There must be thousands out there like me, so recently part of a couple but now, not just alone but elderly and Coronavirus alone. Self-isolated, unable to leave home, unable to visit family or friends, no hugs no kisses, just tears alone. And largely alone, trying to cope with the urgent paperwork, emails and phone calls they have never done before. How to deal with a loved-one’s death and sorting out their affairs is not something you learn at school. Iit arrives like a thunderbolt, the current Coronavirus making so much worse.
My husband died in February, just before the Coronavirus really took hold in the UK but even then the number of unexpected deaths was rising and the autopsy which had to take place because of the way he died, was delayed again and again. Which meant that his funeral was also delayed and by the time it was able to go ahead, the Lockdown was in place. The funeral at our local Crematorium was reduced to just the Committal Service, fifteen minutes in and out, flowers to be taken away and only six mourners allowed, sitting at the approved 6 ft. social distance. Apart from myself, there were my Local Daughter and husband, my step-son and his wife who also live locally, and my London Daughter who drove down and, with no physical contact, then immediately had to turn round and drive back to avoid having to self-isolate for fourteen days.
After that it was back to my lonely home to read the lovely notes and sympathy cards from friends and relations, and to remember and grieve. But there was no time because there was my husband’s Will to prove and his affairs to deal with.
I have been far luckier than many others who have no family in their area since my step son was an Executor of my husband’s Will and, being younger, was able to go out to deal with most of the money problems. And then there was the recent ‘Tell Us Once’ service which, thank goodness, can be used to report a death to most government services in one go. But there were still so many private organisations to inform — Utilities, Insurances, Building Societies, Premium Bonds and Credit Cards amongst others. And the present situation doesn’t make it any easier.
They are all very kind: ‘Sorry about your loss’, etc., but phone – and the ‘transfer to one of our agents working at home’ can take an hour or more, or they say they’ll get someone to phone back, only they don’t. Email, and they reply that they hope to get back to you within five working days. Send a genuine letter and it could take a month to get a reply. And you can only hope that with the present muddle, the information you receive is correct, and that the cheques you expect aren’t lost in the post or you will have to start all over again. The list of things to do grew longer and every morning it became more difficult to get out of bed to face the day.
And there was no-one in the home to scream at but the cat.
Because of the present situation, many companies will now accept a copy of the Death Certificate rather than demand the real article, but if not, it meant asking my Local Daughter to join a long queue at the Post Office to send it recorded delivery. So when she brought my shopping, for which she had already had to queue, and left it six feet from the door, I would have to take it and then replace it with the envelope. After which I would also have to ask her to queue once more, probably for another hour or so, to collect my medication from the chemist. Queuing all on her own.
And then there was the Bank. Since I am under what feels like house arrest, I couldn’t go down to town to sort out my accounts. My London Daughter, being an IT expert, told me that it was easy to register for online banking. But being over eighty, and not tech savvy, the idea scared me. Still, with email persuasion from her and phone help from my local son-in-law (but with no-one by my side to explain) I finally worked it out and should, in future, be able to shuffle my money around from, as they say, ‘the comfort of my own home’.
Also with a little more help from my London Daughter I was able to use this new-fangled Zoom and actually see my family on screen which is half-way to wonderful.
And now, thank heaven, the Lockdown is easing.
But life will not return to anything like normal until we can hold a Memorial Service for my husband and until we can touch one another, hug and kiss one another, be surrounded physically by family and to remember and grieve.
Until then we are all of us alone.