Death: emotional impact of the pandemic

By Edith Belmont

Death … how many feelings does this word contain? More than we imagine: fear, pain, uncertainty, anxiety, sadness, suffering, frustration, helplessness, loneliness, abandonment, compassion, consolation, hope, courage, revenge and others; that you are surely imagining just by hearing the word death.

But thinking about the word death leads us to several special and very personal questions: Are we ready to die? What are we really afraid of, at the moment of saying goodbye or doing it in complete solitude? Will we have a «just» death? What about those who die violently? What is after death?

There are many questions and few answers

But one that came across in these very difficult times, pandemic times (due to the Coronavirus or COVID-19); in my opinion, we still do not have a clear answer about. What effect will have on us to not say goodbye to our loved ones? Not having the chance to hold their hand in the last moments? Not being able to organize a farewell and help them cross to their new destination? Are we prepared for the emotional, social and physical effects this will have on us?

The Mexican people have always been worshipers and fans of parties and meetings, everything is an occasion to celebrate, any pretext is good to maximize our emotions and feelings, to enhance any event: birth, birthday, graduation, anniversary, mothers and fathers day, homeland, christmas, new year … day of the dead, yes, we also celebrate death.

Whatever the expectation we have; we perform rituals that help our loved one find the path to eternal rest and rid the shadows of the underworld

We celebrate a «party» in his honor to pray, remember, cry, find comfort or some explanation that helps us understand why the loss. We take the time to let off steam, seek support from our acquaintances, and cope with the absence. We offer food, drinks, even, sometimes, there is music to remember good and bad moments, to finally put us in a state of «mourning».

Mourning is defined as the time we take to find the answer to a loss; because it is inevitable, irreversible and because of the anxiety it generates. The answer is usually not always exclusively psychological, it can be physical, social or spiritual. In this sense, mourning refers to the time that take us search for answers; or, rather, to the ways of finding meaning to the experience of loss.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that is not essential to be full of happiness and joy in our life; but it has to in the meaning. As existentialist philosophers used to say (such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Karl Jaspers, among others); when someone has a reason why (or a what for) he endures many “how”, impossible to resist in any other way. And in the construction of that why or for what, of that sense and meaning; it is where the personal will connect with the social, without a doubt.

Currently, in Mexico more than 24,324 people have died and there are already more than 483 thousand deaths worldwide; (June 24, 2020 according to the World Health Organization WHO and the Ministry of Health) due to COVID -19; the vast majority «alone, without having a family member to shake hands with, or simply to feel accompanied during their last moments of life.»

Among them are many older people, but also younger people. For the relatives of these people, have died or not by Coronavirus; the fact of having lost them in these circumstances supposes a hard challenge that they must confront locked up in their houses. Many have seen their loved ones for the last time without even knowing it and without being able to say goodbye to them.

So the fact of not being able to share with family and friends the pain that thousands of people have during the quarantine at the moment, causes the mourning process to be affected and lived differently. Faced with the impossibility of performing a farewell ritual, the pain and anguish are exacerbated, causing greater sadness and in some cases, depression.

In this sense, a large part of the population has been affected by the loss of a family member, friend or acquaintance. We have always lived these moments in company and today we have to do it alone. Right now we cannot hold any kind of wake or funeral to remember that person in community and show our affection for them and their family members. For this reason, I am convinced that it is essential to replace these current practices (albeit temporarily) with others that have the same objective.

When someone dies alone and neither has nor has the opportunity to say goodbye, we are left with an inconsolable feeling of emptiness

Such situations make us think that being able to make a phone call to say goodbye would provide at least some comfort in the midst of the desperation of the situation.I am afraid that, at least for the moment, and as long as the health management of the most seriously ill patients of COVID-19 does not allow anything else, rather we are going to have to work with the consequences of having lived this type of loss in the mourners. Although the logical thing would be to think that there is no way to say goodbye to someone who has already died.

There will be rituals of all kinds in the moments and days after: dedicating themselves to writing a kind of diary, writing letters to them, drawing pictures, making recordings, collecting photographs, messages from the networks, placing significant objects, that corner that remembers the deceased person , minutes of silence, a song, etc. They will be actions of symbolic and emotional charge, which allow us to connect with emotions and pain, while helping to integrate what happened, and experience mourning.

In this situation, the use of social networks can give voice and whoever wants to can express themselves about what they would like to do in a virtual ceremony. Here, children and adults have their chance to say something and feel better. A virtual meeting on an online platform (Skype, Zoom, make a WhatsApp group, make a web page …) allows you to connect with family and friends.

Not being able to do anything, already sad and painful, having the opportunity to express feelings towards the deceased, will at least alleviate or mitigate the pain in these moments of relief, allowing to give a meaning to this experience, a meaning.

So, these virtual meetings, talking and exchanging feelings with friends and family, can help us find the «why» of this experience.

«Seeking help is not bad, it is good»If you feel that grief is overloading you and that you cannot handle it, seek the help of a mental health professional, including online.People should always look for reliable information, with practical tools so that people can use them to stay calm and manage the anxiety and despair that can arise at times like this.

I am afraid that socially we are still stupefied by the dimension of what we are experiencing, without even knowing what the actual number of deaths is, without being able to anticipate the future, with an experience that is in many cases approximate and «by hearsay.» Not being able to be witnesses, some, not working daily or having contact with the pandemic and, although almost all of us know someone who has died, or someone who has lost a loved one, even so, we do not know details of how it happened. produced the death, there is a lot of disbelief and uncertainty, so it is almost impossible to predict the final results.

I have recently seen some attempt to dedicate a day of mourning to victims, and I suppose that more similar initiatives will emerge to just memorialize them as a collective. But the problem, and a very real one, is that this continues, it is not like dedicating a day or a monument to the victims of a finished war, or of a past natural disaster. Again, and in this casem not individuallym but socially, we are faced with a pending issue, an open issue.

So, in this time of pandemic, we make use of the tools at hand such as technology, talk with friends and family, ask for help and information from specialists who help us overcome the loss and cope with the period of mourning, which In itself, in «normal» times it is difficult, in times of «pandemic» they are even more difficult.

I hug you with my heart, reader friends

Hola, ¿en qué podemos ayudarte?