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COVID-19 Restrictions And The Process Of Grieving

Sarah Grief

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — COVID-19 has changed every life in some way, but it also affects the relationship with death. Families are needing to delay funeral services and that impacts grief.

The Loss of a Father

"He was just fun-loving and just happy-go-lucky," said Lisa Gallagher, remembering her father.

William Stephen Polakovich was the first person in Broome County to die from COVID-19.

It happened on March 19.

He was 83.

Polakovich leaves behind three kids, four grandkids, and, Sandy, his wife of 59 years. About a week after he died, the virus hit Sandy. She was hospitalized twice, taking additional tolls on the family. In total, Lisa and her teenage daughter went into mandatory quarantine four times.

Delaying Closure

Funeral services are limited during the coronavirus pandemic. Only family can be there, and, if people cannot attend, funeral homes offer live streams paired with some type of memorial service later on. Having to delay funeral rituals can impact the grieving process.

"It could possibly delay grief and prolong it," explained Laura Ward, a bereavement counselor with Hospicare. "Just the fact that you’re not having these things that bring the reality to mind."

Ward said addressing the loss helps people work through it because shock and denial are normal in the grieving process, even being forced to fill out paperwork about a loved ones death can be useful.

"By physically doing things around the death, it actually helps them get to the place of consolidating that this has happened," said Ward

She suggests people take time each day to connect with the person who has died.

"Go sit outside and talk with them, light a candle, look at a picture, sometimes people have coffee with their loved ones picture," Ward added. "Things that really bring to mind that the death has happened and kind of almost purposefully recognize it."

Remembering the Past

Looking through pictures is helpful. Gallagher is doing that. She's also sharing stories about her dad and cleaning out her parents house. Sandy moved in with her. She recovered from COVID-19 and was released from her second stint in the hospital on May 6.

"It’s just you want some sort of closure already because, even now, I feel like we’ve been mean or something to dad," Gallagher explained. "Like we haven’t even buried him, but we can’t because obviously my mom - we were waiting for my mom to be better, and, obviously, my dad would only want for my mom to be okay."

The family will finally be able to lay Polakovich to rest on Friday, more than two months after he died of COVID-19.