Grief at the time of COVID-19

My Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in February this year and then we thought OK it is going to be intense and we will trust the doctors to see where it will take us. Little did we know in less than 2 months, cancer would take him from us. On the advice from the oncologist as the cancer was spreading to his liver, Dad had the chemo and he felt wonderful – two days later along came the side effects. The side effects took their toll on his life where he was so strong right up to the end.

My journey began when I got the call when Dad was put into palliative care, heck how am I supposed to travel to Queensland the borders closed plus I do not want to put my immunocompromised Dad at risk of the virus. Lucky there was legislation in place that I could visit on compassionate grounds and I had all the paperwork minus my evidence which was collected by the police with a phone call and email to the hospital. Then I was through, after having my face mask on for 3 hours I only had another 30 minutes or so to go before I could breathe some fresh air again and see my family.

With the advice of my friend, I needed to dump all the clothes I flew in and have a shower and change before I went to the hospital. And then I was there with my last few hours with my Dad in a palliative care unit – knowing that the time when he will pass will come soon but not knowing when. The doctors had him on morphine to help with his breathing and he was coherent the day I arrived and I shared some videos of the family and showed him our house progress, we laughed and spoke about our house build. We shared time together over a hospital dinner when I could see his body was giving up. I knew deep down that the time was coming very soon, so we held hands, hugged and I said “I love you Dad”.

It was the next day when I noticed a difference in his communication with fading in and out of consciousness it was scary and we had 1 hour per day to visit him. So I was with mum, her brothers and sister and we took turns to say hello. Then we left him and he was sleeping deeply and snoring away which was a good thing as he needed to rest after all the visitors. The next day was when the call came to my mum at 6:30am, he had a fall on the floor from getting tangled in his blankets as he wanted to get up and go to the loo. He felt he had the strength to get himself there but the mind body connection was not there, then the nurses settled him with a catheter and he was peaceful and that was when he passed on.

Life will not be the same again as my friend agrees that losing a parent is so hard and complicated. I am thankful that I had such a caring and kind Dad who was always patient no matter how hard I tested his patience as a teenager. That is just a period of life and as you get older, your parents are there to support you with unconditional love. Living away in San Francisco Bay Area for 12 years was really hard but then I made the decision to come back to Australia every year over the long summer and it made a big difference to be with my family. Each year it was so important to spend as much time as possible with my parents and create memories. In 2018 we had a wonderful time together whale watching, enjoying our day on the ocean mesmerised by such incredible creatures.

We go through life thinking our parents will always be there for us but when the inevitable happens everything is hard to comprehend. I am now here alone in an Air Bnb away from my husband and children. I am going to stay here as long as I can to help my Mum with everything. The borders closing on Queensland means my husband and children cannot even come up for the funeral with a maximum of 10 people.

In a sense I am glad that Covid-19 made me stay here in Australia, as we planned a trip to Hawaii right at this time. I would not have had the chance to say goodbye and see my Dad one last time. There is always a silver lining no matter how tragic the circumstances are. Even though we have to stay at home, I have come here to be with my family and no amount of elbow taps and shin bumps can replace a hug to express the love and care for each other and I understand that we need to stay safe and protect the ones we love. Let us hope that we are safe from this virus.

Rest in peace Dad, you are forever in my heart x

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