• Tuesday, Apr 20, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:23 pm

Grieving in the time of a pandemic

  • Published at 01:26 pm February 9th, 2021
Coronavirus-Death-Al Markazul Islami bury Covid-19 victim maintaining WHO guideline-janaza
File photo of a Covid-19 victim given a burial in Dhaka Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

‘We used to watch TV to get updates about Covid-19 deaths. Who would have thought my mother would be one of them?’

“Ammu, I know you are going through extreme pain and suffering. Just hang in there for a little while. You must come back to us and our father.  We all are taking good care of our father. You do not have to worry a bit. You must come back home, if not for me, then to see my child if I have any in the future. I love you to the moon and back, Ammu. You must come back.”

Naureen Rahim wrote this letter to her mother and handed it to the nurse of the Covid-19 ward at Square Hospital. They were in the same hospital but for them it felt like they were miles away. She thought as they cannot see each other and it is difficult for her mother to talk through the oxygen mask, an old-fashioned letter might be a good way to communicate.

Naureen still has the letter as it made her feel like it is a piece of her mother who lost her fight against Covid-19 in mid-January.

She was pleading to her children: “Can you do something so that I can live for a few more days?”

Naureen is one of the family members of those 8,182 people who died of Covid-19 since the virus spread out in Bangladesh. Dhaka Tribune reached out to a few who lost their loved ones to Covid-19. 

Everyone is hoping to leave the pandemic behind them as the vaccination has started, but, there are people who went through unfathomable pain and loss as their loved ones could not survive Covid-19.   

A few of them opened up to Dhaka Tribune about their journey of dealing with the grieving process and how it was different in the time of coronavirus. The grieving process was devoid of touching the loved ones for the very last time.

“My house smells like my mother. I know my father feels empty when he sees her saree in the closet and clumps of her hair on the comb,” said Naureen. 

Her father brought a red saree for her mother for their 50th anniversary on February 20 but her mother lost the battle against Covid-19 on January 19 this year.

Naureen’s 66-year-old mother, Taftun Nazneen, was in the high-risk group as she was undergoing dialysis for kidney diseases. Naureen, an academic, used to take care of her mother. 

“I used to point at people who were undergoing dialysis for a long time and still surviving so that she does not lose hope. But I didn’t realize back then that Covid-19 will take her life, not the kidney disease,” said Naureen.

“We used to watch TV to get updates about Covid-19 deaths. Who would have thought my mother would be one of them? The numbers are not just numbers. These are stories. These are stories of pain and loss,” she told this correspondent.

Nahid Amin Lina’s father Nurul Amin was begging his children not to leave him in the hospital. All the lab reports and symptoms were indicating that her father might have Covid-19. 

Being a doctor, she knew there is a high possibility that her father contracted the virus but being a daughter, she was hoping for a miracle.

However, the miracle did not happen. After almost a week-long battle, her father lost the battle in mid-June last year. The only thing that kept them going at that time was that her father was not lonely in his final days like other Covid-19 patients. Lina had access to the ward since she was a doctor and took care of him.

“It was not a lonely death. I hope he had this feeling of relief that he can reach out to his family if he needed anything before his death,” said Lina.    

Lina’s 77-year-old father was healthy and active until he got Covid-19. His family was not expecting him to give in to Covid-19 as he was showing mild symptoms. Lina did not know how to break the news of his death to her mother. Her family unplugged the landline connection so that her mother could not call anyone. 

“I do not know how she received the news. I did not have the courage to see her when she heard about my father’s death,” said Lina. 

Lina was tested positive as well 14 days after her father died. She had mild symptoms and did not need hospitalization but her family was extremely worried as they were still coping with the loss of her father. 

“I still call my baba’s number although I know nobody will pick up from the other side. I ask how he is doing and then hang up,” Lina told Dhaka Tribune. 

Lina knows she will never hear her father’s voice again, she knows nobody will come to hang the mosquito net at night, but she believes she will be reunited with her father in the afterlife.

“The only way to cope with the loss and grief for me is the hope of seeing him again on the other side of life,” said Lina.

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