So much has changed since the beginning of 2020. The pandemic has disrupted our lives and relationships. We have been forced to separate ourselves from our friends to keep our family safe. Each day, we are reminded of loss. A loss of freedom and identity. A loss of purpose in life.
While the situation is difficult, most of us will get through it. But what happens when on top of this, we also lose someone dear to us? Since the risk of getting infected is high, we are unable to be with our loved ones during their final days in hospital. Every loss is important, yes, but the grieving process becomes much harder when we are not able to say goodbye.
Bereavement – A Lonely Time Beyond Measure
Each one of us reacts in a different way. The loss and pain hit us at various depth. We may become depressed or angry towards the person who has died. We may become anxious and fearful of our own mortality. Sometimes we think we are coping, but a sudden flutter and tumble in the stomach jolts us back in agony.
When we mourn in isolation, extra layers of suffering are added. We lose an opportunity for closure. It may take us a long time to grasp what has happened and the grief may linger for years. If we cannot see the body, our mind can play tricks and subconsciously we hope that the person may still be alive somewhere.
In normal circumstances, we would be surrounded by relatives and friends supporting us through our griefs. From the wake to many days afterwards, we would not be alone. The person we are mourning may be gone but others are still here, real, solid. We forget to wallow in self-pity and allow ourselves to laugh without feeling guilty.
Be it Willingly or Unwillingly
Living in a pandemic, social isolation means no gatherings, no traditional funerals. We are plunged into a sea of fear and loneliness. Desperate to share our grief with others, for we long for their support, however at times we notice they are fearful of what to say or how to respond to our loss. They misunderstand our situation. Embarrassment appears on their face and they avoid us altogether. Should the bereaved be isolated and deprived of receiving any comfort?
Sometimes our loss is overshadowed by what else is going on in the world, because the spotlight is on other things. When Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh died, the whole country joined the Royal Family in mourning his loss. While the public was urged not to gather or leave tributes at royal residences, this request fell on deaf ears. Hundreds of mourners gathered outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, as if unconcerned about the pandemic. They wanted to pay their respects. They wanted to show their national sadness.
I do not claim to know why, but I guess they wanted to experience a sense of common grief, a social connection. And yet, they cannot share a friend’s fear and pain. The pain that we feel cannot be transferred from one body to another, but the mind can sympathise.
“Death” is a difficult word that feels heavy on our tongue. It means final, closure. But unimaginable as it might be, before any normality returns, it is important to grieve what has been lost. Every loss is valid, and we should acknowledge each one of them. Life has changed and along with it, so have we. Being bereaved is such a lonely time but there is no time limit to saying goodbye.