Some Deaths Are Lonelier Than Others

The coronavirus has taken away our ability to grieve collectively, forcing us to find new ways to mourn

The writer’s grandmother is pictured holding her aunt as a baby, and the writer’s mother stands next to her.)


The coronavirus has taken away our ability to grieve collectively, forcing us to find new ways to mourn

I have been carrying around a strange guilt lately: I feel grateful that my grandmother died in November. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined myself feeling anything positive about her death, but the pandemic has granted me an acute case of hindsight—of all the luxuries we had without realizing it.

As deaths go, my grandmother’s was an ordinary enough one for an elderly woman. Her health had been declining during the nearly two decades since my grandfather’s death, and ever since she was hospitalized in early 2019, it had seemed clear that she didn’t have much time left. The end itself happened over the course of a few days, granting her children in other provinces time to travel home to be with her when she died.

Over the next few days, the rest of the family arrived in my grandmother’s small Quebec town and began preparing for the funeral. We picked the music and the readings, cooked big meals in her kitchen, and talked about her late into the night over glass after glass of wine. The service was held in our family church, whose cornerstone my grandfather had placed and where most of us grandchildren and great-grandchildren had been baptized. It was sad in the way a long-expected death is sad, one you’ve had months to grieve in anticipation.

The only moment when I felt unmoored was at the cemetery, way up in the forest at the top of Mount Royal. After we had all commented on the beautiful view, after touching her coffin one last time, after they’d lowered her into the ground and we turned to walk back to the car, I had an urge to run back and grab her out of the grave. It had been snowing for days and it was so cold outside and she was so small and now we were just going to leave her there alone while we drove back to the nice warm house and had dinner together. I hated the thought that she had to be stuck there, freezing and lonely, while I get to keep moving through life.

Now, of course, I can’t help thinking how fortunate we were that she died just before COVID-19 began in earnest. Friends who have lost family members during the pandemic tell me about watching funerals over Zoom or Facebook Live; one Twitter acquaintance described viewing her grandmother’s funeral over video chat as it took place in a parking lot half a world away. The people left living are distraught over what feels like a lack of dignity for the dead. They carry a lot of guilt about not being able to change things.

Valerie Wagemans, from Herentals, Belgium, wishes that when saw her grandmother on March 8 she had known that it was their last chance to be together. When her grandmother was hospitalized in April with what turned out to be the coronavirus, her father and his siblings had to make the heart-wrenching choice of who among them would be the sole person allowed to visit her if her case became critical. Valerie’s father, bundled up in PPE, video-chatted with his siblings from their dying mother’s bedside; that night, she slipped away in her sleep. The family were able to have a funeral, but they had to maintain two metres’ distance from each other.

“Seeing my dad greet his mom for the last time, breaking down as he walked away and not being able to hug him…it was a knife to my heart,” says Wagemans. “Afterwards, we said a few words to each other, from afar, and each got back into our own cars and drove without having that much needed time among family to try and come to terms with it.”

Wagemans knows she’s one of the lucky ones, in that her grandmother was able to have a visitor at the end and they were able to have a funeral, but that kind of luck isn’t much comfort. Like many of the people I know who are grieving pandemic deaths, she speaks of not knowing how to process the loss without the familiar customs.

“Funeral rituals have a benefit to the people who are grieving when their lives have been turned upside down,” says social work researcher Susan Cadell. “They serve a purpose of being a road map at a time when there are no directions.”

Not having that map right now is a bitter loss. Part of what people are struggling with is the fact that, in the middle of all this death, it feels like the script for how we navigate it has been taken away. What do you do when someone dies and you can’t perform the usual rites, which for many have the added complication of also being religiously significant? How do you honour someone’s life right now in a way that feels worthy of them? In what ways can we make individual deaths feel meaningful when they’re just one among so many other deaths?

There are also, Cadell says, cultural expectations surrounding our role in what happens when people we know are sick or dying. We’re accustomed to being able to sit with someone while they are sick and suffering, to comfort and bear witness as they die. Even pre-pandemic, this could be challenging; physical proximity doesn’t change the fact that the dying person is on a journey on which no one can accompany them. I think of Simone de Beauvoir writing in A Very Easy Death that even though she and her sister never left their mother’s bedside in her last days, they experienced a profound feeling of separation from her, that “each [dying person] experiences the adventure in solitude.” The coronavirus has brought many of us to the stark realization that some deaths are much lonelier than others, adding to the powerlessness and fear everyone is going through right now. It’s like that same awful sensation of walking away and leaving my grandmother deserted in her grave, only amplified exponentially.

According to psychotherapist Megan Devine, creator of the online community Refuge in Grief, these feelings are another layer of the grieving we’re experiencing right now. She tells me that coping with it can begin as simply as admitting that things are rough.

“Acknowledgement is medicine,” says Devine. “And yes, it sucks right now.”

