Big News About the Future of the COVID Grief Network

To the CGN community,

We are thrilled to announce that the COVID Grief Network is now an official fiscally-sponsored project of Reimagine, a community-driven nonprofit on a mission to transform the world by facing adversity, loss, and death, together. Partnering with Reimagine will open up new avenues for programmatic collaboration, expand and deepen our community, and provide our organization with critical operational and fundraising support. Ultimately, this partnership will enable us to sustain our work and scale its impact beyond what we ever anticipated. We could not be more excited and humbled to step into this next phase, and we are grateful for Reimagine’s support in actualizing a long-term vision for the COVID Grief Network.

As part of this transition, CGN will be shifting our program offerings. We will no longer be offering one-on-one support, and we will be growing and deepening our group support program. We know that our mission of undoing the isolation of COVID grief is as timely and important as ever, especially as many people “get back to normal” while those grieving a loss adjust to a world without their loved one. We also know that offering transformational group support gets to the heart of our mission by providing opportunities for ongoing relationships and peer-to-peer accompaniment. Our one-on-one offerings have been tremendously impactful, and we’re so grateful for the invaluable support of our volunteer grief workers and the bravery of the young adults who make up our community. If you want to read more about the impact that CGN has made, check out our annual report.

These strategic organizational decisions have been made with careful consideration for how to best advance our mission. We are honored to be able to continue this meaningful work and truly appreciate our community’s ongoing support and love in the process.

With gratitude,
The CGN Leadership Team

Brandy Hyatt Shares Story of Friendship, Loss, and Grief (Part 3)

Part 3: Finding Connection Through Grief

With millions of lives lost to COVID-19 in the past year, the statistics can feel abstract, even meaningless. How can the human brain process the scope of these tragedies — the millions of children, siblings, partners, family, and friends left behind to grieve the deaths of their loved ones? 

By featuring the voices of young adults who have lost someone to COVID-19, this series is designed to give you a glimpse into the lives lost, and how the people left behind are finding their way forward.

In the first two parts of our interview with Brandy, we discussed what it was like to lose her friend Catharine Phanavong during pandemic distancing, and her grief journey since then. In this final part of the interview, we talked to Brandy about where she found comfort and support.

 

Charly Jaffe: What has your experience with the COVID Grief Network been like? How did you come to find us, and what has that looked like for you?

Brandy Hyatt: I was just trying to find something, anything, because I wasn’t sure what to do, after [Cat died]. My feelings were overwhelmingly big during the first month or two, and it was getting hard for me to manage it on my own. So I did some Googling around grief, [COVID Grief Network] popped up, and then there was the email about [starting] groups. And I was like, “Yes. Put me in line. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I need to talk to people.” And so that was my journey into getting into the support group.

Lauren Bender: How have you found the group so far?

Brandy Hyatt: My group experience was really good, but it’s also kind of funny how it started. I missed the first couple of sessions because I was too afraid to talk about it with people. And then finally, it was my first one. And it went really well. But I also cried the whole time. I felt like I was doing it wrong. Like, I’m sure everyone was getting used to it, and now here I am making everybody else cry. But everyone was like, “It’s okay!” They were very sweet and so nice.

I was in a group with people who all had lost parents, which was a little bit different. I was someone who lost a friend, but also someone who was younger. The nice thing is that I still felt like I was able to talk to folks about what was going on, because we were having a lot of the same reactions to things; we were still dealing with the same stuff. So it didn’t really matter if it was a parent or a friend. It was a lot of, “Oh, this happened to me the other day.” And another person would go, “That also happened to me — I went out to the grocery store and just couldn’t handle it.” 

Our grief was showing up similarly, so it was really helpful to have folks around the same age to talk to. We’re starting to meet outside of our group, now that it’s done, so that we still have some time where we can still remember to do the things that we should be doing to be good to ourselves. To go, “Okay, we’re still meeting. How are you taking care of yourself this week? How is your grief showing up?” Those questions are really helpful. 

I also think our facilitator was really good at making sure we had space to feel things and talk through things, to get what we needed to get out for the week. And my group was really open very quickly. So it was the perfect space. Being in the middle of a pandemic, after you’ve lost somebody due to the pandemic — having that group there was really, really helpful for me.

