How do we grieve, in this new Covid world?

– An introduction to a four part Expert Counsel series

Steve Mitchell

Death is a part of life. It is normal. Grief is part of the process we use to cope with death and other major losses. It too is normal. Isolation? Isolation is necessary to fight a pandemic, but it is not, or should not be normal. Frankly, isolation and loneliness can be decimating.

The world has been turned upside down by Covid-19. I was speaking with a friend a few weeks ago, and her Uncle had just passed away. I offered words of solace. I wanted to give her a hug — but we cannot do that right now. In fact, I asked myself, how is it possible for her to grieve in times like this?

Kept away from our loved ones during hospitalization or hospice. Not able to have those last few days that I had with my own parents, and that I found so comforting. No funeral? No gathering of friends and family? Burial limited and social distancing in place? Are we to watch those closest to the loss and … perhaps let a tear drop, and then slowly walk away?

How do we cope with isolation, followed by death and grieving in days like these?

I had no idea. So I wrote an email to several experts whom I thought could help — I am obviously not alone with my questions. And from this email, this four part series was borne.

Over the next few days The Partners In Care Alliance will be posting a series written by experts on End-of-Life Care in isolation, Grief and loss from a distance, Dealing with the mortal remains / planning from a distance with family and Planning the eventual Memorial or Celebration of Life.

In times like this, words from those who have the experience, the knowledge and the caring can help us get through it. We are all in it together, and this is one way we hope to help.

Thank you.

Steve Mitchell

– Special Consultant with PICA

End-Of -Life Care in Isolation

Part one of four of our Expert Counsel series on “How do we grieve, in this new Covid world?

Rev. Dr. Darrell SC Peregrym

Caring for a loved one as they enter their twilight years is a privilege as well as a challenge at the best of times, however it has taken on a whole new level of stress and challenge in the midst of the global Covid-19 Crisis.

In what was the “norm”, a loved one who required in-home care, or assisted-living and/or palliative care in a “care home” received the required specialized care, while the family was still very much present and engaged in their lives until their time of passing.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 quarantine has required mandatory isolation thereby preventing families to be there in person for their loved ones, which has been very difficult for both parties. I understand this all too well, with my father being isolated in a Care Home. It has been difficult for the whole family, and very hard for Dad who had Mom & visitors every day.

So how can we be there for our isolated loved ones from a distance? Fortunately, technology today has enabled us to connect in ways not possible 10–15 years ago. Following are some creative practical suggestions that while not the same as in-person touch and connection, can still provide love and encouragement, helping them to not feel separated and alone.

  1. Regular phone calls so that they can hear your voice, even of they may not be able to respond back to you.
  2. Visual calls through apps like FaceTime, Skype or Zoom that allow for them to see and hear you. It can provide for group chats and discussions that engage them, and allow for fun and laughter. You could even have a guitar or piano and do a sing-along of their favorite songs. Even if they are not able to sing along, being able to listen and be a part of it will lift their spirits.
  3. Use the same visual/audio apps to allow them to see their grandchildren. Have the young ones say hi, sing them a song, do a show for them, or show their arts & crafts online. Seeing the young ones brings joy and life. You could even let them see their pets online.
  4. If possible, bring a lawn chair, gather outside their room window, and talk with them via an open window or cell phone. Bring them a coffee or special treat that most Care homes will let you leave at the door and they will deliver the treat to your loved one. You can share your treats together as you visit.
  5. If they are in a state that does not allow for the above, send daily notes of love and encouragement that can be read to them by their caregivers.

The critical issue is taking the time to creatively connect and share your love and support for them, and remind them they are not alone or forgotten. In the Bible, Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”. Though isolated, our loved ones do not need to be without cheer…. we are their cheer!

Rev. Dr. Darrell SC Peregrym