How intensely we reacted when there were two “foreigners” in our country who had tested positive – we knew COVID-19 was dangerous, but it seemed distant, “not our problem”. We had no idea of what lay ahead.
Saying “numbers are becoming names” when referring to the government statistics is quite counterintuitive. The numbers have always been people (with names) loved by their own and respected in communities. Irreplaceable numbers. It was as if we distanced ourselves from empathy or caring when we considered the deaths and illnesses merely statistics.
In the last year, people have died. Children wake up from a COVID-induced coma as an orphan. Our wise elders attend funerals then take their wisdom with them when we have to arrange theirs a month later. The way our people grieve – through showing up, helping out, embracing – has been affected and we don’t know how to handle death without being able to literally offer a shoulder to cry on.
In Namibia, as per statutory requirement, an employee is entitled to five days’ annual leave. On average, it takes around two years to grieve. Needing to bury several close family members in a year means unpaid leave. Currently, families are needing to grieve at an accelerated pace, leaving everyone exhausted emotionally, financially and physically.
The physical aspects of dealing with COVID are well documented, but not the emotional side. Giving your body time to recover from the illness or minimizing exposure to COVID-19 is regulated by our government. But how do you explain illness to your children if you cannot wrap your mind around it? How do we heal from the loss of the sense of normalcy?
What helps sick loved ones focus on getting better include lending a hand with grocery shopping or running their errands, dropping off ready meals, having daily video call check-ins (especially if the kids are used to seeing whoever is sick or the kids are sick themselves). This actually eases anxiety – knowing amidst all the doom and gloom, your loved ones made it through the night. Sometimes big events come and can’t be treated with the same vigour as before, but sharing photos or having video chats (and crying a little as you think back to a year before “when outside was open”) is better than nothing.
Medicating anxiety and using herbal sleep aids like ashwagandha or valerian to help your body rest when you are anxious can help you through the night. You won’t be of any use to sick loved ones if you are exhausted.
For grieving the loss of loved ones, it just takes time. The impact of several losses is usually compounded, giving individuals a bigger reason to seek professional grief counselling.
For those sick and recovering, focus on the recovery rate, lean on loved ones to help out with errands, and watch stories that inspire. Limit your time on social media unless it adds value and makes you feel great.
My heart goes out to families grieving and being unable to do so in the ways they are accustomed. Hold onto the fact that, after every dark night, the sun must rise.