Lauren Bender: Is there anything else that you would want to share? Whether it’s about Catharine, whether it’s about your experience?

Brandy Hyatt: I’m really grateful for my group. I’m glad that you all put this together. Grieving as a young person is hard. I didn’t expect to have to deal with a friend passing away this soon. I really thought I’d have more time. And so I’m really grateful that there was a space where I could talk to other people about this. 

I would also say for folks who haven’t really been affected by COVID — who have remained untouched in that they haven’t had anyone pass away, or get sick (not untouched by the larger context, because we’re all affected by this pandemic) — I would really recommend reading the New York Times obituaries around COVID. They give humanity to the numbers and you get the opportunity to really find out about these folks. 

The New York Times wrote a really great one about my friend, Cat, and so I ended up going down a whole entire rabbit hole of them. And they’re just so many wonderful people that we’ve lost from this pandemic. Reading something like that really gives folks that lens of zooming in a little bit more and really seeing the people who are directly affected. Here’s this person, here’s how they passed. This person did these wonderful things, and it’s a reminder of the reasons to make sure that we’re continuing to be as safe as we can. To continue, as hard as it may be, to keep your distance and wear your mask.

I’m just really grateful for the network and I’m also really hopeful that folks will take a moment to learn about the people who have passed, just as a reminder, to continue to stay safe.

If you are a young adult grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID-19, COVID Grief Network offers both 1:1 and group support, which you can sign up for here. If you’re a young adult in our network and you’re interested in sharing your story for future installments of the Our Voices blog, please reach out to us at covidgriefnetwork@gmail.com.

Volunteer Spotlight: Amy Morse

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Amy Morse
Age: 65
Location: Half time on a tiny farm in Southeastern MA and half time on a barrier island in Florida
Profession: Clinical social worker, Retired teacher, and professional developer

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
We each experience grief: sometimes the engulfing, life-changing grief of loss, and sometimes the quieter, less public grief of unexpected or unwanted shifts in daily life. In the past few years, I have experienced the loss of beloved family members and close friends in a very compact period of time. The comfort of companionship and validation of recognition made a difficult time more bearable and tender. In this pandemic time, comfort seemed scarce and elusive, and I wanted to help change that for others.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
The young adults have taught me that resilience is a fierce thing, something with shape and muscle – attainable even if in the far distance. My interactions with young adults have taught me that this age group is uniquely ripe, responsive, and reflective. I give total credit to the young adults I’ve talked with since last summer for building my capacity to see and to listen to what needs to be understood about grief, and for that and for you, I am very grateful.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
You are not obliged to do anything differently or better in order to “grieve well.” We are wired for sense-making and this will come to pass, this sometimes arduous task of what it means to grieve. It seems the sadness can, remarkably, make one’s heart stronger – not broken after all.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Making things. Creating something can be a hedge against overwhelm, sadness, distress. I love clay – a most forgiving of materials. Even if it’s my 20th wonky bowl of the day, I’ve lost myself in the playfulness of creating it and that is a time of solace for me.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Kimberly Malone

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Kimberly Malone
Location: Mahwah, NJ
Profession: Spiritual Director

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I was 20 years old when my father passed away suddenly in an accident. It was hard trailblazing this kind of grief and loss among my peers. My friends didn’t always know what to say or how to respond, and my family was also grieving. After the initial shock I was longing for a non-judgemental space to sort out what I was thinking and feeling. I’m grateful to be able to offer this to other young people who are navigating their own unique experiences of loss and grief.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
My conversations with the young adults in the COVID Grief Network have pressed upon me the devastating impact of COVID-19. For some people this pandemic feels distant, harmless, or unbelievable, but it is not any of those things for the people who have lost a loved one. Every young person I’ve met with has tried to put to words the added trauma of co-workers, friends, and strangers minimizing the pandemic.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
Grief is so strange. All of a sudden it’s like you’re in an alternate reality where time functions differently, priorities instantly change, routine tasks become exhausting, and your head fills with a fog and a movie projector with specific moments and conversations on loop. I think every young person I’ve talked to has marveled at some point, “I don’t feel like myself.” The worst is not knowing how long it will last or if this is a new reality.

