What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The particular pain of losing a loved one during quarantine

The quarantine orders that define the current moment are changing nearly everything about American life. For families facing loss, that means an inability to gather and grieve as they normally would -- even if coronavirus is not the specific cause of death. Gail Grzybowski of Milwaukee PBS shares her family’s experience of coping during this extraordinary time.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The quarantine orders we live with now are affecting all parts of our lives.

    Restrictions on travel, group gatherings, and hospital visitors mean that families are often unable to gather and grieve as they normally would, even if coronavirus is not the diagnosis for their loved one.

    These are yet another of the consequences of our new normal.

    Gail Grzybowski works at member station Milwaukee PBS, and she made this short piece on her own family's recent experience.

  • Gail Grzybowski:

    This is a story I never thought I would have to tell or to actually have occur in my life.

    COVID-19, so many of us are affected without ever being inflicted with this virus.

    I'm normally behind the scenes of the camera doing audio for Milwaukee PBS. And now, uncomfortably, I'm in front of the camera telling my family's story.

    I live in Wisconsin. My sisters live in Florida. And my parents live in Colorado Springs.

    I was notified that my father of 89 years old in Colorado had fallen in the house and broke his hip, a couple days into rehab, got pneumonia. They then immediately sent him to the E.R. They gave him a test for the coronavirus.

    My mom wasn't allowed to see him in the hospital while he was in ICU until they got the tests back to confirm whether or not he had the coronavirus.

    He was all alone. With traveling, none of us felt safe to even go to be with mom, because flying through any of the airports, the high likelihood of contact with somebody, you're in crowded planes, close quarters with people you don't know who are maybe carriers.

    He stayed in the ICU for another four days. They did allow my mom to actually come into the room, as long as she had all the protective gear on. At that point, my dad actually started perking up.

    It took seven days for the results to come back from the coronavirus test. They did come back negative.

    Early, early Sunday morning, the 22nd, we got a call from the hospital. They were trying to get ahold of my mom in Colorado. My father wasn't breathing well. Antibiotics weren't working. Nothing was working.

    He was maybe down to 113 pounds. Dad was at such a frail point, not breathing well, they had moved my dad to ICU.

    We were able to do a video chat between my two sisters in Florida, me in Milwaukee, and my mom at the hospital.

    With the hard decision of talking to my mom, knowing that this wasn't going to improve, it was time to say goodbye.

    And my mom was there all by herself, meaning, you know, the family really wasn't there. Nobody was there to hold her hand.

    She shared with us the priest praying over dad.

  • Priest:

    Just as Jesus had to enter (INAUDIBLE) death to experience new life.

  • Gail Grzybowski:

    Then we were all there with my mom, via technology, witnessing his last breath, as we all thanked my dad for being the human being that he was, and telling him how much we loved him.

    To not be able to physically be there has been very, very hard. In fact, we still can't be with my mom. There is now a statewide home quarantine until the end of April.

    We are all affected, even if we aren't inflicted with this virus.

    My father's name is Don Grzybowski, loved and adored.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And our hearts go out to you, Gail Grzybowski, and your entire family and to all the families going through anything like this right now.

    We're with you.

Listen to this Segment