Dealing with the death of a loved one is arguably one of the most difficult journeys for us humans and caring for a seriously ill loved one is also right up there.
Imagine having to navigate the healthcare system for an ailing elderly parent and having the family member unexpectedly deteriorate and transition from this life in the middle of a pandemic.
This was the situation I, my family and countless others around the world have faced over the past 12 to 15 months.
Ours isn’t a sob story despite the horror of the situation as we fared better than others – but it didn’t hurt any less, nor does it make grieving easier.
Since March 2020, I like many others and watched news coverage of patients having to face the end of life alone due to Covid-19 restrictions; never did I think that I would be in the hospital with a dying loved one while navigating the hospital Covid-19 restrictions.
Late last year, I travelled with my parents seeking medical care for my father. In less than two months, my father unexpectedly passed away after being hospitalised for over a month.
During his time in hospital, only two people were approved to visit him, meaning my siblings and his grandchildren were unable to see him. As Dad’s health declined, not being able to visit him became almost unbearable for my sisters – one of whom had not seen him in four years. It wasn’t until his last few days that the immediate family was allowed to visit.
Despite the sorrow that we felt, we were grateful to be gifted with the opportunity to keep vigil as a family. We were keenly aware that many others were not afforded the chance to say goodbye in person.
Covid-19 became a factor again when we tried to repatriate Dad’s body. With limited flights into Barbados, we faced more challenges adding additional frustration amid grieving.
After much back and forth and trying to make funeral arrangement from overseas, we were able to arrange transportation for Dad’s body, and the family travelled to Barbados.
Due to circumstances, I was forced to travel after the family, and once again, Covid-19 became an issue. Despite arriving in Barbados well in advance of the funeral, I came dangerously close to missing Dad’s funeral, as I was stuck in quarantine.
There are no words to describe the sheer panic I felt when it appeared that I could miss the funeral, especially after travelling thousands of miles and with my immediate family all released from quarantine.
But once again, we were keenly aware that we were given opportunities many weren’t. Despite the challenges posed due to Covid, Dad’s wife, children, grand-children, and son-in-law were able to travel to lay him to rest.
The heartbreak was that his siblings and close relatives were unable to attend- a reality that is extremely hard to bear.
Funerals are a time of ritual, communal mourning, connection, a time to remember the deceased, and comfort the living- Covid has changed the way we mourn – live streaming could never be an adequate substitute for in-person funerals.
Our family spent hours deciding who could attend the service. It goes against human nature to “invite” mourners to a funeral. It was gut-wrenching to have to turn away family, friends, colleagues and associates who wanted to pay their final respects in person.
I empathise with all who have been faced with a similar situation. Unfortunately, ours is not an uncommon experience during this past year, and this piece is just a snippet of one of the many ways that Covid-19 has impacted our lives and disrupted almost everything we hold dear. I would not wish this on anyone.
This article appears in the May 3 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.