Like many of the young people I have had the opportunity to talk with, I didn’t choose grief. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to figure it out. I preferred feeling like I was capable, confident, and in control. Grief felt too disorienting. At the time I wasn’t curious or open to feeling pain, I was more focused on getting through it as fast as I could.

Losing my dad was one of my first significant experiences of grief, but I’ve had others since then. I’m grateful that grief is more familiar now. I can recognize it, in myself and in others, and I’m not so scared of it anymore. I can see that every experience of grief comes with an invitation to pause, feel, and discover. Each loss offers the opportunity to learn more about grieving, something you will need to do over and over again if you invest in others, take bold risks, and love deeply.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Lately, my preferred method of self care has been a regular morning swim. I love the pause before the day starts, the quiet, the rhythm of the strokes, the focused breathing, feeling my muscles move, and the space to work things out, pray, or not think of anything at all.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Del Castillo

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Anna Del Castillo
Age: 25
Location: Cambridge, MA
Profession: Graduate Student at Harvard Divinity School

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
The last 15 months have profoundly shifted all our realities. Amid grief, struggle, and loss, I want to hold space for others to process their emotions. CGN allows me to connect with other wayfarers on the journey and share some light during moments of struggle.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
We are all interconnected. The simplest act, like listening or offering a prayer can change someone’s day and even their life.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
Lean on your community and take time to be still and rest. May you be covered in light.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Walking along the Charles River or going to Walden Pond. Listening to the sounds of nature and being next to water allows me to slow down and connect with my spirit.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Ashley Plotnick

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Ashley Plotnick
Age: 40
Location: Deerfield, IL
Profession: Psychotherapist, Spiritual Director, Jewish Educator

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I initially signed up to volunteer with CGN because I wanted some way to contribute meaningfully during such an overwhelming period of grief and instability in our world. However, the impact of CGN continues to amaze me beyond my expectations. From my very first training with the founders, it was clear the network is truly something special. There is an authentic commitment to growth, healing, spaciousness, and collaboration that is a gift both to the volunteers and to the young adults. That unique energy inspires me to continue to say yes to the work.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
I have learned so much from the young adults in our network. Their capacity for vulnerability, truth, and presence is so strong even in the midst of so much pain. I also am in awe of the group which I am honored to facilitate. These young adults show up week after week to hold space for that which is both true and hard. By doing so, they create space not only for their own healing journey, but for the healing of their peers as well.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
To our young adults: You are utterly brave as you walk through the darkness of this time.

Jan Richardson says it best in her poem “Stay:”

I know how your mind
rushes ahead
trying to fathom
what could follow this.
What will you do,
where will you go,
how will you live?
You will want
to outrun the grief.
You will want
to keep turning toward
the horizon,
watching for what was lost
to come back,
to return to you
and never leave again.
For now
hear me when I say
all you need to do
is to still yourself
is to turn toward one another
is to stay.
Wait
and see what comes
to fill
the gaping hole
in your chest.
Wait with your hands open
to receive what could never come
except to what is empty
and hollow.
You cannot know it now,
cannot even imagine
what lies ahead,
but I tell you
the day is coming
when breath will
fill your lungs
as it never has before
and with your own ears
you will hear words
coming to you new
and startling.
You will dream dreams
and you will see the world
ablaze with blessing.
Wait for it.
Still yourself.
Stay.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Laughter, dance parties with my kids, walking my dog, connecting with friends, and lavender baths.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Shaunesse’ Jacobs

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Shaunesse’ Jacobs
Age: 28
Location: Cambridge, MA
Profession: PhD Student in Theology and Ethics