For Devine, one of the most important functions that in-person funerals provide is the chance to share bereavement in a way that doesn’t require talking.

“Without being able to gather together, we can’t hug each other or meet in that place beyond words,” says Devine. “Touch is the bridge there. We miss that wordless place.”

In spite of that, Devine emphasizes that our current isolation and social distancing practices don’t have to preclude us from creating new meaningful ways to mark the end of a life. Her view is that there is no expiration date on when a funeral or memorial has to happen; one way we can cope with the present is by planning events for a time when it’s possible to gather in person again. She also suggests looking for ways to make online funerals or other events feel more personal. Families might all separately cook the favourite meal of a deceased person and then log on to Zoom to eat together, or make a shared Google map where they mark the places that were significant to the person who died, or take turns playing songs that remind them of the person they’ve lost. Those who are grieving can also try practicing their own private rituals; Devine says that these can be as simple as setting aside some time every morning or evening to sit with a photo of the dead person, maybe with a candle and a cup of tea. Drawing inspiration from 18th century poet William Blake, who used to have regular conversations with his dead brother, she suggests trying to talk to the person. Having these quiet touchpoints can help you stay grounded in the present.

Both Devine and Cadell emphasize that, contrary to the social messaging we receive, funerals don’t provide an ending to grief. Rituals mark an occasion and give us a structure within which to express our feelings, but they can’t solve the feelings themselves. If we’re looking forward to life (and death) returning to some version of normal as a panacea for these overwhelming emotions, we’re probably going to be disappointed. We will no doubt be working through our collective grief for many years to come. What we can draw comfort from right now is that, even though things are incredibly difficult, we’re already finding new ways to do that.

I’m still grieving my grandmother’s death, even though it happened nearly six months ago. I feel guilty about that, too, because I know that the circumstances surrounding the end of her life were so much more favourable than they would be now. How can I still be sad about such a comparatively good death when other people have much fresher, more awful deaths to mourn? But it’s not a zero sum game, and there’s still room to miss her even with everything else that’s going on.

I’m trying out Devine’s suggestion of sitting with a photograph of her; it’s on the table next to me as I type this out. In it, she’s a little girl in the backyard of her childhood house, her arms thrown around her sister and brother. She’s smiling at someone out of the frame and if I position the picture just right, I can catch her gaze. I don’t know if I’m at the point where I could have an imaginary conversation with her, but her lips are parting, as if she’s about to speak.

Complete Article HERE!

What’s Going to Happen to Junior, Now That His Mother Is Dead?

A Manhattan man with autism was sent to a quarantine facility after his mother had symptoms of the coronavirus and died.

Daysi Díaz, an immigrant from Honduras, worked as a seamstress and later as a home health aide.


Daysi Díaz, 65, was afraid to see a doctor, despite a fever that wouldn’t go away. If she was diagnosed with the coronavirus, she might have to be hospitalized. Who would look after her son, Junior?

So Ms. Díaz stayed put in her ninth-floor apartment in a public housing project in Upper Manhattan, growing weaker. Relatives called her often to check in. During one such call in March, Ms. Díaz collapsed. In her final words, she called out for Junior. But he was in a deep sleep.

After his mother’s death, Junior, who is 31 and has a developmental disability, was hospitalized and sent to a quarantine facility in Queens.

His stutter has worsened. He has struggled to make sense of his mother’s death, wondering if she is in heaven. And he has wrestled with anxiety, said his aunt, Carmen González, who is Ms. Díaz’s sister-in-law.

“She thought she was going to live to take care of him,” Ms. González said.

The toll wrought by the coronavirus is forcing some families to confront a wrenching question years before they believed it would be necessary: If a caretaker dies, who will care for disabled adult relatives?

“As Covid-19 sweeps across our city and nation, a lot of parents are coming to the realization that they aren’t going to be here forever and they need a plan,” Jonathan Novick, an outreach manager with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, wrote in an email.

Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, which has torn through group homes. But the virus also poses a threat to adults with these disabilities who still live with their aging parents.

“We are going to see more and more cases like this one,” said Dominic Sisti, an assistant professor of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

While there’s no indication Ms. Díaz was ever tested for the coronavirus, Junior was recently diagnosed with a mild case of Covid-19, so it seems likely that his mother also died of the illness caused by the virus, Ms. González said.

Initially, that made finding a new home for Junior more difficult. But in recent days, a family friend has taken Junior in.

Junior had lived with his mother for the past decade. An immigrant from Honduras, Ms. Díaz worked as a seamstress and later as a home health aide, before injuring her back lifting a patient.

Ms. Díaz was often vague when describing her son’s disability to relatives. But his aunt, Ms. González, said she believed he was on the autism spectrum. A health care provider directly involved in Junior’s care confirmed that to be the case.

The family did not make Junior available for an interview because Ms. González said it might confuse him and leave him unsettled.

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His father was not involved in his life, according to Ms. González. Junior spent his childhood in institutions after showing aggressive behavior at age 5 or 6, she said.

