A Loss During the Pandemic | #DyingMattersWeek
Friday, May 21st, 2021 | Uncategorized
This week is #DyingMattersWeek, a chance for organisations, individuals, and partners to come together to open up the conversation around dying, death and bereavement.
As a member of the Kare Plus network, I have decided to share my story anonymously, of my uncle who unfortunately passed away from COVID-19 in May 2020.
My uncle was certainly an outgoing character. Someone who would throw parties in his garden bar, serving his homemade alcohol and concoctions that definitely were not for those who could not handle their drink! The parties always went into the night, and it was never a problem with the neighbours, because the neighbours were always there!
He was a husband, dad, grandad, uncle, and best friend to so many people. He worked as a builder for a big UK firm and was very good at his job. He was very passionate about football and in particular, supported his local football club by being a season ticket holder for 10 years in a row.
COVID-19 arrived and so did the restrictions. He was allowed to keep working due to the job he was undertaking at the time. Around mid-April 2020, he had returned the company van to the warehouse to unload the days’ supplies. During those times, each employee was assigned one single van to avoid unnecessary mixing. One of the warehouse workers stepped into the back of his van whilst unloading to help. Unbeknownst to my uncle at the time, that worker had caught the virus, shown symptoms, and gone to work anyway. Although we will never know if this was one hundred percent where he caught the virus, he was always wearing masks, sanitising, and distancing when out of the house, so realistically, this is where we suspect his case of COVID-19 came from.
A few days had passed since the warehouse incident and he began showing symptoms. At that time, COVID tests weren’t easily available, so he wasn’t able to get a test immediately. As we all now know, the symptoms are similar to a cold and the instructions at the time were to stay home and isolate, which the whole household did. It was only when he began to have difficulty with breathing that he was taken to hospital.
He tested positive for coronavirus and he was placed in a ward on a life-support machine almost immediately. He slipped into a coma and stayed that way for a few days. The doctors and nurses provided round-the-clock care and he started to show signs of recovering. He woke up from the coma and the signs looked positive.
But unfortunately, this did not remain the case. He quite quickly deteriorated and slipped back into a coma from which he would never wake up. The staff were trying everything that had worked on other patients, but they seemed to have the reverse effect on my uncle. The only thing that seemed to be working was time.
He had been in the coma a while and the doctors were getting ready to wake him up following some good signs of recovery. But he very quickly got worse again and this time it was life-threatening. His breathing became solely through his life-support machine and sadly, his machine was turned off at around lunchtime on 5th May 2020.
Many people believed that COVID-19 only killed those with an existing health problem. However, my uncle was fit, healthy, in his 40’s and had no underlying health conditions.
What followed was some of the strangest situations I personally have ever experienced. A funeral that could have only 10 guests, so most of us watched via a video link. A mourning period in which my aunts and uncles couldn’t mix with their siblings over his death.
Coronavirus, for most of us, has taken a year of our lives. For 128,000 families in the UK, they lost a lot more than that. Therefore, when I see people discarding social distancing, not wearing facemasks, not adhering to social gathering limits, I feel like joining the doctors and nurses pleading for the public to be careful.
We, as a country, have been one of the worst hit by COVID-19, and although we are slowly coming out of the pandemic and easing restrictions, it is still imperative to follow all government restrictions and guidelines. My family and I are still not going out to pubs, restaurants, and social gatherings because we can’t. None of us are able to forget what happened last year. None of us can walk out the door without thinking back and wondering about the last time my uncle walked out his front door.
Losing a loved one from natural causes is always a very difficult time for family and friends, but losing a loved one, through the selfish actions of someone else, is a very hard feeling to describe. Anger was particularly prominent amongst family members at the start, but mainly it makes you so aware of what others are doing. If people don’t choose the sanitised baskets and trolleys at a supermarket, if someone is not wearing a mask the correct way, or even wearing a mask at all. You become so vigilant to these things because you know that my uncle was not the only person to have died, because someone else did not follow the rules.
My uncle did everything right. He distanced, he sanitised, and he wore masks. He was simply trying to provide for his family when his life was essentially taken from him.
#DyingMattersWeek is all about opening the conversation about dying, death and bereavement. I wanted to share this story to show that not all those who have died had an underlying health condition, and not all those who died ignored the COVID-19 guidelines either.
It is important to open up the conversation about death and bereavement as it helps us move on. We will never forget these things that happen, so we must learn to live with it. You can open up to close friends, family, or work colleagues. If you’re not the talkative type, there’s hobbies, exercise, fresh air, activities and more that can be done to help you move past the loss of a loved one.
For me and my family, we all had our own coping mechanism. Whether it be walking up a mountain, cycling, working on the car and many more besides, there isn’t just one correct way of mourning because everyone is different. We all need an outlet, we’re human after all.
Thank you for reading my story. Let’s open the conversation on death and bereavement because it is more important than you might think.
To find out more about Dying Matters, please click the link below.