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I experienced a months-long battle with COVID-19 March-May 2020, and I remember the isolation, loneliness, and fear during those early days when information was sparse and support was nonexistent. Although still struggling with symptoms, I’m grateful to be alive and help others dealing with these emotions in any way I can because we can only overcome the heart wrenching effects of this virus together.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
From this experience, I’ve learned how to love myself and my growing edges by being in community with amazing young adults who are actively working to love themselves holistically despite their loss. I’m learning to take the steps to support my wholeness because I get to witness the young adults taking steps to support their wholeness each week.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
You’re beautiful as you are. We see you. We love you. We hear you. We support you. You are already getting through this dark hour and you’re encouraging others that they can get through this dark hour as well.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
My preferred method of self-care is eating ice cream, at minimum weekly, and listening to music that touches the depths of my soul.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Ylisse Bess

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Ylisse Bess
Age: 30
Location: Boston, MA
Profession: Chaplain

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I want to show up for people in ways that work for them and CGN strives to make that possible. Young adults are able to say “I am Black, queer, spiritual, practice tarot and am a Libra, and I’d like to be accompanied by someone like me or not at all like me” and CGN will try to do that. And that’s something I can get behind.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
The major shift during the pandemic to virtual accompaniment and spiritual/emotional support made me wonder if people could really feel cared for over the phone or a screen. But I’ve learned that accompaniment and care are expansive. Sometimes people just need someone to sit with them in the quiet of a zoom call and that’s enough.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
You’ve got people around the world ready to try to have your back in ways that work for you. I know, because I’m one of them!

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Roller skating to 90’s R&B and cycling to a good audiobook.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Brandy Hyatt Shares Story of Friendship, Loss, and Grief (Part 2)

Part 2: Drawing Your Grief Boundaries

With millions of lives lost to COVID-19 in the past year, the statistics can feel abstract, even meaningless. How can the human brain process the scope of these tragedies — the millions of children, siblings, partners, family, and friends left behind to grieve the deaths of their loved ones? 

By featuring the voices of young adults who have lost someone to COVID-19, this series is designed to give you a glimpse into the lives lost, and how the people left behind are finding their way forward.

In the first part of our interview with Brandy, we hear what it was like to lose her dear friend, Catharine Phanavong, during pandemic distancing. Here in Part Two of the interview, Brandy shares her journey with grief after finding out about the loss. Keep an eye out for Part Three, Finding Connection Through Grief, coming next week.

 

Charly Jaffe: In terms of the road since Catharine died — and obviously it goes in so many different directions — what feels really big to you?

Brandy Hyatt: We talked about this a little bit in my COVID grief support group too, where you have those really big moments that happen after someone passes. So the first one happened really fast. I had my birthday three days after her funeral, and I was also moving. It was the worst weekend. So I’m bawling my eyes out because I can’t physically go to the funeral — we had to watch it over Zoom. And that was hard to do, because then you can’t really engage with folks and see how folks are doing.

And then I had a Zoom birthday party. My friends surprised me and I was just crying. One of my friends said, “We’re doing a tribute to Cat for your birthday. Do you want this?” And I’m like, “No. I appreciate you saying that. But it’s honestly too soon. Like, I literally will just cry in a ball.” And I have to like, make it through the day. You know, I have to eat dinner, I still have to do regular stuff.

Charly Jaffe: First of all, I just want to give you huge kudos for drawing the boundaries you needed at that moment, because that’s not always an easy thing to do. What did it feel like in that moment, to have people you love try to do something to support you, but to have it be like, “That is not what I want.”

Brandy Hyatt: I felt bad telling people “No, that’s not helpful,” because I see how much they want to help and support me and make me feel better about losing someone. But I’m glad that I was able to do it because it makes everything else easier.

Sometimes I wake up and I’m just like, this is a crap day. I wake up just feeling the overwhelming mountain of grief. I live with my partner, and so being able to go, “Hey, having a shit day.” Like that’s it. Nothing extra. They’re really good about that, always willing to just be like, “Okay, you’re not having a great day. Let me know what you need from me, I’m here. If you need anything, if you don’t need anything, if you need me to stay away, that’s also fine.” That’s been vital to me.

Dealing with the loss is really being able to speak up when I am hitting a wall, when I’m having issues, because nobody knows. Sometimes I’ll go to a thing, and I’ll actually have to go home. Cause I’m like, “Oh, I thought I could do this today. And I cannot, so I have to leave.” And that’s really weird for folks because they’re not used to me behaving in that way. So it’s really an adjustment for folks around me — my boundaries, I think, are a lot more tight now than they were previously.

