WINNIPEG — The pandemic has changed how Canadians grieve and cope with the death of loved ones. George Bradley knows this firsthand – his mother is among the more than 1,100 Manitobans who have died with COVID-19.
In October 2020, George recorded a video of his mother Elsie for the rest of his family. The smiling 92-year-old told her family she was doing great, but this would be the last time George would be able to visit his mother in person.
Elsie contracted COVID-19 and died from the virus in December. George said he had to make the hard decision to say his last good byes to his mother over FaceTime.
“Unfortunately, that is the way things went,” George told CTV News.
Months earlier in May 2020, due to the public health restrictions at the time, George would visit his mother through a fence at her personal care home.
George told CTV News in the six months since his mother’s death, he has been leaning on his family to cope with the grief. He said the lingering emotion is disappointment.
“She wanted different things, I couldn’t give that to her,” he said.
“After Mom passed away; now what do you do? She had her funeral pre-arranged, everything that she wanted which never happened because of the restrictions.”
Dr. Harvey Chochinov, a distinguished professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba, said the pandemic has taken away all control that dying patients and their families used to have in those final days. He said many people have died alone, leaving family members with feelings of regret and helplessness.
“The emotional toll that COVID is taking on the process of dying is astronomical and is not something we’ve been able to look at carefully.”
Chochinov is leading a series of national studies into dignity and care in the pandemic. He said the studies are focused on understanding the experiences of patients, family members and health-care providers.
“If we can get a handle on what people have experienced and what they are going through, we are going to be best positioned to know how we can be attentive to their unmet needs.
The national study is looking for participants to take part. Those interested can visit the study online or call 431-336-6266.
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