Covid-19 stole our right to say goodbye to the dying

One of the most distressing ­aspects of the Covid-19 ­pandemic we’ve had to suffer is not being able to say goodbye to our loved ones when they die.

Many people see this as a restriction of our civil liberties. But much worse is we can’t give and receive the comfort close relatives and friends would normally provide in support through this emotionally draining time.

We’re all missing the ritual comforts, the hand holding, hugs, the kisses and words whether we’re on the giving or receiving end. No room for last goodbyes, forgiveness, making amends or expressions of love.

And no room for closure, for coming to terms with and accepting death.

One of the things that hurts most is the thought of people dying alone without loved ones around them, without comforting words, without a loving embrace. A memory of that kind could be difficult to erase.

It’s hard to accept there could be no bedside farewells as patients on ventilators are sedated and unconscious. In ICUs there is strictly no visiting.

No wonder people feel bruised when their last view of a close relative is through a window. So near yet so far. Regulations for funerals bring no respite with strict rules on the number of people who can attend a funeral while adhering to social distancing rules. But numbers are necessarily constrained by the Government advice on the restriction of gatherings. This adds to the burden of grief.

To my mind, another important element that mourners miss is the celebratory aspect of death, the ­celebration of the deceased person’s life. I’ve attended funerals in India, ­Singapore and New Orleans. All very different cultures and all of them ­celebrated the deceased’s life with music, dancing, feasting and parades.

While we as a nation are more reserved, nowadays an essential part of a funeral is celebrating the life that has just ended.

The coming together of people who loved the deceased with eulogies, memories, even funny stories, helps to bind us together and reassure us.

Everyone needs that and we’re missing the closure it brings.

This has been a tremendous shock for everyone, those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and those who have looked on.

The nation has never before watched so many people die day by day and it’s both frightening and ­dehumanising. Our salvation is to look to the future, this time will surely pass. And to the future generation, in whom we invest our hope.