begin to move forward in a meaningful way?
Thousands of others are experiencing the death of a loved one during this pandemic. Some are gathering through Zoom to participate in funerals or celebrations of life. Others, too, cannot come together or react in the usual time honored rituals of a beloved’s passing.
One source found on the internet revealed a link that might prove helpful to others. This link provides excerpts from a book: “Option B” and gives ideas on resiliency in crisis; hardship; support; self-compassion; post traumatic growth and taking back joy: https://optionb.org/bookexcerpt
What suggestions can others who have experienced something like this offer to those of us who are needing support but don’t know how to reach out for it?