The death of both parents can be one of the most difficult and heart-breaking experiences that a person can go through. From the time we are young, our mother and father are the gentle hands who lead us through life, tenderly showing us which paths to take as we grow up. And when that guiding light is gone, we can feel an immense sense of loss and sorrow like no other.
Many times, we find it difficult to find thoughtful words to express our sympathy and offer condolences when someone passes away—especially when the person who has died was a beloved parent of a grieving family member, friend, colleague, or acquaintance. What to say to someone who lost a parent, including what to say to someone who lost their mother and who lost their dad and will have to put them both to rest on the same day?
Certainly, the hardest thing about life is death. Whether you are experiencing grief yourself or have the unpleasant fortune of watching a loved one grieve, sympathy can be difficult to express. However, if it’s hard for us to find the words to convey our sympathy.
A recent international study estimated that at least 104,884 US children lost one or both parents to COVID-19. And that was as of April 20, 2021, before the highly contagious Delta variant became widespread. A more detailed study of US deaths estimates that more than 140,000 children have lost a parent or grandparent caregiver, with children of colour much more likely to be bereaved.
Losing a parent is traumatising, causing great anxiety and sadness. “We know that loss of a parent can upend children’s lives and even affect their development if they are not in a stable home setting.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, many of these children may not have had the chance to say goodbye or attend funerals or family gatherings. This makes it even harder to go through the grieving process. Children may fear their own death or that of others in their lives.
No crisis in recent memory has produced this much loss in such a short period. We haven’t really had an experience of mass bereavement here in Guyana in the same sense, “And we’re not done.”
Even with the delta surge receding, Guyanese are still dying of Covid every day. Those deaths are also skewing younger, with news outlets across the country reporting the deaths of young parents who leave children behind. Those children find themselves at the centre of the ongoing war between public health experts and vaccine sceptics, with their private grief becoming part of a public push for others to get the shot — even though it’s too late for the ones they loved.
Children, in general, may struggle more than adults with how inexplicably the virus arose and with not getting to be present for the end of their parent’s life. Children are imaginative, particularly younger children, they’re left with [mental] images that may be far worse than what actually happened in their parent’s final days.
One of the things that’s unique about the pandemic is that it’s also not only deprived us of a loved one, but it’s also deprived us of our opportunities of coming together, so that families can heal, and support one another in order to really get through the most difficult times of life.