This week we reached a terrible figure – 100,000 people have died of coronavirus. We must treat those who are grieving with empathy and care.
This week has been an awful milestone in the Covid pandemic. We are so aware of the terrible weight of grief that hangs over everything. We grind our way through the days and weeks, trying to deal with the stresses of homeschooling and lockdown life, but the nightly stories on the news brings us face to face with the dreadful, shockingly sudden and seemingly random way this virus has swept away so many people who can never be replaced. It seems sometimes that we will never get out of this and yet we know we will. Pandemics do not last for ever, although the end of the pandemic cannot bring back the dead.
I’m reading a book about a father who lost his son – it’s called Kadian Journal. It’s a beautiful book because it is not just about loss, but also about the life that his son Kadian had. It’s a celebration of Kadian – a physical embodiment of all those memories that everyone can share.
Sharing grief is, of course, something that many people who have lost loved ones in the pandemic have found hard and is one of the things that makes pandemic grief even more traumatic. A Zoom meeting might work for strategising and team building, but it is not the same as being with others face to face when it comes to grieving. Even the counselling that those who are grieving may get access to will be through Zoom or on the phone.
This week I’ve also been watching It’s a sin, the Russell T Davies series on Aids in the 1980s. It’s a powerful reminder of a time which I, for one, had not fully processed. In the 1980s I volunteered for the Terrence Higgins Trust and for a local Aids charity. I visited many people who had Aids. So many of them were very young – nearly as young as my daughters. Many had been to multiple funerals of their friends and lovers. I went to the funeral of a middle aged man who lost his life. He was married and had hidden his sexuality. His wife too was infected and would later die. It was not just the virus that was the issue, but, as Russell T Davies highlights, the toxic attitudes towards gay men. I went to houses where people, young, young people, were sitting in the dark, alone, sobbing with fear. I also went to houses full of friends and love and care.
Watching the series is the first time I have really acknowledged the impact of that awful time of so much loss. It feels appropriate to view it now when we also live amid grief every day. It shows so clearly the importance of empathy and care and that these are the things that make our lives better. When all this is over, surely care should have a more central place, a more valued place, in our world.