Grieving in Isolation

The effects of social distancing during a time of grief

Like many of us, quarantine was nothing more than watching the point of view of the paranoid through a couple of headlines. Living in the Midwest gives you this immunity or numbness of what’s going on because nothing ever happens here, right? Something as vast as a black cloud prancing about the world I, like many others, didn’t think it could happen here in this state of dried grass and tumbleweeds and it wasn’t until that caught fire that I understood how inescapable it all was.

On March 31, my family found out my uncle died. That morning, officials couldn’t say if it was “corona” or not, mostly because my uncle had pre-existing health conditions and it could have been a number of other things. And while that morning is seared into my brain of sights and smells I’ll never be able to forget, this was the start of a long painful process.  

That first day through my panic-stricken haze, I noticed none of the paramedics, police officers or firefighters came to comfort anyone, they all had on the faded out blue mask and stood rather far apart and didn’t really move around a whole lot. After mom and I got home is when she started making calls and I stayed up in my room. Having most of our family living in Colorado or Florida, there was this undrawn line of acknowledgment that both parties knew that it’s not possible for anyone to come to see anyone. This grieving family is being forced apart for a much bigger and more noble cause but that doesn’t take away the reality of all of us having to sit in our separate house being there for each other to the limitations of our phones.  

Over the next few days, I noticed the faded out sadness in myself. It was like instead of going through the process the isolation has almost been preserving everything for later. It’s like the crying came hard but the emotions that follow lagged behind. I can’t do anything to take my mind off it…libraries, my favorite restaurant, the school even, is all shut down, leaving me to being forced to sweat out this fever dream of a reality by myself.

Submitted by Elaine Thimyan
My uncle Mike being photographed by my dad in front of the World Trade Center sometime in the 90s.

And the fact is that is, we never got to satisfyingly grieve for my uncle, such an optimistic hopeful person who believed in everyone. It’s like after a day or two we all had to go back to worrying about staying healthy for our own protection. It felt and still feels like my uncle’s memory is being washed away faster than normal. 

We don’t know what caused it, at least I don’t any way not that we’ve had time to discuss it, or my parents want to shield me from anymore damaging exposure, but it could have been anything to a stroke, to pancreas problems, to corona. I like not knowing because I can believe that he wasn’t just another percent in worldwide devastation, and I can believe that in bliss. 

You never know the true experience of anything until you live it first hand, whether that be an altered version of it or the direct line. But grieving alone, the sudden fading of my uncle’s memory has made me realize that those headlines can happen to anyone, that this immunity the midwest has given us was punctured and that there’s a whole world exist under the headlines and through the screen.