“He went from one place to another,” said Ms. González, who is a retired teacher. “His mom would go everywhere he went, all the time to visit.”

He returned home around age 21, at which point Ms. Díaz became her son’s caregiver. It was often difficult. Tantrums often sent him onto the floor, where he would pound the ground with his fists. But with his mother’s help, he began to exercise some independence.

He loved to look through coupons and fliers left in lobbies, always searching for a bargain. His mother would send him out shopping, an outing that he enjoyed.

His mother’s daily worry was that he would behave in a way a stranger found inappropriate and that things would spiral out of control.

On March 21, Ms. Díaz developed a headache and then a high fever. Soon she was coughing so loudly the neighbors could hear it.

At the time, hospitals were inundated with Covid-19 patients. The city was urging sick people to stay at home, if possible. Ms. González said she received little guidance after calling 311 seeking help for her sister-in-law. “Don’t go to the emergency room,” Ms. González recalled the operator telling her.

Still, Ms. González urged her sister-in-law to try an urgent care center. But Ms. Díaz was too weak to get anywhere on her own. She wasn’t sure whether she had the flu or the coronavirus, but she was scared to find out.

“Truthfully, she was afraid of having the virus, because she didn’t want to leave her son,” Ms. González said. “What’s going to happen to him, you know?”

On the morning of March 31, Ms. Díaz was on the phone with an aunt when she began to call out for Junior. Then the phone fell to the ground. Ms. Díaz had collapsed, according to Ms. González.

An ambulance crew arrived and tried to resuscitate her but failed. . Hours later, Junior was later taken by ambulance to NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center, near his home in the Dyckman houses. There was nowhere else to take him.

Ms. González, 72, who is raising her 6-year-old grandson and also cares for an older sister, said she wanted to take Junior in, “but my hands are totally tied.”

In early April, Junior tested positive for Covid-19, though he showed only mild symptoms, Ms. González said. He spent several weeks at the John A. Cook Center in Queens, a facility that ordinarily runs programs for adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities but is now being used as a quarantine center for disabled adults with Covid-19.

He passed the time watching documentaries. In phone calls with his aunt, Junior often brought up his mother.

“My mother was a loving mother and took good care of me,” he said, according to Ms. González.

But the conversations also were unpredictable.

“Why don’t they call 911 to put out the fire in hell?” he asked his aunt once. She said she steered the conversation back to heaven, explaining that if he was good he’d end up there with his mother.

In early April, a family friend who has a son with special needs agreed to take in Junior. But Junior’s Covid-19 diagnosis led to a delay of several weeks.

Then last week, with Junior appearing healthier, he moved in with the family friend at her home in Yonkers. So far it has been a good fit, Ms. González said.

In recent phone calls with his aunt, Junior has started to grieve more openly.

“He asked me if it was OK to cry because his mom died,” Ms. González recalled last week. “I told him that it’s OK and that he did not have to hold his feelings inside.”

Complete Article HERE!

6 Ways To Cope With Anticipatory Grief During The Coronavirus Pandemic

By María Tomás-Keegan

You can make the best of the current situation.

It’s odd. Not much has changed for me. I’ve worked from home for over 20 years, so nothing new there. I see clients, virtually, so social distancing is no problem. No kids to home-school.

My husband and I are homebodies due to his health, so not being able to go out for fun is not a huge sacrifice. With the exception of my small business has taken a hit, I should be good, right?

Then, what are all these emotions coming up? I’ve never felt anything like this.

All at once, I’m feeling depression over the loss of many things: connection, safety, control, freedom, physical contact, a predictable future, financial security, and new clients.

Based on what I do for a living, I know all too well what comes from loss and how mental health is affected.

It’s grief — but a whole different kind for me. I’ve had my share of losses in the past — sudden ones and some that I knew were coming. Among those losses include both parents, two siblings, jobs, and friends.

Not unlike most of you. Yet, this feels different.

Anticipatory grief could describe it, which means we are grieving before we have fully experienced the loss. It’s typically associated with the impending loss of someone who is very ill—been through that one, too.

And, because there is so much uncertainty around the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it feels as if there is no end in sight. As we think about all that is going on, we find ourselves imagining the worst outcome. It’s human nature.

Even while I’m trying to stay grounded and connected to the people who support me, there is still a pit in my stomach. Although I know in my head that this condition is temporary, the uncertainty is unsettling.

As I attempt to stay connected — with family and friends, clients, and colleagues — I hear a certain degree of dread in their voices.

Some call it fear, anxiety, and panic. It feels like pervasive negative energy that is hard to avoid.

So what can we do to make the best of this roller coaster ride of emotions?

As a life coach specializing in transitions, I learn from the experts.

One of my go-to resources is David Kessler, one of the foremost experts on grief. His recent interview in the Harvard Business Review helped me to sort this out for myself.