Lauren Bender: That makes total sense. I’m wondering — what would you want people to know about grief? Or even just your grief, specifically?

Brandy Hyatt: Grief is big. It’s really big. And eventually, it starts getting smaller, but I don’t think it goes away. I’ve dealt with different griefs throughout my life, and it doesn’t go. You’re just able to either channel it in different spaces, or at least deal with it better. And I think it’s okay.

Grief can show up in very odd ways. Like, you don’t want to eat pasta for a month. When a friend asked me if I wanted pasta, I didn’t know why I didn’t want to. But it’s because it had to do with me going to eat with my friend [Catharine] at a specific restaurant, and they had pasta. It’s the smallest thing. We’ve eaten plenty of other things together. But this is where my fixation was.

So I would say grief shows up in different ways. It’s love that you can’t get to that person anymore. It’s a big feeling. And it’s not one you can really shove down. But knowing that grief is happening, I think is the biggest piece. And you know, “Oh, yeah, this is heavy today.” That makes navigating your day easier, because at least you know where it’s coming from. When you’re ignoring it, then you feel outside of yourself.

Charly Jaffe: It sounds like grief has taken so much from you. But you also mentioned channeling it. What are some of the ways that you’ve channeled it? And has grief given things to you, as well as taking things from you?

Brandy Hyatt: I mean, there’s days where I feel like it just took everything and I’m super frustrated. But on the days where I feel pretty good, I’ve been writing a lot more, and that’s been really helpful. I’ve also been a lot more honest in my relationships as a whole. I tell people I love them more. I go out of my way to check in on folks a lot more. I really care about deepening those relationships. And so in that respect, it’s really just given me a reminder that things aren’t forever, even yourself, and so trying to make the most of the moments you have with the people you love.

Lauren Bender: Amen to that. That’s extremely powerful. You mentioned earlier that you were really frustrated, not just with the way you found out about Catharine’s death, but also by the whole situation. What did you mean by that?

Brandy Hyatt: I am angry [about] my friend being gone. But I’m also angry because nothing’s happening because of it. In a lot of ways it feels like her death is in vain. All the folks who have passed — those deaths are in vain, because we can’t get our shit together. Looking at just the rollout of vaccines — that’s the surrounding pieces of a larger systematic issue. And it frustrates me that logistical problems are literally killing folks — not just my friend. Millions of other people. The politics and situation beyond myself is also really difficult to deal with in the context of also dealing with my own grief.

In the upcoming final part of the interview, Brandy shares how she found connection in grief. Part 3 will be published on Monday, April 19.

If you are a young adult grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID-19, COVID Grief Network offers both 1:1 and group support, which you can sign up for here. If you’re a young adult in our network and you’re interested in sharing your story for future installments of the Our Voices blog, please reach out to us at covidgriefnetwork@gmail.com.

Brandy Hyatt Shares Story of Friendship, Loss, and Grief (Part 1)

Part 1: Catharine, the Friendly Foodie Behind the Statistic
“What is grief, if not love persevering?” – WandaVision

With millions of lives lost to COVID-19 in the past year, the statistics can feel abstract, even meaningless. How can the human brain process the scope of these tragedies — the millions of children, siblings, partners, family, and friends left behind to grieve the deaths of their loved ones? 

By featuring the voices of young adults who have lost someone to COVID-19, this series is designed to give you a glimpse into the lives lost, and how the people left behind are finding their way forward.

We begin with Brandy, a solar policy advocate balancing work, grad school and grief. As you’ll see in this conversation, her love for her friend, Catharine Phanavong, is still as strong as ever – but it is only one facet of her experience with grief. We’ll be posting this interview in three installments, so keep an eye out for our upcoming posts. 

 

Brandy Hyatt: So on August 12 of last year, I lost my friend, Catharine. She [lived] in LA, and she and her partner got really sick. And he was able to recover, but she wasn’t. She died from complications, which was related to some pre-existing conditions. She was 39. She loved food, she would cook for everyone, and she was very maternal, at least for me. 

