Grief in the Time of Covid-19

Posted by fiesty76 @fiesty76, Jun 26 6:38am

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?

@fiesty76, I am sorry for your loss. I also lost a dear friend and neighbor about six months ago to prostate cancer. I find that it gives me joy when I think about him I always conjure up a mental picture of his smile. He had the greatest sense of humor and loved to find what tweaks you and pull your chain. The smile on his face put everything into perspective and was one that I will always remember.

I've found a favorite go to site to help with keep a positive focus – https://www.resilientoption.com/

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@fiesty76 my sincere condolences on the passing of your dear friend. Her life touched many people it seems, and you're also touching many people in your post here. It is indeed uncertain times we face, especially this year.

I am not in your shoes, so I cannot answer from experience here. It seems the sameness of daily routines will give you a foundation to continue. How to grieve, how to reach out to others in shared grief, is so different now. Even an ordered and catered meal would be a blessing as you cannot deliver one in person. Never doubt that. How to show your feelings safely is a challenge. I hope that your friend's partner is able to complete the final arrangements as they had planned, not as someone else has decided to dictate.

Over the course of history resilience has been a mainstay of human kind. Tragedies can bring out the best of people. Your instant compassion and offering to assist however you can, no doubt helps both her partner and you. There is no requirement for long drawn-out conversations. An honoring of a life gone can be done in so many ways. I won't be surprised if you relate later that you carried on conversations with your friend as you dealt with daily duties. Even a walk in the neighborhood might initiate a conversation, as you talk to her about what you are seeing and experiencing. I know for me in the immediate aftermath of emotional news, that colors seem sharper., that things are more in focus. Are you experiencing that?
Ginger

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@fiesty76– My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your special friend., and a very big hug my friend. Although I haven't lost my closest friend I have experienced most of my family's passing. There is no set rule for how to feel when someone is no longer with us. I am sure that you will feel a lot of different things over time. Sure, feel relief because she is no longer in pain and you don't have to feel like you should be helping when you can't. Feel angry because she went through what she did and you couldn't stop it or help her physically. Feel depressed, sad, and lonely without her, at least for a while, until you can understand her loss. My sister and I reached out to a small support group but it wasn't helpful. If you are religious turn to your God or priest. Let me ask you something, how have you handled loss before?

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@johnbishop

@fiesty76, I am sorry for your loss. I also lost a dear friend and neighbor about six months ago to prostate cancer. I find that it gives me joy when I think about him I always conjure up a mental picture of his smile. He had the greatest sense of humor and loved to find what tweaks you and pull your chain. The smile on his face put everything into perspective and was one that I will always remember.

I've found a favorite go to site to help with keep a positive focus – https://www.resilientoption.com/

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I love this. I’ve lost loved ones either to death, a move away or a rift but always miss them and fear isolation. Now I’m going to think of how it was to be with them so I miss less and enjoy more. Thanks!

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@fiesty76 My condolences on the loss of your friend. It is certainly true that this pandemic has created chaos in our lives – especially things like supporting our friends, and attending to the rituals we rely on.
As a way of coping/remembering do you have any photos or mementos of happy days that you can look at while remembering your dear friend? Please try not to judge her children and their response too harshly – they are living in the same strange times as we are, and probably casting about for a way to feel relevant. Just do what you can to support her guy.
Virtual hugs to you as you grieve.
Sue

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@fiesty76 I am so sorry you have lost your dear friend, and are having to suffer through this loss in such an unsettling and trying time of chaos. She is gone now, but she was supremely fortunate to have had you as her friend throughout her life. Not everyone has that. Try to remember that your friendship was a loving gift that made a huge difference to her for her entire life, and that will never change.

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@johnbishop, @gingerw, @merpreb, Thank you for your immediate, comforting and helpful responses. I remember your writing, John, of the loss of your dear friend and neighbor and could not agree more with what @byrnesies wrote about going forward remembering the very special times we shared because of what you responded. Thank you, both.

Ginger, you are such a meaningful support and yes, I've been having private conversations with my friend throughout this vacillating emotional ordeal and I appreciate the reminder to continue, not only about issues dealing with her situation but also the anger, disbelief, frustration, sadness, isolation, pain, fears for our democracy and the far reaching impact the pandemic is having and will continue to have on our children, grands and communities. We shared so many similar beliefs and views that she was always the one first chosen when needing to vent or talk.

Merry, Thank you, especially, for the cyber hug which comes at a time when physical hugs are lacking. Like you and probably most others of a certain age, I've experienced immediate family's and other close friends' deaths as well as other significant losses over the years. Of course, each situation was different and I reacted and responded differently to each. The first friend I made when moving here in 1974 continued to be a very special and extraordinary friend until her sudden and unexpected death in her sleep the week before X-mas. We had scheduled our annual celebration lunch for the following Monday. The shock was indescribable. This one was long predicted and the daily changes that occurred made most of the focus on the newest situation.

