One million people dead from Covid-19. That is the horrific tally the United States now owns. It is a heart wrenching reality to consider how many families have been impacted by this loss.
Keeping It REAL Caregiving would like you to consider this: for each of those taken due to Covid-19, there are those who love them who are left behind trying to figure out how to carry on.
We are winding down the month of May which is Mental Health Awareness Month. I think it is important for all of us to consider the overlap between the pandemic, the staggering loss of life, and how moving forward may look different for everyone.
We know Covid-19 disproportionately impacted elders and the virus was especially harsh to those in nursing homes and other congregate care facilities.
We know many doctors and nurses fell victim. They were, after all, on the front lines fighting Covid-19.
And remember, for each of those we have lost, there are the family members, friends, colleagues and in many cases - children - left behind to process these losses. How do we know what the long-term emotional impacts will be on those individuals and society as a whole?
I recently chatted with a woman who is coping with Covid-19 loss. Rita is a KIRC family member, currently a caregiver to her elderly mother, and an upcoming regular contributor to the Keeping it REAL Caregiving platforms.
Rita’s father was a doctor, exposed to many Covid-19 patients. Sadly, the virus claimed his life as well.
I talked with Rita about her role as a caregiver, losing her father and how continued news coverage of Covid-19 touches her life.
My dad had just turned 80. For almost six years we would always meet once a week at Marie Callender. When Covid-19 started, my dad said, ‘Let’s not meet anymore. We have to stay at our homes and we’ll call.’
He did tell me when we talked that he had encounters with patients who had Covid-19. The patient with Covid-19 wasn’t his though. He told me, ‘I think I have Covid-19.’
He told me he got tested and it was negative and that he was fine.
It wasn’t until months later when we thought Covid-19 was getting better but then started to blow up again that he got sick and passed away.
For some reason during the last year of us hanging out at Marie Callender, we talked a lot about death. We didn’t know it was going to happen; we didn’t know about the pandemic yet.
But my dad had told me that my great grandparents had both died in the pandemic in 1918. He would tell me that he was afraid he was gong to die of something like that. But we weren’t in a pandemic yet.
He would say, ‘I’m going to be 80 soon.’ And he’d say, ‘Do you know what that means? It means I’m really old.’
It was almost as if he felt something was going to happen. I can’t explain it, but its as if he had a hunch.
I get a lot of stupid people who say, ‘Oh, Covid-19 is just a mental state, it’ not real. Why do I have to wear a mask? I’m fine.'
That may be what that hospital patient thought, too. My father was a doctor; a man of science. He wasn’t always a good dad, but he was a really good cardiologist.
I just want people to understand you may be safe and you might be fine, but someone actually died of that situation.
The other thing that is really hard, is that my dad was in the hospital and we couldn’t be with him.
Because that’s when the pandemic was really bad. No one could be with him because he was contagious.
This man died alone. He was in the morgue for several days because there was nowhere to put his body.
He was cremated and he didn’t have a funeral in a church. He had a funeral in a parking lot under a tarp! Our family had to watch on a computer because people weren’t allowed to go.
The most traumatizing part for me, was watching a trash truck pass by that parking lot. I mean, this is a person. He was just doing his job. That should not have happened.
It is really hard with Covid-19 because with other deaths you have closure. You have time to grieve. It is not constantly thrown in your face. Right now, Covid-19 is in the news all the time.
You can’t get closure because you’re constantly hearing about those numbers. People can say statistics don’t mean anything because they are not personal.
But when you’ve lost someone who is one of those numbers, it is different. Every time I hear those numbers it means something different.
Even though I want to move on, it won’t let you. There are days when I can deal with it and there are days when I can’t.
To all those who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19, KIRC extends an additional dose of condolences, support and love. Thank you Rita for sharing your story and we look forward to having you join the KIRC platforms.
Until next time~
*Photo Credit: Red Cross House at U.S. General Hospital #16, during Influenza Epidemic, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, 1918 (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)