It’s been a month since Katalin Lang said goodbye to her father in the hospital.
She and her mother, dressed in full personal protective equipment, had to say their final words to him through protective masks.
Jozsef Lang, 88, had dementia and died at the end of November, days after contracting COVID-19 while living at Clifton Manor nursing home in Calgary.
Lang said recently she wishes she could have given her father one last hug.
“We don’t realize how much we need it until you want to say goodbye to somebody,” she said. “And we didn’t get that opportunity.”
Her father is one of more than 1,000 Albertans who have died since the start of the pandemic in mid-March.
Lang and countless others are trying to keep their loved ones’ memories alive by reminding people to think about the victims and those they left behind.
That’s why Lang posted about her father on Facebook the same day he died, to emphasize that people who die from COVID-19 are not just numbers.
“I think that it just struck me that everybody was fixated on numbers and they still are,” she said from her home in Medicine Hat. “And I understand it in a way, because it allows you to be emotionally detached.
“I just wanted it to be clear, that for every number there is emotion attached, there are memories attached. There are families attached. There is grief attached. They lived full lives and their loss is deeply, deeply felt.”
She said she can understand that others want to remain detached.
“A thousand families just like mine is going through grief, just like ours, and that’s a lot,” she said. “That’s a lot of emotion to deal with. But I think it’s important that we don’t minimize those people.”
More than numbers
Many families and friends have asked others to recognize that those lost meant so much more than passing references in the province’s daily updates.
Families have spoken out across the province and country about their losses. The full list of Albertans who have died due to COVID-19 or related complications is difficult to track, because it is not publicly available.
Remembering some of the Albertans who have been identified as killed by COVID-19
People who have died are not named during the daily COVID-19 news conferences with Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, for privacy reasons.
Like other provinces, Alberta Health provides daily counts of how many have died, the age range, the health zone and whether the death was related to an outbreak.
It is hard to measure the toll the pandemic has taken on families, friends, loved ones and health-care workers.
The people left behind
On average, every person who dies leaves behind a minimum of three to five people to grieve, said Susan Cadell, professor of social work and an expert on grief with the University of Waterloo..
“So when you think about a thousand or 10,000 [COVID-19] deaths, if you multiply that by the conservative estimate of five people to grieve, that’s a lot of people grieving,” Cadell said.
One of the ways people have coped with losing someone is by writing longer obituaries or by publicly naming them and speaking about their positive traits and experiences, she said.
“In the end, it doesn’t really matter what they die of,” Cadell said. “What matters is that they are being honoured, that they’re being remembered, that they’re being acknowledged as parents and grandparents and sisters and brothers, and all those kinds of relationships and friends.
“I think that is one way that people are spontaneously taking it into their own hands and doing that naming and doing that honouring. I think that will be really beneficial in the long run.”
We just need to be kind to each other-Katalin Lang, whose father died due to COVID-19
As the pandemic continues, Lang hopes people realize that more should be done to support those who have lost someone during this difficult time.
“We just need to start to remember that in this super-connected world that we live in, we’ve become disconnected,” she said.
“We need to realize that we’re part of a community, and we need to understand that part of that community is going through some very heavy, heavy loss right now. And we just need to be kind to each other.”
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