Death in the time of Covid. What happens when someone dies?

While Covid-19 has become the centre of our attention, the world still turns. People still get sick with Cancer or diagnosed with an Autoimmune disease etc. A lot of things have come to a stand still but obviously healthcare has not. This is the story of my experience of death during the time of Covid. It was so surreal I had to share.

I recently lost my Grandad. He had had a lengthy hospital stay. We were told he was not allowed to have visitors for a month.p I don’t like visitors when I’m in hospital. Only my husband is allowed to come, but the thought of not having any visitors for a lengthy period freaked me out. I can’t imagine hubs not brining me my almond milk coffee and things I need etc. Or just to see his face.

I always felt sorry for people who were in hospital for long. I encountered many people who were in hospital for long. I remember one ADT Security guy that was in there for 3 months already. Unable to walk. They would push his bed outside so he could experience some sun on his face and fresh air. He didn’t get many visitors as per the nurses. No one was bringing him essential things. If I hadn’t been so sick, I would have tried to help in some way. That’s just how I am.

When I had a 9 day stay in hospital there was a mum with a 2-year-old son with massive health issues. She lived far away, and her husband could only come on weekends. They allowed her to sleep on one of the beds in the ward. I offered that whatever she needed, nappies, toiletries, anything, I would get hubs to get it for her. As sick as I was her situation was so much more dire. But I digress.

Luckily, they were kind enough to let the family spend time with him when he was about to journey on to the other side. My aunt was by his side when he passed. I was really happy about this because I really was devastated at the thought of him dying alone. The reality is though, that people are dying alone. People with Covid who are in hospital are isolated. I’ve heard of someone with heart problems. His family can only see him through the clear screens that were up. He is leaving this Earth and all you can do is stand there and watch? That sounds torturous to me. You can’t even hold their hand as they die because they have Covid. Have any of you experienced a death due to Covid? I’d really like to know how they handle the situation. What is the process?

I’m in another city and we cannot travel between provinces. All I wanted to do was hold his hand, hug him and whisper a rude joke in his ear. When he was going, we did an international family video call where we got to say goodbye to him. How? How do I do this? This is uncharted territory for me. I said my Goodbye and told him he was a kickass grandad and I would carry the torch as a mini Cecil and make comments and jokes like he did. We had a special connection that way. Later in life we discovered how similar we were. I found out where I got my acerbic streak from! From him! I told him that when I spoke of him, I told people how cool he was. Mr globetrotter with a taste for the finer things in life. Also, a lot of idiosyncrasy and eccentricities, some of which I share with him. My mom said he blinked when I spoke. That gave me the closure I needed. He heard me. Having to say Goodbye via video call. Thank God for technology. As much as alot of people hated technology, we are now getting used the fact that technology is really the only way to communicate with loved ones. Have you experienced this? If you have please tell me your story. I believe it helps with healing to hear stories of what others have gone through.

In approaching the funeral homes, some of them had literally doubled their prices! I was horrified. What a time to try and take advantage of people who HAVE to bury their family members. I wonder if government are looking at this. There are a lot of impoverished people who certainly cannot afford these burials, but they still need to bury their family member. I’ve always said that I want to get into the burial type business because there will always be customers. Now some funeral homes are taking advantage of the pandemic and doubling their prices. I think it’s disgusting to take advantage of someone who is grieving. To give them the extra stress to try and come up with the money. If anything, they should be charging less because as the number of infections are steeply rising in South Africa, the steep incline of deaths will happen too and then you will have a lot of customers! I’m still horrified by this.

Finally, the funeral was arranged. Having to send out invitations to the wedding? Yes, it’s an actual thing now. In South Africa now, if you are going to a funeral the Priest needs to get permits for everyone coming. So, the family has to put a list of the people together and provide their full details to get the permit. No permit, no entering. How bizarre is this! This is our new normal. I didn’t know but now I do. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this is what funerals would become.

I watched the funeral along with my other family members who were not in South Africa on Zoom. A Zoom funeral. It still blows my mind. It’s not the same as being there but at least I got to attend it virtually. That’s better than nothing for sure. Again, it was surreal watching a funeral of someone you love from afar. On video. There was not a massive gathering of people as you would normally have; only a few people were allowed. He was a private man, so it was kept lowkey. We’ve decided to have a celebration of Life Party for him when we can all travel again. So yes, I attended my first funeral via zoom. It was so surreal and afterwards, there was no hugging each other and comforting each other. The call ended and that was that.

It makes it so hard to not to be able to hug each other, hold each other and comfort each other. The human element was missing. So the processing of all of this is hard. Processing death and trying to process the new normal of how things are. It was Eid on Monday. My husband and his family had to video call. I, unfortunately, was feeling ill and in incredible pain so I was sleeping. He had a Virtual Eid hangout with his family. Virtual Eid. Our religious holidays have had to change for now. There are so many restrictions that we have here, alot of it very muddled. It’s created a state of anxiety. Navigating this is so hard. I just can’t articulate it.

I have readers internationally and I’d love to hear the stories about death in the time of Covid in your country. Have you attended a virtual funeral? How are things handled by your country? I’m extremely interested as South Africa is going into Winter and out numbers are starting to go up at an alarming rate. People in places like America etc, who have a huge number of deaths, how is this being handled? It’s unprecedented, so I’m really intrigued. Perhaps you can even email (tracey.martinrawoot@gmail.com) me your story and I can do a compilation of stories from around the world.

Times have changed for sure. The new normal is taking time to get to grips with. Every time I think I’m getting better at it a new scenario happens and I have to learn the new normal about how we do something in a new way. It is mentally taxing. Our country started off so well, we were united in the fight with the President. Now that we have punitive, stupid laws people have lost faith and become seriously disillusioned about the state of the nation. I feel the same. I don’t even want to listen to the President’s occasional address to the nation. I get so angry; I have to avoid it. I’m horrified when I see the numbers in America for instance. I fear for South Africa. Our peak is coming and with it comes so many problems. Are we as a country ready for mass deaths? We will have to wait and see. Like with everything, you don’t know what the protocol will be until it actually happens.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Hug your loved ones as much as you can (well the ones in your house), tell them you love them more often because tomorrow is not promised and with the state of the World right now.. who knows what tomorrow brings?

Stay Safe!

One Love!

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