This article is part of a series called “Grief Stories.” With over 500,000 who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus and countless others that passed away within the last year, grief has been on the minds of many. Yet, in some cases, those who are grieving have had to deal with their pain alone. This series is designed to encourage those who have suffered a loss to speak out.
By: Kim Wills-Rinaldi
As a mental health therapist and long haul COVID survivor, I have used the last many months to address the vast array of emotions that may linger with us. Grief, loss, sickness and fears will not magically disappear. I myself will never be the same therapist or person as I was pre-COVID. Many of my clients, family members and friends also are forever changed. Some of these changes have been positive and some of them have been negative.
On March 5, my husband received a phone call that his 86-year-old widowed mother who lived alone in her home (with some assistance a few times a week) had fallen on her kitchen floor and had fallen and broken her hip. My husband went to the ED where my mother-in-law was admitted for a surgical repair of her hip.
The next day, I was exposed to COVID in my job as a healthcare worker. That weekend as my husband’s family began preparing for what decisions needed to be made for their mother, I started becoming symptomatic.
My mother-in-law was placed in short-term rehab for what we thought would be a few weeks. Unfortunately, the nursing home was exposed to COVID. My mother-in-law was frightened and scared. We were not allowed any visits, there were no iPad visits at the time and she was on the second floor of the nursing home so a “window visit” was not possible. My husband spoke with his mother daily, sometimes more than once, reassuring her and letting her know we could not visit as we were all COVID-positive now.
My husband and his sister received a telephone call that their mother was COVID-positive. The family was scared, my mother-in-law was scared. After two months of being apart and recovering, they were told she would coming home the following Monday. The next day she did not answer her phone after lunch when my husband called her. He called the nursing home and the nurse found his mother had died of a COVID-related blood clot to her heart.
The funeral home would not allow my husband or the family to see my mother-in-law due to COVID restrictions at the time. It was now the end of May 2020 and we had not seen her since March 5. The funeral was only family (10 of us to be exact) socially distanced with the funeral home employees and a traveling Catholic priest. There was no ability to grieve or mourn, there was no ability to engage in the rituals that we have come to engage in to ease our pain and to have closure.
COVID has changed our world and society in ways that we do not even know nor have we identified yet. We have shown our strength, our resilience and empathy during these times. The journey of grief and loss has been changed forever.
Kim Wills-Rinaldi is a geriatric therapist who works at a healthcare facility in Connecticut.