Looking through the glass door from my aunt’s porch I saw my Grandmother laying in her hospice bed as she whispered, “I am so sorry.” In that moment I felt my world close in, I knew exactly what she meant by those words; sorry for not being the Grandmother I remember.
There is never a good time to get news that someone you love dearly is dying. Now with COVID acting as physical barrier between comforting dying loved ones and loved ones comforting us, it is especially difficult. I experienced this first hand as I lost my Grandmother during the quarantine.
My Grandmother was one of the strongest women I knew. She could take on the world without ever being rattled, while always having a positive attitude. She had an admirable amount of relentless compassion and unconditionally accepted and loved all who surrounded her. She had a way about her that made me feel special like no one else ever could. She saw things in me that I couldn’t see and placed them on a pedestal of praise. She could always find a ray of sunshine no matter what the storm.
After being isolated due to COVID in the hospital for over a month she had whittled away to nothing, thinning hair, and an absent smile. She was told she had cancer all throughout her body and that chemotherapy was not an option. She could only be made comfortable until she passed – thirty days at the most. I crumbled not being able to hold her hand or hug her. I know that was what we both needed. I desperately wanted to grip her hand, be strong for her, and take her place in telling her, “Everything will be just fine.” Telling her that if there is a great beyond that she would, out of any of us, be going there. Instead, we celebrated what we all knew to be her last Mother’s Day looking in at her from afar. We were separated, like a zoo exhibit. The bars tearing apart and trapping our family at the same time.
Looking back, it still doesn’t feel real, didn’t feel humane, and I can’t believe it happened the way it did. These feelings are shared amongst us all with the current world events. All over the world, and our country, whether it be COVID or other causes for passing, people are not able to grieve, and therefore, are not able to properly heal. Grieving the loss of a loved one is distressing enough without adding restrictions. It’s disheartening to have limited funeral attendance, not be able to visit our loved ones in the hospital, nor be able to sit near their hospice bed holding their hand during their last hours. It’s heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, and traumatic.
Everyone’s experience with grief and loss is felt differently, processed distinctly, and healed individually. I can’t take your pain away nor mine but what I can do is offer a few tips for your healing process.
- Time – Relinquish permission to heal. Allow yourself to heal at a pace that feels right for you.
- Healthy Distraction – Remember to take time for yourself and shift your focus for momentary relief, try a mindless puzzle game, going for a quick walk around the block, or virtual/In-Real-Life coffee with a good friend.
- Self-Compassion – Recognize that your feelings are valid, that the grief process varies between people, and that you are doing the best that you can right now, moment-to-moment.
- Connection – Reach out for support. More than ever, now is the time to seek and receive support. Healing only comes through connecting with yourself and others.
- Finding Value and Meaning – Relish what was good and pure about this special person. Memorialize their legacy and reflect on what difference this person has made to you, others, and their community.
Healing from grief and loss, traumas related to COVID, and taking care of ourselves is overwhelming and challenging. These are difficult times and coming together is necessary. Losing someone can bring us even closer to others, allow us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and to make the most out of each day. You can do this!