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COVID-19 takes away grieving process for loved ones



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — COVID-19 has killed nearly 30,000 Americans to this point. With many if not all dying in isolation, loved ones struggle to grieve. The virus creates challenges for people to cope with the emotional toll.

Two weeks ago, KNWA/Fox 24 shared a story about John Pijanowski, a University of Arkansas professor whose father died the previous day.

“I never asked for a catch where he didn’t say yes,” Pijanowski said. “I never had a ballgame where he didn’t show up in the stands.”

Pijanowski’s father died from novel coronavirus complications.

“His body started to decay pretty fast,” Pijanowski said. “Kidneys failed. [He] went into a deep coma, and it was over. We never got a chance to talk to him again.”

Pijanowski’s Twitter tribute was retweeted by thousands—his way of grieving.

“It helped me, and it may help other people, but other people will have to find their own way,” Pijanowski said.

Mary Jeppsen is a counselor at Fresh Roots in Rogers. She said COVID-19 takes away our most-powerful recovery mechanism: coping.

“In our tradition, particularly in the South, it would be more like a wake or a funeral or memorial service,” Jeppsen said. “That’s impossible to do.”

An infected body must be quarantined for two weeks, and often, so do family members.

“We can’t travel,” Pijanowski said. “We can’t have a service.”

There are ways to healthily grieve anyway, Jeppsen said.

“It’s okay to give ourselves permission and know that it’s okay to be sad,” Jeppsen said. “It’s okay to take the time to really think about our loss.”

Even though families can’t all be together physically, digital mediums can bridge the gap. Texting, calling, FaceTiming or using modern platforms like Zoom can be useful.

“Maybe just create an online memorial service so that everyone can share and comfort each other,” Jeppsen said.

More people will undoubtedly be affected, and Pijanowski said the community needs to step up and be there for one another.

“Even though we’re separate from each other, we’re in our own homes, we’re more isolated than ever, we have to just work harder to be a community,” Pijanowski said.