Mourning While Social Distancing: A Chaotic Mixture

Brian Hurtado/Guest Columnist

New Year’s Day. That’s when I got the call to come back home. My father had gone overseas while I visited my family for the holidays. As soon as I saw him at the airport, I knew I was in for a rough few months. 

Every day after was a grueling mix of crying and trips to the hospital and rehab center, which were balanced with school. I missed class a lot and my grades took a hit as a result, but within a month and a half it would prove futile, as my aunt and I got ready to say goodbye to Dad. 

A few days after Valentine’s Day, he passed away. 

I was living in a nightmare, but little did I know that in another part of the world, another nightmare was taking form. A virus—one we had never heard of before—was infecting and killing people left and right. As it caused unrest in what seemed to be a faraway part of the world, it had its crosshairs firmly set on us. 

The coronavirus, aka SARS-COV-2, made sure to uproot all normalcy. Within a few weeks, society as we know it was altered dramatically. Suddenly we were all cooped up at home, waiting this thing out and stuck in an unorthodox way of living. 

I was living a nightmare but little did I know that in another part of the world, another nightmare was taking form.

With that being said, I am lucky to have a home, as well as family, friends and family friends to keep me sane. But before the pandemic, my aunt and cousin helped me clean the house up, erasing a lot of mentions of the past. So I decided to go back and wait this out alone at home. 

Because of this pandemic, the ability to do the things to make this period a little bit easier was taken away like candy from a baby. I couldn’t go to the mall or drive to see my aunt up north. I couldn’t go to my local coffee shop. I couldn’t go to the movies. I couldn’t go to school. I couldn’t move around at all. 

I was effectively under house arrest and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to battle my demons head-on. First came the regrets, then the bad memories, then the scars from the past. I thought about my mom leaving us when I was five and about the abuse and strictness from my father and his ex-wife (although my father would later apologize and try to become a better person). 

I have nightmares, I have panic attacks, I have moments of despair, I have very morbid thoughts and I doubt myself sometimes. I get scared at night, to the point where I can’t even sleep until very late. 

Under normal circumstances, I’d look to my dog for consolation, but unfortunately my father isn’t the only loss I’ve suffered. Last year on Halloween, I lost her in the split between my dad and his ex-wife. I look at old pictures of my dog and I can’t help but feel so low sometimes because she was such a kind and supportive soul.

Nonetheless, I try to make it through every single day despite all the scars that remain—the situation out there and what just transpired the last year and a half. 

Unfortunately, there are people who have it worse than I do. Some of them are homeless, stuck in abusive relationships, or stuck in a dorm, hospital or jail. And some of them are too poor to afford the things we take for granted. 

The mental health implications of this are a daunting task and we are going to face a post-pandemic world with economic difficulty, job competition and stigma against a certain group of people like we saw after 9/11. I struggle with anxiety, and the media shoving bad news down our throats can do a number on me. 

We are going to see a different normal. A new normal. Once this pandemic runs its course and we need to prioritize, please comfort and help those who were affected mentally by the pandemic. 

I miss my dad and there are questions that I want to ask him now, although he’s not here. I have to think about the lessons he taught me as he kept me fed and taken care of, and that hurts even more as I grapple with the reality of an uncertain future.

Brian Hurtado is a senior information technology major at Florida International University.

Featured image by Rodrigo Benavides on Flickr.


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