When asked what people can do to cope with the grief we’re feeling, Mr. Kessler said:

“Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map, but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world.”

There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: “This virus won’t affect us.”

There’s anger: “You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities.”

There’s bargaining: “Okay, if I social distance for two weeks, everything will be better, right?”

There’s sadness: “I don’t know when this will end.”

And finally, there’s acceptance: “This is happening. I have to figure out how to proceed.”

Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance: “I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”

What stage do you recognize as yours?

I’m bouncing between bargaining and sadness and acceptance, with a brief visit back to denial and anger. Kessler is right — it’s not a linear journey through grief.

With the stage identified, how do you manage this thing called anticipatory grief?

There are 6 ways to cope with anticipatory grief during this pandemic.

1. Allow your emotions to flow.

Kessler says, “Emotions need motion” and I cannot agree more. Think about what happens when you stuff down anger and you don’t let it out in a healthy way.

You likely feel a lump in your throat or a knot in your stomach. Your hands may shake. And you may develop a massive headache

That’s an emotion that has nowhere to go. It can be so powerful that you lose yourself in it. It’s vital to take steps to alleviate some of the pressure so you can let the feelings go.

First, acknowledge your feelings and give them a name. If it’s grief, call it grief. Anxiety. Fear. Whatever it is, attach the label to it.

Then, find ways to work through each one, with the ultimate goal of releasing the emotion from your body. The relief you feel will be tangible and allow you to move forward from here.

This can be an uncomfortable exercise. But, when you talk it out with someone you trust, it will become easier. However, if you ignore this step, the rest of these suggestions might not be very effective.

2. Notice what you’re thinking.

If you’re watching too much of the media reports, you may be spending more time in the doom and gloom department than you want.

Consequently, your thoughts may take you down a rabbit hole from which it’s difficult to climb out.

When you notice this happening, make a conscious choice to change the negative thought into one that feels better to you.

For example, instead of thinking, this will never end, you might choose to think, this is just temporary, and we’re going to be okay.

3. Be in the moment.

Anticipatory grief happens when your mind projects into the future and imagines the worst possible scenarios.

When you find yourself doing that, it helps to bring yourself back into the present.

In the here and now, what you imagined hasn’t happened. Take a look around and take note of where you are.

I’m sitting in my living room. The sun is shining, there is a slight breeze, and my dog is lying at my feet. I’m okay.

Then, observe how you are breathing. Slow it down. Take in some deep breaths and exhale slowly.

Being in the present can bring about a sense of calm. You can choose to practice this at any time your mind wanders into the ‘badlands’.

4. Control what you can.

The loss of control can be the most unsettling feeling of all. Along with that loss comes a sense of insecurity, anxiety, and fear that you have no power to influence the outcome of the situation.

But, you do.

Minding your mind and staying present will help you feel more control in this uncertain world.

A simple way to feel more in control is to make a list of all the things that are in your power to influence.

For instance, your list might look like this:

  • The time I go to bed and wake up
  • The people I hang with to uplift me
  • What I choose to think about
  • My priorities
  • What I talk about
  • How often I reach out to connect with my family & friends
  • How kind and compassionate I am
  • How much I laugh

Write your list and refer to it every time the powerful emotions come up, which makes you feel totally out of control.

5. Be kind and compassionate, reserve judgment, and bring no harm.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the entire world. It is an unprecedented time where we can honestly say, “We are all in this together.”

No one is immune and we are all doing the best we can — anticipatory grief and all.

Given these facts, there has never been a better time to live by the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

I want people to be kind to me, compassionate for my situation. And I don’t want anyone to judge me for doing something right for me, even though it may not be what they would do. As long as I bring no harm, I’m good. And so are you.

Each one of us deals with the profound emotional toll in different ways. It’s the perfect time to allow kindness and compassion to emerge.

Understanding and reserving judgment are the best tools we have to help each other as we move through the loss, grief, and worry that permeates our world today.

6. Find the silver lining.

When things feel most grim, it helps to look for the good.

In my case, the neighborhood has come together to help each other.

If someone is making a run for groceries, we all get a text to ask for our shopping list. One person goes to the store and replenishes the cupboards of many.

Are you spending more time with your family at home? Do you share your deepest worries and concerns with your partner more than you did before?

What has changed for the better because you are working from home, schooling your children, or being more conscious of your sanitary habits?

One friend of mine made me laugh when she said she has greater respect for her kid’s teachers and what they go through every day. And, she continued, she only has two at home, not a classroom-full!

For that, she is grateful. She said her silver lining is that this won’t last forever and she can send her kids back to school one day soon.

What have you noticed more of, get to do now, or enjoy better because of your situation? Focus on those.

One of the guests on my podcast went through great adversity and developed a motto that helped her when things got dark.

She now uses it to help her feel better during this pandemic. She says, “The plus side is…” What’s your plus side?

Lastly, don’t try to do this alone. Isolation is not your friend. Connection is.

