Loss in a Time of COVIDKelly Arora, PhD & Kate Jankousky Apr 7, 2020
During this pandemic experience, we’re all adapting to new rules and restrictions. These changes often mean the loss of meaningful everyday activities. A few weeks ago, we could hug a friend, browse books at the public library, shop at the mall, or enjoy a sit-down meal in a restaurant. It’s easy to brush off our feelings about losses that seem trivial when compared to the loss of life some people are facing with COVID-19. But our grief about losses of any type is real and needs to be acknowledged. When losses aren’t validated, our grief is disenfranchised, and this affects our well-being and ability to remain resilient in challenging times.
Kate Jankousky is a 4th year medical student at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She wrote the following reflection about her experiences in the time of COVID. I invite you to acknowledge her losses as a representation of losses we may be facing in our own lives.
This week, my fiancée and I are grieving the loss of our supercool, pretty hipster wedding ceremony. On May 16th, we planned to join our lifelong friends and not-that-homophobic relatives at our local brewery. We planned to walk ourselves down the aisle to my future sister-in-law’s keyboard playing, after which my brother would officiate a clean 10-minute ceremony. We’d open a massive tab, and stumble to the gay bar down the street after the sun went down. As we mourn the loss of the beginning we had imagined for ourselves, I’ve been on a palliative care rotation where I’ve witnessed many couples mourn the loss of the middle or end they’d imagined for themselves.
At The Denver Hospice, a woman teared up when I parroted back the words she’d said: “You pictured your whole life with your husband.” Bulbar ALS took the linebacker-sized handyman she’d married and turned him into a bedbound husk of her former husband in just 14 months. I met another wife in a conference room down the hall because her husband was being ruled out for COVID-19. She asked, “I still have both of my parents; how will I tell my 6-year-old his father is dying?” Another woman said goodbye to her husband for the last time over the phone because her chronic lung condition made it too dangerous for her to visit the hospital.
Without coffee shops, breweries, dog parks, and shows, my fiancée and I miss our community of both familiar strangers and good friends. We pout about cancelling our medical school Match Day celebration, my 30th birthday party, and our honeymoon. We step on each other’s toes in close quarters and had an argument about “intentional alone-time” last night. And, through our frustration and loss, this rotation has served as the perfect reminder that we are choosing each other as partners for not just this beginning, but also for our own middle and end. Like every couple I’ve met on this rotation, we hope we live a long time and die 70 years from now holding hands like the couple in The Notebook. But, if we face a different end, I’m grateful to have experienced the examples of the grit and love shown by my patients and their families on their hardest days in this strange time.