Dealing with the death of a loved one due to COVID-19

Dealing with the death of a loved one due to COVID-19

Dr Happy Setsiba shares advice on how to best deal with the death of a loved and ways in which society can reach out to the affected families. 

Grieving family walking through a cemetery
Grieving family walking through a cemetery/ iStock

There are currently 10.5-million confirmed coronavirus cases in the world and at least 500,000 people have died from the virus. 

READ: Health workers sound alarm bells as virus spirals

Dr Happy Setsiba, a Clinical Psychologist at Med-forum Hospital in Pretoria, says the circumstances and regulations around COVID-19 deaths have worsened the trauma. 

“For families that experience death around this time, they are hardest hit,” she says.

The doctor says although it is important to adhere to the regulations because they are to protect lives, those who are affected might feel lonely.

“I’ve seen quite a number of patients who have lost their loved ones due to COVID and what I hear them say is that the traumatic thing is you are alone during the period." 

READ: South Africa needs to adopt new culture to fight COVID-19: Mkhize

Unlike pre-COVID-19 funerals where you would be surrounded by a great number of loved one, COVID-19 has led to the government only allowing 50 people at the funeral to minimise the spread. 

She says this can lead to some people feeling more devastated because most of their loved ones are unable to attend the funeral. 

Dr Setsiba has helped several clients who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19 and most said they couldn’t deal with the pain. 

“Most of them say, ‘we don’t even cry. More than anything, our feeling have frozen. We don’t know how to handle it’,” she says.  

She adds that people don’t have time to share their feelings with those close to them due to visits being prohibited. 

“You hardly have enough time to share this pain with your friends and many other people that would come to see you as we are used to in our cultures. COVID-19 has caused more damage to an already damaged heart, emotions, and mind of people.

“The COVID has isolated and people feel estranged and alone with no support."

As a result, Dr Setsiba says the pain might take much longer to heal. 

“It’s a pain that might last forever because they never really had the time to deal with this pain. They never had the time to process the pain,” she adds. 

READ: Coronavirus: SA funeral association announces restrictions

How to reach out to affected families

Dr Setsiba says that “COVID-19 should not stop us as a society to find ways to still connect with the families of those who have lost their loved ones.”

She says people should use social media to offer support. 

“These days we use virtual forms of interaction,” says the Clinical Psychologist. 

She says friends and loved ones can even attend virtual funerals. This will offer comfort to the family. 

“It is comforting to know that people are there, even though they aren’t there physically,” she adds. 

Apart from connecting using social platforms, Dr Setsiba says small gestures such as sending flowers will make the family know you care.  

The Clinical Psychologist says people who lost their loved ones should reach out for help, especially if they are not coping. 

“Don’t allow COVId-19 to shut you out. This is the time where we need to establish ties as much as possible,” she says. 

She adds that health workers are also there to help. 

“We are here as part of the lifeline. Even if you don’t see psychologist, go see social workers, go see pastors. Go to people that you trust and talk to them. Connect. Increase your network of support as much as possible. This is the time where we need each other,” she concludes. 

Image courtesy of iStock/ @Rawpixel

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