Stories – When a loss is a shock – what happens after a COVID loss?

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We are all going through a really weird and unusual time right now. A pandemic has taken the lives of over a million people. That feeling is exacerbated even more when you lose a loved one, and it comes as a complete shock to you. The question is, how are you meant to deal with it and what happens next?

A COVID-19 Loss

This is my story, the one where I lost my nan, the last surviving grandparent at the tender age of 61, as a result of COVID-19. She was always an active, uplifting, and inspiring individual. Always took care of her health, so much so that people looked in shock whenever I said she was my nan. She had her daily teas, her daily rituals, her daily exercise regime. My nan was that person who looked after herself even better than we looked after ourselves. As a family, we definitely have learnt a lot from her. So, to experience her passing when it came so sudden. I wasn’t expecting it. None of us were. She was abroad so my family and I could only witness her last moments over video call. Not the way we would’ve imagined but, it was planned out this way for a reason. And that is my biggest take out from this experience.

Previously I’ve experienced death within the family where it was ‘inevitable’, by that I mean after a diagnosis of some sort, and the individual has already been given a certain amount of time left to live. I saw this with my grandad and my auntie. Both had a type of cancer diagnosed and within months, they both had inevitably passed. In both circumstances, I was kept occupied with my studies, and I had a close support system around me to help me deal with loss and grief. For that, I’m really thankful.

But this time around, with my nan, it was different. Completely different.

Being under lockdown meant that I wasn’t seeing my friends, my lecturers, the relevant people I needed at that time. Instead it was all online or over the phone. The change in the way we communicated with others was something I needed to get used to, as I knew that this would be the ‘norm’ for the unforeseeable future. But it made things really difficult when I was trying to process grief. I was encased within my own four walls since the beginning of lockdown, and this meant that I had nothing to ‘distract’ me, keep me occupied from the thoughts, feelings and emotions which consumed me during this really difficult time.

The change in the way we communicated with others was something I needed to get used to, as I knew that this would be the ‘norm’ for the unforeseeable future.

I took advantage of technology, social media, apps etc and got in regular contact with my support network. On a regular/ semi-regular basis, I felt as ease when I could contact my friends, my lecturers at uni and they understood when I was able communicate with them and inform them of my need for space and time. That space and time became so valuable when I got into contact with Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice and spoke to a bereavement counsellor. They set me up with a counsellor who I spoke to weekly for 2 months, and that helped me so much. It was like talking to a stranger, who I had no prior relation with. She didn’t know my history. She just gave me the tools and mechanisms I needed to help me deal with grief during this really difficult and confusing time.

I realised very soon that talking helped me deal with grief. From a stranger in the form of a counsellor to select family members, talking helps. Whilst it isn’t the mechanism for everyone, it was for me. I spent time working on my health because my nan would always be on my case for not being healthy enough. I reminisced about her favourite foods or items of clothing she used to wear and I started to smile. For my family and I, the biggest thing to us is our faith, and knowing that my nan was in a better place left us at peace.

Message from the Founders: Stories like this remind us how important communication is during the grieving process. Talking to a councilor, friends, family or even a stranger can make such a huge difference. If you wish to submit a story or want to join our community like/follow us on social media and get involved.

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