I moved out to California about a year after she did and I didn’t know anyone in the area out here. And so she was really helpful in pushing me to go talk to people, go do this, go do that. And she said, “If you ever feel bad, just take the bus down to LA and come visit.” So I would go to LA every couple of months, and come down and sleep on her couch. And she’d make us breakfast and make me dinner and take me to the beach and drive me around because I don’t have a license, so navigating LA is a struggle. And she was just really posh and polished. And so she would always take us to the fanciest places. And so a lot of the time there would be places with long lines and she would know the bouncer. She was just this very bubbly person who everyone loved.

Charly Jaffe: And I’m curious — how did you two meet?

Brandy Hyatt: We met at the worst job either of us have ever worked, at this tech company in Minnesota. We met in Minneapolis and so one day she came up to me during lunch because I was eating by myself every day and she was like, “What’s your name? What do you do? How old are you?” She just came up to me and started blasting all these questions and I’m like, “This is very intense, this is a lot of energy.”

But we ended up hanging out after that. And so she would sometimes give me rides home cause when it got [to be] winter, a lot of people are just super worried about people who take the bus, saying “I will give you a ride home, I don’t want you to be outside in the cold.” Granted, the bus runs really pretty well in Minneapolis, so I never really had an issue, but we met there and kind of bonded over not really enjoying our job. And then kind of going out and building a friendship from there. 

Lauren Bender: She sounds amazing. It sounds like a really incredible friendship. You said she passed away in August? How long was she sick for?

Brandy Hyatt: She got sick at the end of July, but didn’t tell any of us right away. And I kind of had a feeling because we had been messaging through it. I saw her [for the last time] in January of last year, because we had gone down for my sister’s birthday and hung out. And so she was doing some Zoom hangouts, cooking, etc. But she had sent me the vaguest message at the end of July, asking how I was doing, that she hoped I was doing well. But it was, I don’t know, it was framed so weirdly. And I was like, “Oh, good. How are you?” and then I didn’t get a response for a really long time, for a couple of weeks. And then so she finally told folks she wasn’t doing well, like, “I’m in the hospital, this is happening.” I’m not sure how much she was sick before that, but I know the last week in July, up until August 12 — that timeframe was about how long she was really sick.

Charly Jaffe: I’m curious to hear your perspective. What was your journey with her sickness, emotionally,  throughout that timeframe?

Brandy Hyatt: I guess part of it was [that] I was trying not to engage with being afraid too much while she was sick, just because a lot of people will catch [COVID-19]. And lots of people come out and they’re fine. Like, there’s health issues. But I mean, my friend was 39. So I really felt like, “All right, most likely, she’ll come through and pull through this.” But her partner had mentioned that she wasn’t — it wasn’t turning around as quickly. I guess I really was trying to not engage with the worst case scenario. I was really thinking the best.

And finding out about her death was kind of hard, because I started getting text messages from people because I hadn’t been on social media for two days. And I hadn’t checked or anything or texted, because you know, you don’t want to bother anyone when they’re in the hospital. So we hadn’t messaged in about two weeks. And I started getting messages on social media and texts on my phone and found out about her death that way, which was a little frustrating for me. It made me go, “Oh my god, I should have been checking in more,” but I’m also like, “How much energy does somebody have around their deathbed?” 

A lot of it was just hard. I feel like I have less of that now. But in the beginning, I was frustrated at myself. I was upset that I didn’t reach out more, text more, do more to check in. While she was sick, I felt like I was doing her a favor, right? Trying to be like, “Space, keeping good thoughts” and thinking like, “Yeah, everybody’s gonna pull through.” I don’t think anyone thinks that that’s gonna be the last time when they go to the hospital and don’t come back out.

The end of Catharine’s life marked the beginning of a new journey with grief for Brandy. Come back next week to hear how Brandy navigates drawing boundaries in grief.

If you are a young adult grieving the serious illness or loss of a loved one to COVID-19, COVID Grief Network offers both 1:1 and group support, which you can sign up for here. If you’re a young adult in our network and you’re interested in sharing your story for future installments of the Our Voices blog, please reach out to us at covidgriefnetwork@gmail.com.