It is difficult on Long Island and the surrounding area to not know someone affected by Covid 19. There is so much grief and stress right now. How can we deal with what we have been given?
I am not a grief expert but did want to share some pearls that I have learned from Steven Krull, a grief counselor. Grief even before Covid was complicated. Those who do best with grief are those who had support before their loved one passed away. People who have validation of their hard work caring for their loved one tend to do better after their passing. People who have gone through a process and spoken certain words to their loved one also do better. What is the process that helps?
An end of life care physician, Dr Ira Byock, said the magic words are: Forgive me, I Forgive You, Thank You & I Love You. If you can go through these words and the process behind these words, grief will not be as difficult to work through. Those who cannot say and believe these words will have more difficulty with the grief process and suffer from regret. You just don’t want to leave your sentiments unsaid.
So does Covid 19 change this process? Maybe. It is more difficult to be close to your loved one. You may not be allowed into the nursing home, hospital or even the home where they reside. Some people with Covid 19 seem to be managing it well until they suddenly deteriorate, going into respiratory distress and passing away quickly. There is so little warning and time to say: forgive me, I forgive you, thank you and I love you.
How then do you go through this process? Now we use Zoom and Face Time. But what if you always told your loved one that you love them. Maybe then we would not be left in this quandary. What if we were less hard on the people we loved, instead telling them we forgive them? What if we lived differently and took advantage of our time together? What if we didn’t take this time for granted? For myself and my colleagues, we are experiencing something in medicine we have never seen before. There are just so many deaths. Honestly, I now believe that nothing in life can be taken for granted.
How do we go through the rituals of death when you cannot be with your deceased loved one? How important are these rituals if we cannot attend a funeral, sit shiva, attend a wake or go through whatever other custom society has? I believe it is important to continue our customs for closure, but we must modify them. Continue funerals but watch on Face Time as your loved one is buried. We must learn to use Zoom to continue our mourning. We need these modified rituals to successfully pass through the grief process.
It is also important to speak with a grief counselor even if your loved one was never on hospice. Access to a grief counselor is part of the hospice process but so many people are losing loved ones without much warning and no hospice. If you need access to counseling, we can help you arrange it. Alternatively, two other great options are books: On Grief & Grieving by Elisabeth Kubler -Ross MD & David Kessler and The Four Things That Matter Most by Ira Byock. Grief takes time and we are here for you.
Sheryl Pearl MD