Whatever the powerful emotions you feel, don’t keep them to yourself. Find someone you trust and get it all off your chest. The worry you feel about what you can’t know is the same worry everyone else is feeling.

Anticipatory grief and all the accompanying emotions can build up like a pressure cooker.

Staying connected with your people will help you release the pressure and take positive steps to keep moving forward in the best ways you can.

Complete Article HERE!

Her greatest fear was dying alone

— two days after she caught coronavirus, she did

Britt Patrick, right, said her mother Jennifer Patrick was a joyful person who loved spending time with friends and family. Jennifer Patrick died of COVID-19 in a Calgary nursing home on April 19.

Nursing professor says everyone should have the chance to say a deathbed goodbye

By Sarah Rieger

Jennifer Patrick was terrified of dying alone.

The 65-year-old was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis nearly two years ago. She relied on progressively higher and higher concentrations of oxygen and a few months ago was moved to a Calgary nursing home.

Since the diagnosis, Britt Patrick said her mom just kept repeating her fear — “I don’t want to die alone.”

But two days after she contracted COVID-19 that’s exactly what happened.

On April 19, the 65-year-old from Airdrie, Alta., was having a panic attack, gasping for air. She hadn’t seen a friend or family member in days.

It was her husband’s birthday. They’d spent the last 41 years together but hadn’t seen each other since the Calgary home, Extendicare Hillcrest, was locked down to visitors. Her daughter and grandchildren were two provinces away.

Her nurse, who was sitting by her bedside, left the room to get morphine to ease her panicked gasps for air. When the nurse returned, Jennifer Patrick was gone.

“It was very, very surreal,” Britt Patrick said.

“I feel like maybe my dad should have been allowed in with proper protection just to say goodbye.”

No chance to say goodbye

Patrick said her mom’s COVID-19 diagnosis didn’t come as a shock. The Winnipeg resident knew Calgary was experiencing high numbers of COVID-19 cases, and said she had an ominous feeling, knowing her mom already had a serious respiratory illness.

But the speed of her mom’s death, without a chance to say goodbye, left her reeling.

She doesn’t even remember what they talked about during their last phone call — the oxygen deprivation had increasingly made talking on the phone difficult for her mom.

“That’s frustrating and that’s hard,” she said.

“I know I ended up missing a phone call with her. I had been trying to get a hold of her for quite a while and I finally got a phone call back. I was just getting out the door and I didn’t have time to answer it and I wish I’d taken that two minutes to take that conversation.”

She also doesn’t know what to tell her three children.

“They’re struggling with it, they’re asking, ‘When can we go out there? Are we going to the funeral?’ They’re asking very obvious questions for children that I can’t answer and that’s frustrating, to not be able to let them know when we can visit Grampy, when we can do these things,” she said.

Dying alone all too common during pandemic

While Patrick may feel alone in her grief, tens of thousands of families globally are facing the same harsh reality — forced to say goodbye through a video call or being deprived of even that small connection, due to precautions in place or personal safety decisions made to avoid spreading the infectious disease.

University of Alberta nursing professor Donna Wilson studies end-of-life care, bereavement and what it means to have a good death.

She said while initially many of us were taken by surprise by the pandemic, now that it has been the reality for months, it’s time to find better ways to let people say goodbye.

“There has to be a way around this,” Wilson said.

If a family member thinks it wasn’t a good death … they may have seriously complicated grief.
– Donna Wilson, University of Alberta nursing professor

Wilson said the deathbed goodbye — where loved ones gather around a dying person’s bedside to make amends, and express sentiments that may have previously gone unsaid — is a centuries-old custom for a reason.

“People don’t want to be alone, they want to be surrounded by their family members, the people that really mean something to them… it’s really important because people have the opportunity to say something to the dying person that maybe they never said before.”

She said international research has shown that a good death, which is somewhat expected, largely free from suffering, and in accordance with a patient or their family’s wishes, is vital to the grieving process for those left behind.

“If the family member thinks it wasn’t a good death … they grieve harder and longer and they may never get over the death, they may have seriously complicated grief,” she said.

The families of people who died after getting COVID-19 are sharing the stories of their loved ones to encourage others to do what they can to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. 2:05

That’s the situation Britt Patrick finds herself in.

“You have people who are passing away afraid and alone, why can’t we at least set something up to allow people to say goodbye safely?” she said.

Michael Bittante, the regional director for Extendicare, said while Jennifer Patrick’s family was contacted and informed of her condition, end-of-life visits are not always feasible.

“We continue to provide end-of-life visitation with families when possible, using personal protective equipment and infection control measures. Unfortunately, this is not always possible for a number of reasons, including the progression of a resident’s illness,” he said.

CBC News reached out to Extendicare to clarify the timeline as to when residents are allowed end-of-life visitors, and the company reiterated that it is following provincial directives.

Donna Wilson said it’s important for the government or health officials to step in, as they did to limit visitors to nursing homes, to ensure end-of-life visits happen.