The funeral plans have just been finalized and my order for catering the afterward luncheon for attendees has been placed. The daughter's decision for a chapel service means I and some others who also have serious health issues will not be attending. My friend was a favorite and long tenured educator who will missed and remembered fondly by those who knew and valued her contributions to their lives.

Thank you for the Mayo Connect opportunity to share and receive support from this awesome group of participants. Members have made each day over the past year so much easier for me. Sincerely, Alice

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@fiesty76 I,m so sorry to hear of the passing of your dear friend.I was with my husband when he died.We had talked before of what he wanted so I carried out his wishes.Over and over I told him I
Loved him ,held his hand prayed for his relief . Cried silently Im so glad her guy was with her this will help him it did me in the weeks to come .It's been 20 years and I remember the good times at first I didn't it took me 9 months to feel better emotionaly you ever forget Dec 22 that's why I still don't celebrate Christmas .It will take you time but keep doing what you're doing 😊❣️ he will need you to get through the funeral.We are all here for you send me a p.m anytime

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@fiesty76

@johnbishop, @gingerw, @merpreb, Thank you for your immediate, comforting and helpful responses. I remember your writing, John, of the loss of your dear friend and neighbor and could not agree more with what @byrnesies wrote about going forward remembering the very special times we shared because of what you responded. Thank you, both.

Ginger, you are such a meaningful support and yes, I've been having private conversations with my friend throughout this vacillating emotional ordeal and I appreciate the reminder to continue, not only about issues dealing with her situation but also the anger, disbelief, frustration, sadness, isolation, pain, fears for our democracy and the far reaching impact the pandemic is having and will continue to have on our children, grands and communities. We shared so many similar beliefs and views that she was always the one first chosen when needing to vent or talk.

Merry, Thank you, especially, for the cyber hug which comes at a time when physical hugs are lacking. Like you and probably most others of a certain age, I've experienced immediate family's and other close friends' deaths as well as other significant losses over the years. Of course, each situation was different and I reacted and responded differently to each. The first friend I made when moving here in 1974 continued to be a very special and extraordinary friend until her sudden and unexpected death in her sleep the week before X-mas. We had scheduled our annual celebration lunch for the following Monday. The shock was indescribable. This one was long predicted and the daily changes that occurred made most of the focus on the newest situation.

The funeral plans have just been finalized and my order for catering the afterward luncheon for attendees has been placed. The daughter's decision for a chapel service means I and some others who also have serious health issues will not be attending. My friend was a favorite and long tenured educator who will missed and remembered fondly by those who knew and valued her contributions to their lives.

Thank you for the Mayo Connect opportunity to share and receive support from this awesome group of participants. Members have made each day over the past year so much easier for me. Sincerely, Alice

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@fiesty76 Alice, since there will be a chapel service, is there any way this could be put as a Zoom type broadcast? Since you mentioned your friend was a known and respected educator, there may be far-reaching persons who are not able to attend for differing reasons, whether it be COVID-19 or previous commitments. Perhaps you can contact the place it will be held, and ask?

A note to her guy in your writing may go far in comforting both of you.
Ginger

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@fiesty76 I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. You were so good for her and her partner and it won’t be forgotten. And you’ll have no regrets. Just take some nice walks and let nature heal you. Becky

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@sueinmn

@fiesty76 My condolences on the loss of your friend. It is certainly true that this pandemic has created chaos in our lives – especially things like supporting our friends, and attending to the rituals we rely on.
As a way of coping/remembering do you have any photos or mementos of happy days that you can look at while remembering your dear friend? Please try not to judge her children and their response too harshly – they are living in the same strange times as we are, and probably casting about for a way to feel relevant. Just do what you can to support her guy.
Virtual hugs to you as you grieve.
Sue

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@sueinmn, Thank you, Sue, for your condolences and words of comfort. Yes, there are many photos of times together with my friend and also gifts, some humorous and all very precious that will continue to remind me of how blessed I truly was to have her in my life.

Her guy and I are in daily phone touch and I am praying that that connection is helping him to some small degree of comfort. It is certainly a help for me.

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First of all let me offer you condolences in the loss of your friend, I have a very special minister friend that once told me "words on a page somehow and sometimes get loss in their meaning" and I find that sometimes true. It is hard to express one's true feelings and how they will be received by the person on the other end. However that said your writing was from the heart and so expressive and know that just by your writing you have already and will touch so many other people. Some people have the gift of expressive writing and you are one of those people.

I lost my sister, pre COVID, and we used to call each other and could talk for hours on the phone, when one day I called and my brother-in-law told me that she was not doing well that she was sleeping allot. That was last Spring and ever since that day we were not able to have a "real conversation", than after many doctors appointment, and because of HIPAA I was not able to truly find out what her real problem was, I had to sit back and just take in what others were telling me, and being a nurse that was so hard for me to experience. I felt that there was nothing that I could do. Fortunately I was able to see her before she died and she knew that I was there but as for a "real" conversation that was gone. I feel so blessed that this happened last year and not now as COVID has changed so many things for so many people.

