KUCHARUK: dying during a pandemic

The question that comes up often in conversation recently is, “Has COVID-19 changed you? Will you do anything differently moving forward?”
I dare to say that COVID-19 has changed 99.9% of the world population. Few have been left untouched either by the illness or the repercussions of the illness including the economic and emotional fallout. These COVID-19 economic and psychological ghosts will remain for years and years and many of us will be defined by how we adapt.
Something that I think about often is the folks who have vanished from our lives over the past few months. If we haven’t caught the funeral announcement on Facebook, we don’t realize that they have passed away: no funerals, no large remembrance, nothing. That is heartbreaking.
Dying is tragic. Dying during a pandemic makes it worse if that is even possible.
“But you can have a virtual funeral!” they tell us.
Not the same. Nothing about watching a computer monitor live stream a funeral while a friend is laid to rest can be comforting……can it?
Comforting is the eye contact, the hugs, the arm rubs, the back pats, the tears. Don’t we need that to grieve properly? Is there such a thing as ‘proper’ grieving?
There was a May 1st article in The Atlantic where writer Joe Pinsker quoted a grief researcher who called grief a “natural adaptive reaction – a painful and necessary mental recalibration to accommodate a new absence.”
In my opinion, he means that we need to mourn – we need closure in order to move on.
In the pre-covid days closure meant being with a person who was dying, holding their hands, talking to them, telling them that we love them. We read about so many people who were unable to do that in the past few months. Laurie Kilmartin @anylaurie16, Standup Comedian, Author, Late Night Writer, Podcaster out of L.A., shared on Twitter how she and her sister had watched their mom pass away via Facetime. The iPad/computer sat on her mom’s table tray and streamed 24/7. Laurie could see when her mom was awake, see when she was in pain and ultimately see when she passed away. Her tweet on June 18th read, “Mom FaceTime stream officially ended, a 69-hour call”.
Laurie used her dark comedy to get her through her mom’s passing, but it must have been gut-wrenching.
Is this the new normal? Will Zoom become the gathering space for funerals? I simply cannot wrap my head around it.

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