Grief when COVID stalks the land

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The death of loved ones and grieving are natural elements of our lives as humans and it is in our nature to experience grief very deeply. Every society has developed rituals and processes unique to itself to help each other deal with the emotions of loss. In the age of COVID we become untethered in that experience as nothing works like it is supposed to anymore.

From the vantage point of the Foundation we have watched COVID rip through our at risk population. They don't usually list liver disease in the statistics but since it is co-morbid with so many of the first tier killers we see it clearly sweeping through the community. With it comes a very different stage for grief to play out on regardless of the actual cause of death.

Grief visited us very personally this week. My wife's brother passed suddenly yesterday and my ex wife died today. The ripples of those events are quite different in this age of COVID from what we have known in the past.

My mother passed away a few years ago. The family gathered, we sat through the vigil. We said our goodbyes and we comforted each other in large and small ways. That was as it should be. A sad passing but a part of the natural order. It was something we understood how to do.

Today, as I look at the landscape within the prison wrought by COVID it is very different. No one can gather. The families are spread widely and there is no opportunity to come together and remember and celebrate a life. I wonder how that plays out in the mental health of those who carry on.

As a patient centered organization end of life is a part of our landscape as we seek to be of some small solace to people suffering with these chronic diseases. A great worry for us is the price paid by the caregivers of patients and the impact on families has always been part of the equation. COVID, however, adds a dimension that doesn't really sink in until you face it yourself I think.

How do we grieve alone in our rooms? How do we honor a life on Zoom? When everyone needs a hug, how helpful is it to wave through the phone? When this is over, I wonder how our society will manage the consequences of badly experienced grieving? I suspect the price will be far higher than we think.

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