“Her father was not that old perhaps not even qualifying in geriatrics age group, one day she called me in anger, frustration and desperation…My dad sweating and gasping for breath, what to do now? Help me! She is a doctor but here a daughter and she was in denial, texted me. She knew me for years as a professional colleague. I was kind of blunt, take him to hospital … she argued I have all equipments at home… Why? I rationalized why hospital, and she eventually agreed. She must have leaned down and rubbed his fathers arm and uttered to self “I’ll be with you every step of the way,” it is a promise, but the ordeal was yet to begin.
That was as close as she would ever again get to her father as I knew now barring a moment when she saw him in ICU for few minutes and her father shouted at her to go back home probably fearing the raging contagion or inevitable. She thought to go to hospital daily but she learned she could not go because she found herself a victim of deadly virus as a carrier. She sat alone at home for hours, crying and then wishing and begging prayers from all she could know for his beloved fathers recovery including me.
Her father who otherwise was an active guy as she used to tell was now sick with the coronavirus and laid for weeks in an isolation room on the second floor of nearby health facility in the first phase and then ICU in the final phase of his life and she would ask me sea of questions but in the end she would yell…. the saturation just does not go up! Why cant you help, call your friends and tell doctors to listen to her to implement a latest therapy declared in world and I would just say, I would do it! When she felt heneared death being a medico, she stopped asking me any help disconnected but before that I myself withdrew surrendering to the fate Almighty had in store for his father and helplessly snapped communication with her and shunning my responsibility as a guide, mentor, a counselor, friend and a person with whom she could connect, though with lot of pain. Regretfully this was a big blow to the fantasy world I lived where I thought I am the best but was still afraid to say NO?
A brutal hallmark of this pandemic is the way it isolates its victims even in their final moments. Patients die alone in hospital rooms, cut off from their spouses, children, and siblings. The emotional end-of-life moments, unfold over with a stranger serving as an intermediary and a fearless attender acting as conduit fuels a devastating carnage ahead to family psychologically for sure. She may had grieved in what feels like a kind of hidden limbo, trapped and taunted by the very thing that landed her dearest father there, Did she cry? Perhaps No! You can’t cry when no one can hug you but the lockdown and the empty streets made it feel as if everyone else was in mourning with her. I realized people die suddenly when they have heart attacks and accident or suffer terrible violence but what marks Covid-19 out is the way it has kept near ones apart from its victims while they are still alive and here it was daughter from her beloved father. For those left behind, much of the pain comes from wondering what the noble soul must have been feeling in those last hours, days, even weeks. On the contrary I shared her trauma being a doctor, a venting source and a friend and bear witness to her frantic 24/7internet surfing on covid, calling anytime, sharing her hope and advice from learned doctors on phones which some where a kind of respond to me, discussing immune suppressants but more how to procure it and finally when it was ordered, trying to ask me to find where to get it or any wonder drug at any cost. She was appreciative for people who would stay around the patient as she would endorse and honor them for their daring endeavors’ and lastly always keeping track for oxygen delivering kits and discussing lab parameters scribbling through best notes with me, for I had to listen and only pray for a miracle and offer my professional expertise to her anytime. I was only worried on her emotional level and capacity.
The inevitable came finally! There cant be bereavement like this in living memory. I feel, it’s not just the nature of Covid deaths that makes the experience somber and unparalled – the victims sudden deterioration often on ventilators or in ICU and families unable to say goodbye, or having to do it in PPE or via video call – killed her slowly not to mention that her mind had the fear that other relatives will get the virus if they empathiz physically, guilt that maybe she was the one who passed it a painful enquiry from a doctor to doctor and I would just keep mum. I was afraid that specially here a daughter in addition to the grief itself she was carrying was elder, a doctor being herself a survivor and being helpless could succumb to ignominy so all the time I was looking for some kind of psychological relief for the fathers daughter putting my years of experience and practice at test but there was no balm…or the solution?
As human beings we need to tell our story or someone tells it for us and be listened to, so that it can become one of healing balms, here you couldn’t do that on your own; there needed to be some process of learning and reconciliation and we needed a sense of everyone moving forward together. But there was no hope, no respite, as we feared to discuss a time bomb a “corona bomb”. My knowledge of mental health would say because the grieving process is so unique, it would make grief harder and perplexed to complicated one for her if she failed to copeas I fearedshe would definitely ask the world that her cherished father is more than just a number and certainly not really one more tally to the days death estimatein the gazette.Did I failed to comfort her in real sensefor I knew for sure there would be no support system for her in future as there would be no lines at the funeral where mourners will feel the love and support of sea of friends and acquaintances? There would be no tables, crowded with food served where people can commune in honor of those we loved and I knew for sure certainly the daughters grief could not be postponed until the pandemic is over.
As a mental health professional, for me because every call of her was, inevitably, a call for help – fromthe first request of help fora hospital bed, to the hospital has run out of oxygen or tovital drugs to helpprocure. For me it wasincreasing fear about losing somebody you knewtriggering panic in me forevery phone call brought trepidation. I triedcomforting myself thatthere is a silver lining to every cloud but Corona is not an innocent cloud; itis a global dark cloud that has grown to be an uncontrollable Godzilla killing at will.
As I couldn’t help my colleague the way I wanted and got withdrawn. It took me a lot to rationalize that death is an unavoidable part of life. As we go through life we will inevitably lose loved ones through illness, old age or unforeseen circumstances.Any bereavement is never easy. In our society we are perhaps less prepared to cope with death, thanks to advances in medicine, we are less likely to experience it than our elders did. To succumb was to allow it to devour my mind or the otherway was to stay mentally firm and mentally strong, and look at some fundamental learning lying beneath the crisis, if at all that is possible when the help seeker is your colleagueof many years. As you are also a human and will experience grief but everyone’s grief is unique, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to come to terms with the loss for a doctor who is also an empathizer of a daughters struggle, courage and hope to see her father back home.
As we all do I thought to keep obituary as simple as “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m so sad for you and your family, please accept my deepest condolences” but you might want to offer something a little deeper than that, after all If you feelyourself on the samepage, I could not think but to offer my salute for a daughters resilience till end and share this for her from the core of my heart the ultimate truth beyond science and this world and pray for her emotional stability and a little tribute to a medico…..
“And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say, indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the guided.” (Quran). May God Bless the departed soul!
Author is Senior Psychiatrist and Mental health expert. Feedback: email@example.com
Courtesy Rising Kashmir