“We’re looking at a lot of people that are going to be really severely damaged if they’re blocked from the deathbed,” she said.

Wilson suggested strategies like bringing in retired nurses to facilitate visits and assist visitors with donning protective equipment, or arranging for visits to be held in private rooms near the entrances of buildings or even in ambulances, that can be cleaned after each visit.

“If you can get a nurse in and out of a hospital safely … you can bring a relative in and out safely.”

Some end-of-life policies were applied too strictly

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that she knows the protective measures in place at long-term care facilities are causing many residents to feel increasingly isolated and said some end-of-life visitation policies were being applied more strictly than intended.

“There have been some interpretations where some believed the intention of the order was [to only allow visits] in the last few hours of life … it’s very difficult to arrange for visits in that very narrow window,” she said.

“We expect that individuals who are dying must have the opportunity to have their loved ones at their side.”

She said up to two visitors can be allowed to see those estimated to be two weeks away from death, as long as they maintain two metres of physical distance.

While that update doesn’t change anything for Britt Patrick, she’s learned one thing in her grief she wants to share.

“Just take every chance to connect with your loved ones.”

There were 503 cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes across Alberta as of Wednesday.

In the two weeks since an outbreak was declared at Jennifer Patrick’s nursing home, eight residents have died, and 19 residents and 10 staff members have contracted COVID-19.

Complete Article HERE!

How to cope with our collective grief:

Psychologist sister offers counsel

On April 23, Michael Neel, funeral director of All Veterans Funeral and Cremation in Denver, looks at the casket of George Trefren, a 90-year-old Korean War veteran who died of the coronavirus in a nursing home.

by Chris Herlinger

Day to day, things remain at a standstill in much of the world. And out of that standstill comes grief, says Australian Mercy Sr. Maryanne Loughry.

In a recent blog, I discussed Loughry’s webinar about how to deal with anxiety and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Loughry, a trained psychologist who teaches part-time at the Boston College School of Social Work, has done double duty with another webinar, providing more insight into some of the challenges the pandemic poses.

This time, in an April 21 webinar, also coordinated by the Rome-based International Union of Superiors General, Loughry’s focus was on grief: specifically, personal and social (or collective) grief as well as “anticipatory grief” — waiting for tragedy to unfold.

As she did in the earlier webinar, Loughry made clear that we must respect others’ different experiences and reactions right now, that everyone is dealing with this unsettled moment in different ways and at different paces.

That affirms an insight that New York Times opinion writer Charlie Warzel recently made: “Tragedy and suffering is unevenly distributed and everyone’s lived experience is unique. It feels a bit like we’re living with one foot in two different worlds, or experiencing every outcome of a projection model at once.”

The idea of different “projection models” is a good segue into one of Loughry’s key points. Loughry praised the insights of the late Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whose seminal 1969 book On Death and Dying laid out the idea of sequential stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.

While Kübler-Ross’ insights about grief are still affirmed, the field of psychology has since embraced the idea that the stages are not necessarily always in sequence.

“We grieve differently,” Loughry said. “We move back and forth [between the stages]. We move around the different stages. That’s what emotions are.”

And emotions are very much in flux right now, given that people are experiencing both personal loss and a shared, profound collective loss in communities and societies.

“We’ve lost a lot in this pandemic,” Loughry said. “We’ve not just lost people we’ve known and loved: family, community members, people from our own countries, routines and jobs. But our natural world has been turned upside down. So we’ve lost that sense of what our world is about and what we’re about.”

What people have known and experienced in the past — the basic fiber and texture of life as people experienced it, the pillars “we rested on” — have “now receded,” Loughry said.

“We never thought we wouldn’t be able to bury our dead or visit the sick. But that’s what’s happening right now.”

And in some regions, the situation is exacerbated by already-existing humanitarian and social challenges.

“In some countries, people don’t even get to hospitals,” Loughry said.

But Loughry said at both the collective and personal levels, people have experienced grief before. And that they have, perhaps more than they know, the tools to deal with the situation right now, despite its unprecedented nature.

Noting a string of natural disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the recent Australian bush fires as well as manmade tragedies like the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Loughry said that, ultimately, people rebuild their lives.

“What we know about collective grief is that we survive. We move on,” Loughry said. “Our world is different, and we know [more] about ourselves and our society.”

That was one affirmation and insight. There were numerous others.

Don’t underestimate collective grief right now.

One of the things many are mourning is “our lack of normalcy.” That’s a shared, collective experience, “a source of grief for us,” Loughry said. But another source of grieving is what we see around us.

“We know our families and the local businesses we deal with are suffering,” she said.

That sadness is accentuated by our day-to-day disconnection from others.

“We’ve also had a profound loss of connection. We can’t physically embrace anybody.” The result? “This can lead us collectively to grieve what we’ve lost.”

Be aware of another kind of grief.

