When COVID-19 and Grief Come Together

Like many of you, I have been pushing through these never ending months. The good news is I am feeling like these rocky roads of life are coming to an end! I finally see hope and somehow find bursts of energy to keep chugging along. Although there has been so much to share, it has been a while since I last uploaded a blog post to the website. It was hard to get myself to write and share my recent experiences during the time leading to the anniversary of the passing of my mother last month.

Last year this time, I was going through the process of grief. It was incredibly difficult as we navigated these emotions alone without our close family members. The pain and emptiness is still very present. I am still heart-broken, but I have learned to numb the pain with the wonderful memories I created with my mother, especially in the last three years.

Grief didn’t come alone. Living in a busy and transited city, I also contracted COVID-19 during the beginning of the pandemic. To this day, I don’t know how I got the virus. Our family was very cautious, we were in quarantine, groceries were delivered, no outside visitors were allowed and we were disinfecting everything. During the time I was sick with COVID-19, the symptoms were aligned with everyones elses - muscle aches, fever, nausea, and mild shortness of breath. I actually didn’t know I was fighting Covid since those are symptoms that arise often when I get the common cold. It wasn’t until my mother was very ill and tested positive to COVID-19 that I knew I had overcome it . Not knowing I had COVID-19 probably helped me alot in my recovery otherwise I would have panicked. It took about 7 days for me to feel better and although I felt terrible, I was lucky it was one of the mild cases. Every member of our family got sick, including my 13 year old son.

Grief and COVID-19 came to me full force and they were not a good pair together. They have physically affected me so much and this past year has been a huge struggle. When I thought I was done with COVID and only dealing with grief, my body went into havoc and Scleroderma flared up every possible symptom I have had in the past. In my Scleroderma world everything was pretty stable prior to COVID. I thought it was a phase and that it would be over in no time. Well, I was wrong. Since June 2020, I have been trying to stay afloat. GERDS came back full force, my blood pressure was uncontrollable and my skin as well as my muscles were tighter than ever. The most concerning thing was my ability to walk from the living room to the bedroom without feeling extremely exhausted. I went out one day and I couldn’t even walk to the corner of the block. At that moment, I realized something really serious was happening. I could see my neck vein visibly pounding up through my neck while in a resting position. After visiting my cardiologist, getting a chest CAT scan, an echocardiogram and blood work, everything indicated that the pulmonary hypertension numbers were progressing. The number was really high and I had fluid around my heart. I refused to get admitted to the hospital even when the cardiologist recommended an IV therapy as soon as possible to control the pressure and help stop the progression. My right heart valve was failing, but I wasn't ready to surrender. Although it wasn't the most effective decision in my situation, I decided on increasing my medication dosage and I added a new medication to my pulmonary hypertension treatment.

I knew that medicine would somewhat help me, but I also recognized that I was also buried in grief and needed to come out from there if I really wanted to improve. It might sound silly but I knew that I could halt the progression of anything that was happening to my body. I knew I had to change the “new” lifestyle that I had adopted during the pandemic lockdown and grief process. I had not walked outside my apartment for months. I was only moving from my favorite couch spot to my bedroom or bedroom to my couch spot. My usual fresh meals were now more processed foods than fresh. My stretching routine was no longer done. Basically, I was just letting Scleroderma and grief take over day by day. And, if you are familiar with Scleroderma, you would know that you can not stop moving your body or you will literally stiffen your organs and skin.

So, If you are going through COVID-19, are a COVID-19 long hauler and/or going through a tough grief process, I recommend you to reassess your “new” lifestyle that you have adopted during the past year. Some of those new habits can be causing some damage physically and emotionally. By reassessing, I realized how much I lost and continued to lose during this time. It was time to take control and now I am on my way to healing.