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  • Writer's pictureMadeylyn Balitz

COVID-19 Isolating You From Saying Goodbye To Your Loved Ones?

ALL IS WELL….We are all connected to our loved ones if we go within, maybe even more profoundly than being at there bedside as they take their last breath.

These are extraordinary times, like no other time in our history. It is all so different, and yet we are all intent on finding our way through the quarantine maze, seeking a bit of normalcy wherever we can find it. We are still saying hello and good-bye to one another, though with new and amazing ways. With determination, creativity, and technology, we are conquering the “social distancing” restraints. Why? Because we can, and connecting with others is part of our DNA. Our humanity compels us to reach out and touch one another not only physically, but mentally, emotionally….and spiritually.

The bond of love has been proven through this COVID-19 pandemic to be stronger than death and stronger than physically being with one another.

What am I saying? Well, today I am remembering my beloved husband transcending at 1:55 p.m., just 2 years ago. I am isolated and alone—well, I am in solitude, not alone. I have received love and thoughts and reminiscing calls from friends and family all over the country and Bermuda. Physically alone, with a candle lit, near a portrait of my beloved, I played our favorite song, from Beauty and the Beast, “How does a moment last forever?”

I cried, I smiled, I laughed, and most importantly, I was filled with gratitude and strength that I have survived my loss, the death of a loved one, and am moving forward—not moving on, moving forward as my husband told me to do. He told me before he died that his wish was for me to continue to live my life with meaning as he would be doing, to light up the world for others that are hurting, knowing that we can make a difference.

He was right! (As much as I hate to admit once again my dear….you were correct!)

Now as far as being there with your loved one as they transition elsewhere as I believe they do….Yes, I am pleased that I was at my husband’s side as he took his last breath, as painful as that was, I was there. But that was just one experience; that did not make our love or relationship any stronger or more meaningful, it just was what happened at that time.

As my work (and my calling), I sit with the dying and their loved ones if they are there. As a seasoned hospice social worker, I have observed that each person takes that moment differently, as with all experiences in life. I can’t say that “being there” makes or breaks that moment. This past week, I have been working from home (like most everyone) in an attempt to isolate and do my part to stop this seriously contagious virus. I hope you all are considering this too as a gift to humanity.

Interestingly, by not being able to visit the nursing homes and places where my hospice patients reside, I have found a different and profoundly important opportunity to use my counseling skills and innate gifts. On phone calls with family members, I have done some of my best work, mitigating fears and sadness, and offering peace, hope and support. I have allowed them to share, vent, and remember their loved ones in a very personal and real way that brought them comfort. I have suggested and invited them to sit with a candle lit, a photo of their loved one, relax in solitude, finding a quiet connection with their loved one. They found a way to really connect.

One woman was in Georgia, missing her brother who was in hospice care in a nursing home in Sarasota. She felt so conflicted and upset that she was not with him, and the main reason was because of the quarantine. We talked and she did this experiment as we spoke—she said her good-byes to her brother over the phone with me and I supported and validated her relationship. A moment after we hung up, I received a phone call from the nursing home that the patient, her brother, had just died. Wow, the power of love over distance. I immediately called the woman back and she answered the phone, “He died, didn’t he?”

She said she could just feel it. She was at peace.

Death and isolation cannot not be the enemy. We must rise to these new occasions. Just as we see people getting so creative with virtual sing-a-longs, dancing, dining or praying together using the internet or smart phones, so too can difficult times and grieving be a time of meaningful connection.

So, during this unprecedented time of working and teaching our children at home, celebrating holidays separated…yes, even in events of death we do not have to succumb to feeling that we have lost more than if we were at each other’s physical side. We have either lived a life being close and loving to that person or not—we cannot make up in one moment for a lifetime of closeness, love and compassion. And, losing one moment together doesn’t erase all the shared experiences of a lifetime.

My hope for all who are dealing with losing a loved one during this strange time of isolation and social distancing will take hope knowing that all can be well. Our loved ones wish that for us and they too die alone with or without us at their side in their very last breath. They are at peace and comfort with hospice social workers supporting their loved ones. Peace to all of you that are grieving today and for those that are having anticipatory grief, awaiting the passing of your loved one. You hold within you the deep connections that will give you strength.

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