Dealing with Death during Covid-19

As I’m writing this post I am grieving. Grieving for the sudden loss of a beloved aunt and uncle taken suddenly due to a car accident. A car accident simply caused by a semi-truck driver being too distracted. Too distracted to notice traffic coming to a stop before ploughing into my uncle’s car and killing my aunt and uncle instantly. While part of me is grateful that no one else was seriously injured or killed, I cannot help my shameful wish that it had been someone else’s family to have been affected so tragically. I also cannot seem to contain my staggering rage at the truck driver who was “distracted.” Distracted by what?! What was so important that you took your eyes off the road? Your one job while driving is to drive, paying attention to the road at all times. I am trying to be compassionate and realize that it was an accident and obviously, I know nothing about the truck driver, what they were going through that day, what their life is like, or even their working conditions. I am trying to imagine the guilt that they, or anyone else who has killed another in a car accident, may feel. But if I’m honest, my compassion is being smothered by my anger; the want to hurt this person as deeply as they have hurt me and my family is astounding. 

And while I grieve for my loss, I am grieving for the fact that I cannot be with my family during this crucial time. While many of my family is able to gather together to offer support and comfort to each other, I live hours away and while in any other circumstances I wouldn’t hesitate to drive those few hours to be with them, I have to remain at home due to my high risk of complications with Covid-19. This fact is eating at me as nothing else has since the pandemic began.

Covid-19 has turned our world upside down in so many ways. While governments and politicians have been largely concerned with the effects on the economy, the effects are most devastating for a family dealing with death. When a loved one passes, there is nothing more cathartic than gathering with others you know cared for them as much as you did, who understand how special that person was and how irreplaceable they truly are. This comfort is almost indescribable and has never been so glaring to me until this moment. Others can empathize, they can offer their love, support, and compassion but it is nothing like being in the company of those that share common memories with the departed, who understand wholeheartedly what was lost. 

I will never get the opportunity to mourn with my family over the loss of my uncle and aunt because of Covid-19. I will not be surrounded by those who remember my uncle as the rock of the family. An uncle who even after hours of work and driving around, would do more driving to visit a sick family member on a whim to brighten their day. An aunt who made me a delicious yellow chicky cake on my birthday from scratch, simply because she could, knowing my favorite toy was a giant stuffed chicky. An aunt and uncle who helped other family members financially, even when they didn’t have money to spare. An aunt and uncle who laughed and smiled easily, making any family gathering without them less bright, their absence always felt immediately.

Due to Covid-19, I will miss out on the funeral of my aunt and uncle. Many people fail to realize how important rituals are to us as a species. Every human society has had rituals for the dead as it allows closure and healing to take place, it is a way to say “goodbye” and wish them well on their next journey. Due to having cancer and other health risks, I cannot be physically present for any gathering, thus my aunt and uncle’s funeral, as the potential of exposure to Covid-19 is too high. 

Most importantly though, due to Covid-19 I won’t be there for my family. I cannot go to my family and hug my two cousins who have lost not just one parent, but both on the same day. I cannot offer the comfort of my presence or help them with anything they need. I cannot even offer them a place to stay while they are grieving so that they aren’t alone. There are no words to truly express how much this pains me. 

When this pandemic began, putting my health first and keeping physical distance from others seemed like a no brainer and not much to ask from my family and friends. But now it seems unbearable. I’ve never been more angry about the fact that I have cancer. I’ve never been more upset about the pandemic until now. And these words are truly inadequate to describe how I’m really feeling. 

I know I am not the first one who has dealt with loss during Covid-19, nor will I be the last. I am one of millions who has and will have to endure this terrible predicament. While I normally would have written these thoughts in my personal journal, I thought to write it here just in case it resonated with someone else. You are not alone. I care and hope that you find a small bit of comfort in that fact.