Finding A Way To Collectively Grieve The Lives Lost To COVID-19
NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Kristin Urquiza of Marked By Covid and Sallie Lynch of Tuesday’s Children about meaningful ways to grieve the nearly 300,000 Americans who’ve died from COVID-19.
MARTIN: Also joining us is Sallie Lynch. She is with Tuesday’s Children. That’s a group formed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to help families affected by that tragedy and has since expanded its mission to help heal communities and families recover from tragedy all over the world. Sallie Lynch, thanks to you, as well, for being here today.
SALLIE LYNCH: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
MARTIN: Sallie, I’m going to start with you because I do wonder if you see a similarity to the 9/11 attacks because it seems like there are similarities and differences. I mean, 9/11 was this one shocking day, and all of our attention was focused on it. But with COVID, It’s been this kind of drip, drip, drip. And as Kristin was pointing out – and has lived this – not everybody is affected in the same way, nor is the response the same way. So I’m just wondering how you see it. Do you see those two as similar or – in what way or different in what way?
LYNCH: Yeah. I mean, they both certainly have the wide-scale nature of them. But like you said, 9/11 happened in one day. And, you know, 3,051 children lost a parent that day. That who Tuesday’s children was initially founded to serve. But like 9/11, you know, there were ripple effects on 9/11 that impacted a lot of other populations, first responders. And really those ripple effects went around the world. And the same is true about this pandemic.
But, you know, even the 9/11 families have commented early on about the prolonged nature of this and the drip, drip, drip effect of it and how that is just – the magnitude of it is is so much greater than what happened on 9/11, the death toll. But one of the universal things that we know is that the families who have lost loved ones are going to need long-term support. And I think that’s where we need to step up as a society and really have that responsibility to be there for them and not just move on.
MARTIN: And I do wonder – maybe Sallie, maybe you take this. I do wonder whether part of the difference here is that we can’t get together to mourn together. So, like, after 9/11, there were all kinds of vigils and gatherings and community acknowledgements, I mean, all over the world. But, you know, in this situation, I mean, you have people close to you who die. You can’t go to a funeral if you’re even having a funeral. Sallie, I just wonder if maybe the circumstances are part of what makes this so painful.
LYNCH: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we certainly have seen with 9/11 and other tragedies and we’re seeing it with COVID as well, that community is a powerful factor towards healing. And, you know, that’s everything that we try to promote in our programming because isolation is, you know, the No. 1 risk factor for people who’ve suffered a traumatic loss. So making sure that those social supports and that community is in place is really important. So I think there does need to be some public education around this to show that those people need us to reach out to them, that we need to create a community, even if it’s difficult and maybe some radical imagination around this to make sure that that can happen even in a virtual world while we’re still going through this.
MARTIN: Sallie, I’m asking you to speculate here, and I’m going to ask the same question of Kristin. I do – I wonder if you envision a time when, as I said at the beginning of our conversation, this has been so divisive. I think many people would argue unnecessarily so – it shouldn’t have been. But it is. It has become that. And I just wonder if there’s a time when, as a country, we will kind of be unified in our acknowledgement of this loss. Or is that just too much to hope for given how this whole thing started?
LYNCH: (Laughter) It’s never too much to hope for. I’m an optimist, so I would always hope for things like that. I mean, I can say, you know, with the 9/11 community, it’s a very individualized process, the grieving process and all of it. And I think we as a country, we’re all dealing with this as individuals. It’s upended all of our lives in some way. So I think people do have a lot of anger around the pandemic.
But I do think there’s hope. I know, you know, some of our 9/11 family members have found different ways of kind of coming to terms with what happened to them. I always think of one family member who was asked the question of, you know, aren’t you angry and don’t you want revenge for, you know, your brother being murdered? And he said that he was angry for a very long time. And he – you know, he realized at one point that holding onto that anger was like holding onto a hot coal, that it was causing him more harm than it was good. And so at a certain point, he had to let go of it.
LYNCH: Thank you.