Mary Roberts wasn't able to hold a funeral or a memorial service for her daughter and is struggling to cope with the grief.
It's said that there's no bigger pain than losing your child. Not being able to be there for your child when they die can be even more heartbreaking. Mary Hagen Roberts knows what that feels like, having lost her 33-year-old daughter, Laura, on April 23. Her daughter died of diffuse gastric cancer but it was the chaos of the Coronavirus pandemic that made it infinitely harder for everyone involved. Laura and her Mama bear, as she called him towards the end, never got to say their final goodbyes, wrote Roberts, retired speech-language pathologist, in an article for The Huffington Post. "I have no idea how to carry on now that she is gone or what to do with my unbelievable and unbearable sorrow," she wrote.
Laura was left unattended during her stint at the hospital with medical institutions focusing their resources on the Coronavirus pandemic. On account of the symptoms she exhibited ― shortness of breath, fever, and cough, ― Laura was classified as “presumptive COVID-19.” Laura was diagnosed with cancer in January 2018. Now, she found herself isolated and uncared for. Not only did the hospital not care for her, but they also didn't allow anyone else to. "A few days into her last hospitalization, she called me, frustrated and sobbing, because no one was allowed in the hospital to support her ― not me, nor her steadfast fiance, Brett. The hospital had not permitted her to bring so much as a change of clothing or underwear. Her long, beautiful hair was dirty and tangled from fevered sweat and sleeplessness," wrote Roberts, about her daughter's hospitalization.
Roberts claimed that even healthcare professionals at the hospital kept their distance from her citing the contagious nature of Coronavirus. "She was utterly alone in her hospital room, with only overworked nurses to assist her. Not even her doctors would visit, she said. Because of her “presumed COVID-19 diagnosis,” they, too, were afraid to get close to her," wrote Roberts. Coronavirus has wreaked havoc with the United States accounting for almost 30% of all worldwide Coronavirus deaths. More than 76, 000 people have died from Coronavirus with America registering more than 129, 000 cases.
Being diagnosed with cancer had only made Laura even more determined to make the most of her life. Laura couldn't take it anymore at the hospital and left on Easter Sunday, April 12. She was sent home to recover with supplemental oxygen. Her health condition didn't stop her from teaching ― her passion. In spite of her illness, she conducted classes for high school biology and chemistry sections online. On Saturday, April 18, Laura collapsed while walking the dog. Laura's Mom offered to go come and meet her but she replied, "I don’t want to risk you getting corona.”
It turns out cancer had spread to her lungs and without treatment, she only had a month left to live. The breathlessness wasn't from Coronavirus. Roberts packed and left to go be with her daughter but it wasn't meant to be. "Laura died a few minutes before I arrived on an exquisite Colorado spring day at home, with Brett cradling her in his arms. We both thought we had time," she wrote.
Coronavirus has also made it impossible for people to hold funerals and grieve as they traditionally do. Health experts have warned against holding funerals for the fear of spreading the virus. People have also been told to avoid touching a deceased person's body. "It may be possible that you could get Coronavirus by touching the body of someone who has died of Coronavirus. Avoid activities such as kissing, washing, and shrouding before and during body preparation," reads a guideline by CDC.
"Tell me how to grieve when we are not permitted to have a funeral or memorial service, when the precious body of my child disappears into the back of a repurposed funeral home minivan, never to be seen again. I want the rituals of mourning that our society ― that I ― have learned to rely on to process grief," she wrote in anguish.
Note: Mary Hagen Roberts' first-person story first appeared on Huffpost.
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