That is “anticipatory grief,” waiting for something to happen. People have “anticipation that this tsunami, or epidemic, is going to overwhelm us.” And that means real worries about mortality, both ours and others’.

“I could be taken by this pandemic. You could be taken by this pandemic. It threatens our very being,” Loughry said. And that results in a feeling of “loss of safety. A lot of us don’t feel safe anymore.”

Now is the time for “naming and claiming” grief.

Specifically, now is the time to share and name what is being lost and what is happening in the world and to ourselves. Loughry noted that people throughout history have established commemorations and memorials for collective tragedies, like the Holocaust. At the root of those is the need for naming.

“To hold it in and not to share it is actually something that can overwhelm us,” Loughry said.

Ask what worked.

At an individual level, this is perhaps the moment to ask what helped us in the past when we grieved.

“We need to go back to that again,” she said. “Who did we reach out to? How did we respond? What was helpful, what wasn’t helpful?”

Be conscious of others’ vulnerabilities right now.

That’s especially important in religious communities, where such vulnerabilities may be more visible right now. Perhaps some have not grieved past losses and are doing so now.

Loughry said leaders of communities need to be aware of “what you can do and what you can’t do,” noting that they need to be aware that they and the members of their leadership team are “also impacted” and “are a part of the collective grief and the anticipatory grief.”

Be aware of another dynamic.

Some people — Loughry was speaking specifically of sisters — will be in denial, constantly saying they are fine. But that is often a barrier. Loughry advises not to raise that concern now. This is the time of affirmation, affirming “that people are moving at different stages,” she said. That is especially true at a moment when “people are in confined spaces.”

Loughry added: “It’s a time at the moment for compassion, not for challenge.”

At the same time, don’t be afraid of emotions.

“It’s OK at the moment to be emotional” and allow raw, unfiltered feelings to rise to the surface, Loughry said. That could mean being “teary, because that’s exactly what your body and your emotions need.”

That may be uncomfortable, particularly in a community setting, because it shows your vulnerabilities. But there is no reason to hide such emotions because “it’s not something that can be easily covered up.”

Advice for communities.

When asked how communities should deal with discussing grief and experiences, Loughry said that “each community is different.”

She did suggest that discussion about grief might be better done in small groups “rather than a big setting, where they might be asked to say something they are nervous about saying.”

Another idea is to allow people to write down thoughts and place them in a communal bowl without people being named.

Whatever is decided, it is important to affirm people’s comfort, as “we don’t know how much longer we’ll be in lockdown and you don’t want to increase their vulnerability.”

Loughry also affirmed the need some will feel to remain silent and not to share.

Faith is important.

Sisters’ religious faith is “a real resource” right now, Loughry said. First, there are the biblical and historical anchors: Church forebears experienced drought, famine and other calamities and got through them.

Sisters, who are fortunate “to have an identity, security, and we have supports,” are in a position to offer compassion to those seeking it. And that can help sisters at this difficult moment with their own grief.

“We feel good when we minister to someone.”

A sense of hope.

Loughry noted the pandemic has unfolded during Lent and Easter, with the attendant echoes of death and resurrection.

“We do know that we are going to get out of this, and that there is another side,” she said. “We know this time will pass. We don’t know when, but we know it will.”

Complete Article HERE!

Why Grief Will Help Us Survive Coronavirus

“Anxiety is something that’s talked a lot about, but I don’t think that grief is talked a lot.”

by Cait Bladt and Neda Toloui-Semnani

Right now, the world is trying to make sense of a tragedy that makes no sense: A microscopic particle has traveled across borders and oceans to tank economies, push millions out of work and school, and kill tens of thousands.

When a loved one dies, people know to grieve. But it’s just as important to grieve a loss of normalcy, according to Dr. Patrice A. Harris, a psychiatrist and the president of the American Medical Association.

“Anxiety is something that’s talked a lot about, but I don’t think that grief is talked a lot,” she told VICE News.

“There is a lot of disruption in routine,” Harris added. “I’ve heard from talking with parents that their teenagers are grieving prom and the inability to go to prom. Their teenagers are grieving graduation, high school graduation. And we know that college students are grieving.”

Routine often gives people a sense of self and purpose. And without that, they may be experiencing profound grief as they try to redefine themselves without jobs, or feel farther from their schools, religious communities, and relationships.

To get through that grief, Harris emphasized the importance of connection. She prefers the term “physical distancing” to the more frequently used “social distancing,” because social connections are more important now than ever before.

And then, of course, there’s the more familiar grieving process, which has also become even more difficult due to the pandemic. In many places, funerals have been banned due to fears of spreading the virus.

“We can develop new rituals and new routines. Family members can get together and decide, ‘OK, we are not going to be able to have a funeral or service or a memorial. But here’s what we can do.’ And fortunately, we can be connected through technology,” Harris said.

With so much uncontrollable and unknowable factors in the current situation, people need to give themselves time and space to experience grief.

