As corona pandemic ravages people across the globe, rising mortalities and continuous lockdowns are bringing paradigm shift around death and dying. It is a watershed moment. There are no gatherings and no funerals. No spatial commiserations. No personal condolences. Grief is lingering in the air like the viral aerosols. It’s changing the patterns of our social exchanges. Chalking out unusual ways to handle and manage grief. That’s why, fighting grief in the age of pandemic, has become a painfully personal battle. It is subverting the established notions of sharing and caring.
Of course, funerals allow people to congregate and console the bereaved. It helps them to reminisce and recover. The assemblage gives people a chance to console distraught in their difficult time. But Covid-19 has changed it all. It’s strangely throwing up an agonizing challenge for emotional viability of human beings. It has left us alone, both in surviving and dying. Every individual is strained to be a lone wolf.
We are witnessing quite unthinkable goings-on. The quarantined family members and relatives could not attend the last rites of deceased elderly lady from downtown, who became eighth victim of Covid-19 in Kashmir. Instead, she was laid to rest by local cops. Another Kashmiri woman, a young mother of three minors, succumbed to coronavirus at Dubai hospital. Due to lockdown, the mortal remains could not be brought back to her homeland. The death shattered her near and dear ones. No mourning; no sharing of grief. In other case, a retired employee from Srinagar, who had traveled to UK to see his sons, lost his battle of life in a hospital after contracting deadly coronavirus. He was buried there only. Back home, no condolence meeting was held due to lockdown/social distancing.
Covid-19 mortality apart, the non-covid deaths including those of insurgents during the last two months also went un-mourned. Getting buried by the regime at far-off unknown places in unmarked graves has even victimized mourning. The lockdown/social distancing left no room for collective prayers or recalling and sharing memories of deceased for recovering something that gets lost with their death. It gets more appalling when the dead have been connected to us in some way or else contributed in making us who we are.
There are also many reports of Covid-19 deaths across the globe wherein the families of the deceased patients were just informed about the death, and burial was handled by the authorities. People hadn’t a chance to even bid adieu to their loved ones. Mourning spaces disappeared. The somber dignity in dying seemed dwindling.
As we cruise along this pandemic and a new slogan “Learn to live with virus” making rounds, and we also mulling over the bitter fact that God has snatched the Right to Mourn from us —we need to re-visit and re-look at our philosophy of life and death; joy and sorrow. We need to pitch out past practices and frame new ways to share memories and mourn meaningfully. It’s mandatory for moving forward purposefully in life, without letting the sense of loss fade away.
Yes, if we dip extremely into death and distress, we won’t stand and survive. We need passages to accept the grim realities. Grief, as such, is not a phenomenon. It has to be lived and roved through. From beginning to no-end. It dribbles and drenches all the way. Taking us towards self-actualization and helping us in healing. Gradually.
Bottomline: Khalil Gibran wrote, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ Mourning is a passage, an outward expression of our loss that aids in embracing and embalming the pain of our loss—something we naturally don’t want to do. To evade, bottle up or disclaim the pain of grief is effortless than confronting it head-on. But facing up this pain is what begets resilience and prepares us for reconciling with the realities—dawning on us through corona pandemic.