On Monday, I lost one of my best friends and one of the greatest women I will ever know.
I was fortunate that she was my aunt. I am honored to have worked with her for a cause we both believe in. I am grateful that I had so much time with her. I wish I had more time.
Her death was most likely caused by a heart condition and not the coronavirus, but it’s impossible to untangle the aftermath of her death, or even the days leading up to it, from this current health crisis.
It’s ironic. Just a few weeks ago, a friend from high school passed away—again, not due to COVID-19—and I remember thinking how hard it would be to mourn someone you’d lost when you couldn’t be with your family.
Now, here I am. Grieving in social isolation.
I come from a very big family and we are close. When someone dies, we converge.
We tell stories.
We grieve together. Always together.
COVID-19 has taken away one of the most fundamental aspects of my life—the ability to be with my family at this difficult time. We text. We talk on the phone. We have video chats.
It’s not the same.
Globally, we are all in the same boat. Fighting the same battle. Staying healthy. Keeping our communities safe. Flattening the curve.
At our core, we’re social creatures and it’s hard. The stress of not having in-person connection is overwhelming at times. And I am lucky. I have my husband, my children, and my faithful pup to get through the days with. I worry about my friends who live alone. I worry about my relatives, many of whom are working in healthcare right now. I was already grieving something. I think we all are.
Instead of lighthearted conversations, every interaction takes on a more serious tone. Are you OK? Do you have everything you need? Is there anything I can do?
People have been asking me those questions a lot these last two days since my aunt passed away. My answer is, I don’t know.
I don’t know how to grieve in our current world. I need to be with my family. I need to see my aunt and say a proper goodbye. I need to hug my cousin long and hard—she just lost her mother. The things I need are things that nobody can give me.
In a truly odd turn of events, I find myself wanting to be alone.
I’ve been struggling with this social isolation and now I can’t find the energy to interact. I feel like a train that has run off the tracks. I can’t right myself.
There is a lot of talk right now about statistics: cases, deaths, recoveries. There is a lot of political positioning. The news is overrun with horrifying stores of lives claimed by the virus, and uplifting stories about communities coming together to take care of one another.
When the experience becomes your own, and not just something happening to somebody else, you gain something important. Perspective.
At the end of the day, my heart goes out to all of the people who have lost someone during this pandemic, whether the death was COVID-19 related or not. I am with you as we grieve alone together.
I hope we learn this hard lesson and we are prepared for the next challenge we face.
I hope we never have to do this again.
Amy Rivers is an author living in Boulder.