“We each have to recognize how we grieve, respect how we grieve. Give ourselves permission to grieve in a way that gets us through to the next phase, which is remembering, appreciating what we had, and then deciding what we can do each individual way to move forward in the next phase.”

Complete Article HERE!

How to Grieve and Support Others During a Pandemic

What can you do for a friend when you can’t give them a hug? We talked to some experts to find out.

By Adrienne So

On April 8, author Nicole Chung learned that her beloved grandmother had died. Chung lives across the country from both her grandmother and mother, so she got on the phone to make arrangements as best she could.

“No viewing. No service at the funeral home or graveside,” she tweeted. “I can’t even figure out how to get flowers to the gravesite. Ordinarily the funeral home would handle, but they keep saying all they can do is ‘drop the body at the cemetery’ (their words) that morning.”

Of all the social rituals that social distancing and travel restrictions have disrupted, mourning is one of the hardest.

“We were supposed to be visiting my mom this week,” Chung told me on the phone. “I just keep thinking about how if that had gone ahead as planned, if we hadn’t had to cancel because of the pandemic, we’d be there with my mom. It would’ve been some comfort to her. Grandkids would cheer her up.”

Is there anything you can do when you can’t sit shiva, follow a second line, or show up at a rowdy wake? I called Chris Robinson, a board member at the National Funeral Director’s Association, and Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of famed etiquette authority Emily Post and the co-president of the Emily Post Institute to get some (hopefully) helpful advice.

For a grieving person, nothing takes the place of your physical presence. But you can still show that you care.

What a Family Can Expect

In response to pandemic concerns, Robinson strongly recommends families hold private, immediate-family services, like the ones he currently holds at his own funeral home, Robinson Funeral Home in Easley, South Carolina. Robinson has upgraded the equipment in all three of his funeral home locations so the family can more easily livestream it for remote participants, something that was becoming more commonplace even before the pandemic.

“It’s hard to lose a loved one under normal circumstances,” Robinson says. “This is probably the hardest thing that some people will have to face.”

But these kinds of funeral home regulations will vary from home to home and state to state. For example, Holman’s Funeral and Cremation Services in Portland, Oregon, has recently limited its services to only outdoor graveside services, with fewer than 10 attendees standing 6 feet apart. Visitations are limited to one or two attendees in the room at a time.

“It’s been difficult for families,” says Cameron Holmes, Holman’s funeral director and general manager. “Funeral directors have to accommodate them as best we can, while following the rules.” Holmes also noted that since they don’t have livestream equipment for graveside services, many families are also choosing to stream or record services via Zoom or Facebook Live.

If you’ve been invited to online services, be sure to sign the online guest book. “You can also write a personal message,” Robinson said. “It means a lot to families to be able to view that.”

What You Can Do

“More direct outreach is thoughtful and considerate right now,” says Lizzie Post, author of Higher Etiquette. “Not that the Facebook message that says ‘thinking of you’ isn’t, but it’s good to utilize everything you have.”

Services like Postable and Felt can—for now, at least—mail handwritten cards for you. You can even write a handwritten condolence message with your finger (or stylus) on the Felt app. If you can’t get to the post office, Post also says that you can take a picture of a handwritten card and send it, or record a video message.

Ways to Reach Out and Help

– Restaurant gift cards

– Nonprofit donations

If you haven’t heard back from someone in a few days, remember that the family is dealing with an unprecedented situation that may have a lot of delays, especially if the funeral home is overwhelmed. Adding a “no acknowledgment necessary” to the end of your card or letter will take the burden off the family to respond in a timely manner.

Sending flowers or gifts isn’t a substitute for human companionship, but it is a way to show that you care, even if you can’t be there in person. “We’re lucky that there’s a lot of things you can send people who are grieving,” Chung says. “I’m sending stuff to my mom. That’s all I can do, is send her things.”

No matter what you decide to send, Post says it’s important to clear it with the family first. Are they comfortable with homemade food, and if you bring it over, will you find it hard to resist leaning in for a hug? Would they feel more comfortable with gift cards or delivery? It’s more helpful to offer something specific that they can accept or decline.

“You’re not making them work to come up with something,” says Post. This advice also applies if someone you know has recently contracted Covid-19. “If I called them, I would say explicitly that you don’t expect to hear back from them and you want to let them know you’re wishing them well right now,” Post says.

Alone, Together

Robinson and Holmes noted that many families are opting to wait to hold a memorial service until the family can be together.

“The biggest thing is just companionship,” Chung says. “That’s just not feasible right now. It feels like we’re in this holding pattern.”

But in one respect, people may have never been more open to the idea of reaching out. We may be all separated, but right now, we can all deeply relate to loss.

“That’s been really strange,” Chung says. “I remember when my father died, the world just kept going on. And in this case, we’re having this giant collective moment of crisis. It doesn’t make me feel better at all, but I do have a keen sense of not being the only one.”

Complete Article HERE!