What I hear you saying and forgive me if I am wrong is that I hear you struggling with how are you expected to grieve and mourn, this is all so out of our normal, and yes, for so many of us this is, whether it be the death of a loved one, or all of the changes that we are going through. We cannot conduct our lives like we used to, at least for some of us that want to and need to remain safe. I keep going back to Kubler Ross and the stages of grief, allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling now and in the future. Don't let anyone tell you how to grieve or how long to grieve, let herself go through all of the stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Please allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling and don't feel like you have to be anything different. I hear you when you say "she always had your back", she was always someone that you could go to, someone to laugh with and talk over any important or trivial moment, that for you is gone. I feel your pain. I can remember our parents who used to lose their family and friends one by one, I used to think "how sad", BUT until one experiences it for one's self it doesn't make if "real" until you, yourself have those shoes on your feet.

There is a saying in life, "we come into this life alone and we go out of this life alone", and that is true, but somehow it rings hollow, we are not meant to live alone, we are meant to be in community, to share, to love. and to hold/hug. For right now you are feeling alone and I wish I could be there for you, just to have another human being by your side, we do not know each other, but just to have another human being to be there for you, just a physical presence, someone to listen to you, not having to say anything but just to be there. But I am going to share something with you, I have lost loved ones in my life and what you are feeling right now is "real", it is raw, it hurts, and seems like it will never change or get better. But I have also found that with time, that softens, does it ever go totally away, no, but it softens and those things that you are feel right now are real, and right now what you are experiencing is "fresh", it like a wound that does not have a scab on it, it is not healed. I have heard others say about COVID, that there is no normal right now, that what we used to think of as normal will be no more, that there may be a "new normal". I just hope and pray that the new normal does not mean that we forget the past, forget how to be there for each other, that along with some good changes that we do not forget how to love each other and be there for each other. Your reaching out and your expressiveness tells me that you care, that you want to go on but for now that seems all seems to be foreign to you.

What I want to leave you with, is that I hope and pray that you have a spiritual foundation, for me that has been my rock, my "go to", and something that can never be taken away from me. No matter what happens to me in my life, I will never be truly alone, I will have God to turn to, He is the one that is always there, and will always listen. No, I can't pick up the phone and actually talk to Him, but what I can do and can feel is HIs presence in my life, He is my true friend, my true comforter, and my source of peace. So fiesty 76, I send you my "words on this page", and want to tell you that God will always have your back. May you find peace, comfort, and hope for your tomorrow.

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@zep

@fiesty76 I am so sorry you have lost your dear friend, and are having to suffer through this loss in such an unsettling and trying time of chaos. She is gone now, but she was supremely fortunate to have had you as her friend throughout her life. Not everyone has that. Try to remember that your friendship was a loving gift that made a huge difference to her for her entire life, and that will never change.

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Thank you for your very caring and kind response, @zep. I will hang onto your words of comfort and appreciate them so much.

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@lioness

@fiesty76 I,m so sorry to hear of the passing of your dear friend.I was with my husband when he died.We had talked before of what he wanted so I carried out his wishes.Over and over I told him I
Loved him ,held his hand prayed for his relief . Cried silently Im so glad her guy was with her this will help him it did me in the weeks to come .It's been 20 years and I remember the good times at first I didn't it took me 9 months to feel better emotionaly you ever forget Dec 22 that's why I still don't celebrate Christmas .It will take you time but keep doing what you're doing 😊❣️ he will need you to get through the funeral.We are all here for you send me a p.m anytime

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Ah, @lioness, how wonderful that you could be with your husband when he died and that he could hear your words and know the clasp of your hand. What a great helpmate you had to have been to him because you continue helping others now that he isn't with you. Although the Hospice nurse had told me my sister would slip into a coma before she died, she was lucid and we talked much of the night before she died the following day. I continued talking after she went into the coma even though she became non responsive. Had heard that sound was the last to go. My friend's guy and I had a meaningful conversation by phone yesterday and I can only hope it helped him as much as it did me. He expressed some of the same feelings I'd shared in my post here, especially about the unreality of it all even though he'd been there with her. Thank you for your kind pm offer, too. Right now, I'm taking things moment to moment.

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@becsbuddy

@fiesty76 I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. You were so good for her and her partner and it won’t be forgotten. And you’ll have no regrets. Just take some nice walks and let nature heal you. Becky

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Thank you, @becsbuddy. The hardest moments for me have been not being able to be present with them both these last weeks. i know they understood but that inability was horrible. There was a light, cool breeze this morning as i made a short walk around the neighborhood and it felt soo good. Then out to finish digging up one of the raised veggie beds and adding more compost to the mix before watering the bed to let it "settle". Tomorrow the plan is to add veggie seeds and then start the trial of "patiently" waiting..that part is the hardest. Patience is not one of my top 5 … 10 traits??? Smiles Yes, nature truly can be a soothing healer.

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