Saying goodbye when you lose a loved one during COVID-19

Mourning the Loss after a Death in Isolation

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It’s tragic to think that anyone could lose a loved one in isolation without the chance to touch and say goodbye. So, what can families do?

That’s something we’re hearing more now as the coronavirus becomes a focus of news stories everywhere.

Dr. Sarah Wakefield, M.D., is the chair of Psychiatry at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. She says medical teams are prepared to provide comfort at the end of life. She says talk to your medical team because they want to help.

Wakefield recommends asking, "Can you take a phone in there? Could you put it on speaker phone? Can they hear my voice? Can I sing them a song and tell them a story?"

"I know a lot of medical teams are facilitating that all over the country right now," Dr. Wakefield said.

She also wants families to understand why these policies are so important right now.

Wakefield explains, "These policies are not put in place lightly. We take them very seriously and we know that less people get to be with their loved ones at very scary times, but the reason is to decrease transmission of the illness so that other loved ones don't end up in that position if we can help it."

So how do you mourn the loss of a loved one after feeling like you didn't get to say goodbye the way you would have wanted?

Dr. Wakefield says, "The mourning process is a long process and that's one piece of the transition that you might not be able to be with that person but a relationship is not built on one moment. Trust that the millions of moments prior to that one moment are as much or more meaningful."

It is a concern, though, that people who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 might isolate themselves in their grief.

Dr. Wakefield says it is up to the rest of us to reach out to those people and share their grief so that they do not feel so alone.

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