When I was eight, I had my first experience of death – three times in a single year, actually. My Grandmother, my favourite Aunt and my favourite Uncle all passed within a year of each other. This trend continued well into my teens and my adulthood; in fact, coming home from school to hear an Aunt or Uncle passed almost became a norm. Suicide or the death of acquaintances did not even phase me too much in high school. This normalization (abnormalization?) of death resulted in my becoming chronically nonchalant about it, with only few (sudden or unexpected) deaths affecting me remotely similarly to the way grief would affect someone new to grief. That is, until life threw the curveball and forced me to pay attention. That curveball being experiencing death in the time of COVID.
I count myself lucky. I have a lot of family members and friends who have lost close friends, immediate family and many, many colleagues to COVID-19 during the last year; but I am, in a way, blessed that I don’t personally know anyone who has been taken by this disease. If I did, I think this would be a very different blog post. What I have been forced to do, though, is to re-think my nonchalant attitude on death, because of several very noticeable deaths of family members and friends over the last year – deaths with nothing to do with COVID-19 – and the underwhelming way that COVID has forced us to say goodbye.
Somehow, even though these deaths were not COVID related, death in the time of COVID has re-awakened that sickening feeling of grief in me when I hear about the death of a loved one. No longer do I just shrug my shoulders and say “oh that’s sad” and get on with my day. Nope. Death in the time of COVID has made me feel every little bit of the grieving process for every death I’ve heard of, exacerbated by the knowledge that I cannot get to these funerals or to the people who are grieving the most to help support them, or even, to have them support me. Just this week, I broke down twice at work (thank God for turning video and microphones off) after my cousin’s funeral.
Having been an active part of social media since 2008, I do EVERYTHING online. COVID-19 has forced many of us to live our lives in solitary to the point that we crave those smiling, slightly awkward, slightly stressed faces on the screen; just to feel as if we have some sort of human interaction with SOMEONE outside of our household. It forced me to realize that this method of communication is truly vapid and empty – a transitional pleasure until you realize the person on the screen is just a face on the screen. The actual person is nowhere near you.
I always knew this, but COVID living truly highlighted that without the in-life-true-interaction, online interaction is empty, especially on a long term basis. After all, when I first started my blog Bew!ldered Bug, it was the interaction with my blogging ladies and their real life support that kept me alive, NOT the online activity that we all took part in. The honest to goodness friendships that spawned because we chose to take our online activity into real life (and what amazing real life interactions they were!). This online method of communication is truly NOTHING without real life interaction – and yes I realize I’m using the same online vehicle that I’m criticizing to say this, even as I say this.
Life has become so very, very, very lonely for so many of us – but I did not realize exactly how lonely my life had gotten until my choice to visit, fly, drive to my loved ones was taken away. COVID forced so many travel bans and closed so many borders that it stole my option of jumping on a plane (or even into a car) to see my family or friends, regardless of what they were going through. One does not realize exactly how lonely it can be, until there’s a death in the time of COVID and one does not even have the choice to physically be at the funeral, to give a comforting hug to a loved one, or to grieve en masse with everyone else around you. Human touch is key to human grieving, and the human presence is missing from any form of online funerals. Grieving on your own is not pleasant. The impersonalization of the grieving process that a zoom, youtube or facebook live funeral offers is almost as bad as not attending the funeral at all; or maybe it is as bad but just in a completely different manner.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that I was at least able to attend these funerals at all, but it’s an awkward and lonely way of saying goodbye. You get a feeling akin to watching a tragic movie on Netflix…..until you hear your Aunt wail and see her collapse with grief. Until you see your strong AF Father breakdown on camera. Until you see your beloved cousin shoved into an oven and lickety split that’s that. That’s when it clicks and you realize this is happening to people you love. That’s when it becomes real and you feel your heart break. That’s when your inability to BE THERE reaches deep into you and tears out your heart. That’s when your throat closes and you can’t even scream.
Please, guys, wear your masks. Keep your distance. Be hyper-aware. Just for a bit longer. If not for yourself, for me, because I would really like to see my family again before anymore of them pass.
…This post dedicated to Aunty Mintee, Uncle Sonnyboy, Rodney, Raj and Sterling, and to all of the amazing souls that left us over the last year…
…I hope I did it some justice and wish I could have been there….
…RIP my lovelies, always in my heart and in my mind…