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How COVID-19 Has Changed the Way People Handle Grief

How COVID-19 Has Changed the Way People Handle Grief

Losing Loved Ones and Coping With Death 

By Brooklin Painter 

Death has always been a part of humanity, but the way that society handles losing loved ones has become more significant on account of COVID-19. The world has been filled with grief from the hundreds of thousands of losses we have experienced since the emergence of the virus in 2019. 

All this death has put into perspective the value of personal connection and the time we have with others. To further grasp the understanding of what grieving someone can be like, The Collegian talked with Dr. Linda Ivy and student Noah Recalde about the loved ones they lost during the pandemic. 

Dr. Ivy is a licensed clinical psychologist who has been working at Walla Walla University for the last 15 years as a psychology professor. She just recently lost her father due to COVID-19 and has been grieving for her loss. 

A photo of Dr. Linda Ivy and her father. Dr. Ivy shares her thoughts on who her father was and what their relationship was like. Taken in 1992.

She described her father as someone who was “opinionated and stubborn, very much a product of his generation. He was a hardworking man of God. He could be judgmental and critical at times, but he would take on a protector and caregiver role to those he loved.” [1] 

A genuine way to summarize the relationship Dr. Ivy and her father had was when she mentioned, “We didn’t always understand each other, but we knew that we loved each other and we were OK with saying that.” [2] 

Dr. Ivy had been expecting his death, as he was already 83 years old and had a history of heart issues, but she is still struggling to cope with the fact that he had to die so soon. Her father had suffered from delirium for about six weeks and then finally passed away from internal bleeding.  

This is the second parent Dr. Ivy has lost. Losing her mother first had actually made her closer to her father after her death. Now that she has lost her father, it has made her closer to her brother. They talk almost every day and it has increased their connection. It helps her to deal with her grief and to process the loss they both went through. 

Even though her father lived a good and long life, she regrets that he never got to meet his other great-grandchildren. She wished that he would have lasted a couple more years to meet them all. But unfortunately, she can’t change the circumstances now. 

To help come to terms with her father’s death, Dr. Ivy said it was helpful to “recognize the good things about him and the bad things about him and just be OK with that. He was who he was.” [3] 

Last year, Noah Recalde, a freshman nursing major, lost his uncle to COVID-19. 

His uncle was a retired doctor who had worked in the healthcare system for most of his life. So naturally, he was strict about protecting himself against COVID-19. When the lockdown began, Recalde always stayed in contact with his uncle, but only got to talk to him through phone calls and Zoom. 

When Recalde’s great aunt and uncle caught COVID-19 last year, his uncle (their nephew) decided to help care for them. It made the most sense to him since he was closest to them geographically and knew how to care for them.  

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Recalde described his uncle as “super smart, chill, funny, entertaining, loved adventures and telling stories. He was warm and caring and that’s why he went to go help my great aunt and great uncle, even though he knew the risks.” [4] 

His great uncle and aunt were older and COVID-19 affected their health quite badly. When Recalde’s uncle went to their house to care for them, they refused to wear masks due to their religious beliefs. His uncle made sure to always wear his mask and limit contact, but because Recalde’s great aunt and uncle never wore one, he caught the virus from them. 

Recalde’s uncle was rushed to the hospital because he was having a hard time breathing and was put on a ventilator for two weeks. He then seemed to recover and was taken off the ventilator, but then got worse again because of his diabetes condition. He died a few weeks later at the age of 68. 

It was difficult for Recalde to finally see his uncle in person at the open casket funeral. What helped him cope and process his death was being around family members. It ultimately made them all closer and made the loss of his uncle easier to grieve. 

Grieving with family members can help create better connections with each other and make the process easier to go through. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk. Taken on 3/4/2021. Source: www.pexels.com

This caused Recalde to realize how important it is to stay connected with others and to communicate. This aided him to understand the gravity of loss. Recalde stated, “We really don’t know how much time we have, especially in these times of COVID-19.” [5] 

The loss of his uncle has put into perspective how much personal connection with other people really matters. Recalde concluded, “Losing a loved one from COVID-19 has put into perspective how we aren’t built to go through life by ourselves. We are made to have support and be with family.” [6] 

References 

  1. Interview with Dr. Linda Ivy. 12/1/2021. 
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
  1. Interview with Noah Recalde. 12/1/2021. 
  1. Ibid
  1. Ibid
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