Facing My Fears and Dealing with Death: My Covid Story

Shobana Vetrivel   |   July 27, 2021 

Towards the end of April, my whole family (I live with my parents and sister) came down with Covid in the midst of the deadly second wave in India. What we thought, in the beginning, was a seasonal viral turned out to be a disease like no other we had dealt with before.

The lockdown had affected my father mentally, physically, and emotionally and from being an active person, travelling extensively, he had become fearful, weak and almost immobile over the last couple of months. So, when the illness hit us we were most concerned for him, especially as he refused to get tested, did not want to go to hospital and was wary of medicines. He seemed to be improving as his fever was down and his oxygen saturation was fine with the medication, but one day his condition deteriorated quickly with no time for us to think about a move to a hospital.

I still remember the moment vividly when my mother called out to me. I was at the door, receiving the delivery of the adult diapers we had ordered for my father when my mom called out saying, “Daddy is no more.” I walked up the stairs to their room, my mind blank and resigned. Nothing prepares you to see the body of someone you love, lying lifeless. There was not much time to process as we then had to make calls and inform people. The most difficult and surreal moment was dressing my father’s body knowing this was what he would be buried in.

The next few days were a blur of moments - of grief, of planning practical details, of resting in the assurance that my father was not in pain or suffering anymore, and of tears at facing losses. We couldn’t go to the funeral because we were Covid positive and still recovering. We had to watch my father being buried on video; no one could visit us and be with us physically. My parents' pastor was recovering from Covid himself so another of our pastor friends conducted the funeral. We felt helpless at the loss of normal rituals of dealing with death.

In his book A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis says, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.” I can understand somewhat what he was trying to say. It’s so hard to identify exactly what you’re feeling because it’s a mix and muddle of draining emotions affecting you in every way – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Our family of four had suddenly become a family of three and there was now a gaping hole. The nights were the hardest as I found it so difficult to sleep. I had nights of tossing and tears, memories flooding my mind, the guilt of whether we did enough, nights filled with fears of losing another member of my family. It was very difficult to pray during that whole time. It is still difficult to pray.

I didn’t have the words to pray, so I relied on the prayers of others - the prayers in the psalms, the prayers of Christians through the ages, and the prayers of the body of Christ. Their prayers carried me through and even though I couldn’t feel God’s physical presence or the physical presence of others, God’s comfort became real during our mourning.

Our family had become smaller, but my eyes were opened once again to the reality of the wider family of Christ. The support and help when we felt most vulnerable and helpless – from medical advice, medicines, oxygen, food, organising the funeral – all was taken care of by the church family. It wasn’t just a theological concept but true in our lived experience.

There are two things in the background that God used, to prepare me to face the death of someone I loved so much. My biggest fear in the last couple of years was losing my parents. My parents had crossed seventy and I watched them becoming older and even though they were in relatively good health, the fear lurked. When my father became sick earlier in the year, the fear became even more real. I had to face the fear upfront and take it to God in prayer regularly. I laid the fear before God and asked Him for the hope of the resurrection, the peace which the world can’t give and the comfort He alone can give to take me through the eventual reality of facing the death of a parent. I believe God has answered this prayer for me. I cling to the hope of the resurrection today and I know that even in the darkest times the experience of His peace and comfort and hope is true.

The second was a book I read last year called The Lost Art of Dying by Lydia S. Dugdale. In our modern world, we don’t talk or think about death or prepare for death even though it’s a reality for every human being. Death is institutionalised and medicalised, but our fears of death cannot be medicalised away. She invites us to recover our sense of finitude and frailty, confront our fears courageously, and consider the role of spirituality and ritual as we face the death of our loved ones and our own. The book helped me create space to prepare for and face death and be grateful for the spiritual resources I have in Christ and in His body.

My father was petrified of hospitals and I’m thankful that when he died, he died in his own bed, near his family. Even though I wish that I or someone in my family could have been near him when he took his last breath, I know He was not alone. The One who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, was with him. He is also with me – in my weeping, in my fears, in my pain, in my grief, in all the ups and downs of this time – and He understands. God’s unchanging character and His perfect love is a refuge for my fears and Jesus’ perfect sacrifice assure me that this is not the end of the story.

"Death is a horrible and inevitable sorrow. It is grief.
It is numb shock and raw pain and long seasons of weeping and ache. 
And we will experience it as such. 

But it is more than all of that.

For it is also a baptism, a prelude to a celebration.
Our true belief that Christ died and was raised again promises this great hope:
That there will be a newness of life,
a magnificent resurrection that follows death and swallows it entirely.

Death will not have the final word,
so we need not fear to speak of it."

An Exhortation Making Space to Speak of Dying, Every Moment Holy II by Douglas McKelvey

 

Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash

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Shobana Vetrivel

Shobana Vetrivel enjoys the hustle and bustle of city life and the adventure of living in New Delhi. She has an educational background in social development and theology and has worked in both development and ministry settings. She currently works with Delhi School of Theology and is pursuing a PhD in Practical Theology. Books, travelling, theology, coffee and deep conversations are a few of her favourite things.  

22 comments on “Facing My Fears and Dealing with Death: My Covid Story”

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart, Shobi, and for letting us into these vulnerable moments of grief and pain. But also, so encouraged by the reminder of the hope we have in Christ.

  2. Oh shobi. Wish I could hug you physically. I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through as a family. I’m blest to have know uncle and laughed along with him. That’s how I’ll always remember him.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Shobi! I am sure this will be a blessing to many who read! Be encouraged. Be well. Take care.

  4. Thank you, Shobi, for sharing with such vulnerability and courage. I know that many who face deep loss will be comforted and strengthened by your words. I can't imagine your pain, but I know the Lord Himself weeps with you and holds your heart tenderly as you grieve. Much love, Susan

  5. Shobi, I thank the one who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I feel your pain and clinging on to the hope we have in Jesus, along with you! Thank you for sharing your most painful moments with us. Love you. ❤️

  6. Oh Shobi, thank you for sharing from your heart - we grieve with you, Rina and your Mum, and continue to pray for the Lord's peace and strength to comfort you in your pain and sorrow. Sending much love and a big hug

  7. I am so sorry Shobi, that you had to go through the grief of periappa's passing with none of us, your family, next to you, perimma, and Rina. I am feeling your pain and I will continue to pray for you that the Lord will comfort you and bring you out of this grief as He only can. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow. Because He lives, and because periappa trusted Jesus as His Savior, we know that we will see him again. Hugs to you my dear sister.

  8. Im so sorry the circumstances didn't allow us to be there with you all. Uncle would be so very proud of you and Rina Akka. He did a great job at raising two strong women. Miss you dearly xx

    "And when great souls die,
    after a period peace blooms,
    slowly and always
    irregularly. Spaces fill
    with a kind of
    soothing electric vibration.
    Our senses, restored, never
    to be the same, whisper to us.
    They existed. They existed.
    We can be. Be and be
    better. For they existed.”
    ― Maya Angelou

  9. Heartfelt Condolences Shobana. I am not sure if you are the right Shobana (Rina' sister), am Anubels bro (Thambu' wife). I think I had met you and your sis a couple of times a couple of decades ago ... Hope you are keeping well, regards to your Sis & Mom
    Danny

  10. Landed here from reading your article on singleness in the TGC India site. Most clear-headed article I've read on the topic. May God establish the work of your hands. Rather coincident I landed here; turns out I had interacted with your dad a few times. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. May God strengthen you and your mother and sister.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. So glad to know that you have interacted with my dad and thanks for your concern and prayers.

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