family

'My grief is on hold.' The unique pain of losing someone you love while in self-isolation.

It was 7 am when my sister Aimee called.

“Did someone die?” I answered, somewhat surprised by the timing.

“Yes, Dad did,” she whispered solemnly, as I slowly sat down to take in her heartbreaking words.

But despite the devastating news, my life-changing loss of a father I loved, less than an hour later I was outside Aldi, waiting for loo roll.

It seems along with holidays, birthday parties and events, my grief is on hold. Cancelled. Self-Isolating.

Watch: Your questions about COVID-19, answered. Post continues below. 

Video by Mamamia

Our dad Medland, a happy ageing hippy, was 69-years-old, so his sudden passing was not something I had been expecting. Granted, he’d had respiratory issues for months but they were managed by his GP.

Then last week he was admitted to his local hospital in Cornwall, England, to be tested for COVID-19 for peace of mind. His results came back negative and he went home with the doctor’s consent.

So finding out that he had died in his sleep a few nights later was definitely a shock.

But, after I hung up the phone everything just felt surreal. I know news like this would always feel strange, but Australia was edging closer to lockdown – they had closed the borders just hours earlier and I was pretty certain there was no way I could go home, attend a funeral, pay my respects or have a final goodbye.

My UK passport was out of date, I’m a New Zealand citizen living here in Australia. I didn’t know which countries would let me in or if I would get back again. I didn’t know who to ask. What to ask. So I didn’t ask anyone.

My youngest sister Sylvera, just 23-years-old, had flown in from the UK and was in self-isolation in Queensland. I had to pass on the news by phone, knowing she was alone, on a remote farm waiting to do her seasonal worker visa.

No lingering hugs, popping on the kettle for a cup of tea or perhaps drinking something stronger, while we offered comfort and shared happier memories of the kind, compassionate storyteller we both adored. Any other time she would have hopped on a plane, I would have been at the airport to welcome her with open arms.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

My sister called at 7am this morning. “Did someone die,” I asked. “Yes. Dad did.” She whispered. My dad. Medland Reynolds. Not a typical father figure. Six kids from various mothers. Popular with the ladies to say the least. We joke between ourselves that he is Frank from Shameless, but in reality Frank’s got nothing on Med. Med with his dreds. Med with his stories so ridiculous and enchanting, real and made up. It didn’t matter they had everyone captivated. Med with his heart of gold who had nothing to give – but would give it anyway. Always bringing home strangers down on their luck. Taking them under his wing and helping through hard times. Accepting and empathetic. Saving the world whenever he could. Proud, the proudest dad and everyones champion. A man that lived his life the way he wanted to. No regrets. Medland Reynolds. My dad. And a true legend. RIP and fly high. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by WanderTwins. (@the.wandertwins) on

ADVERTISEMENT

Human contact, just a gentle touch or someone to pass the tissue while you have a good cry, they are things we take for granted. And when they are taken from us… my emotions are not functioning as they should.

So, finding myself at a loss, for my dear dad and the situation at hand – I headed to Aldi, parked the car and waited in line for a loo roll. I’d been very adamant that I wouldn’t be drawn into panic buying and had been avoiding the day, but three weeks later we were almost out – so that’s what I did.

It was like an out-of-body experience, it felt like I was looking down on myself elbow to elbow as I shuffled through the supermarket aisles and grabbed a four-pack of three-ply and some pasta as other customers whooped and cheered with their own shopping success.

Standing in line, I listened to others complain about holidays they wouldn’t be taking, trips that would be postponed and people they will no longer see.

And, as strange as it sounds, that’s how life has continued since. I have seen friends from a safe “social distance,” we waved politely as they passed along their deepest sympathy.

One even dropped a spare loo roll and a bottle of wine at the front door, sensibly leaving before I even knew she had been.

The thing is, I don’t even know if I would have gone back to the UK to attend the funeral. It’s an expensive trip and I have young children. But it’s not my call anymore. Everything is out of my hands.

I understand only too well what a devastating knock-on effect unnecessary travel means to the wider community and the vulnerable. I agree with closing the borders, I support keeping people safe. But having someone else make such deeply personal decisions for me is too much to contemplate.

What’s more, like many others, I’m worried about my job, finances, my kids, our health, my mortgage, my superannuation and so many other variables, but for me, those now-common anxieties have brought guilt.

Guilt for not making time to remember, guilt for not allowing myself to cry and for not spending days finding ways to go home.

I haven’t made time for that. I don’t think I have the capacity to deal with any more because I need to stay strong to get through this unprecedented time.

So while the world around us is in lockdown, my grief has followed suit. It doesn’t mean I didn’t love my dad. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss him every day. But for now, it’s self-isolating – as advised, to keep me safe.

Jonica Bray is a freelance journalist and a proud adoptive mother. You can follow her on Instagram @The.wandertwins

00:00 / ???