Loss and Learning in the Age of Covid-19

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Loss and Learning in the Age of Covid-19


In early February of 2021, I tested positive for Covid-19 and had to quarantine for two weeks on campus. As someone who has some underlying medical conditions, and is generally more anxious about health concerns, I was really scared at the prospect of being alone while sick. However, my case was rather mild and the biggest thing that I ended up struggling with was anxiety throughout my two-week stay.

Around the same time that I tested positive and went into quarantine a family friend, who I had gone to high school with, also tested positive for Covid-19 and had to quarantine at his school. Since his family was close with mine and he was quarantined while I was, I regularly got updates on how his quarantine was shaping up and what symptoms he was having. I was surprised to hear some of the things that he was experiencing, like brain fog and even some vision problems, but Covid had proven to affect everyone in different, and very odd ways, so I just assumed that he had gotten a bad case of it.

Two weeks later, about a week after I had been cleared to return to normal life, my parents came out to Pittsburgh to visit my sister and I and it was upon this trip that we learned that our friend, Nathan, hadn't just had Covid-19. He had a brain tumor.

Hearing this news was surprising and difficult, but it never hit me as hard as I felt like it should have. There was a tragic irony in the fact of him having a brain tumor that I have seen play out in hundreds of stories online and in various communities that I have connections to. They're the stories that people seem to become most infatuated with because they contradict everything we think we understand about life. He was, and will remain in my memory, a bright young man, healthy and athletic and loved by everyone who knew him.

That was eight months ago. It's hard to believe that it's been eight months, but I can't decide if that feels long of short. When I wrote the first version of this story Nathan was still on Hospice care and his doctors had given him weeks left to live. By the time I am editing this story, Nathan has passed away and we, his friends and family and anyone who knew him even briefly, are grieving both the healthy Nathan that we knew and the sick Nathan that we came to know. Though I no longer feel a pang of terror and strong urge to run to my bed because of a notification that his Caring Bridge site has been updated, I am continuously struck by memories of him and moments when I think I see him in a crowd.

I am a small and somewhat distant part of his community, but it is painful to think too hard about all the events that have happened in these past eight months or look back on memories from before we found out about the tumor. Like everyone who loses a loved one, those who love him have asked a thousand questions that will never be answered in the way that we want them to be. One of the biggest ones being this; Would anything have been different if he had not been quarantined for testing positive for Covid-19?

With the type of cancer that he was diagnosed with, the answer is probably no. According to doctors, it is a definitive no. That doesn't keep a grieving human's mind from wondering about the way things could have been under different circumstances.

I have been extremely lucky, during this pandemic, to have my life be relatively unchanged and stable. I have not lost a loved one to Covid-19 and no one in my family was laid off work. I was able to keep my job and have my first year of college, even if it was a lot different than I anticipated.

What I've learned from the past year and a half has been that life continues even when the whole world stops, and sometimes life includes tragedies that don't have anything to do with the thing that caused the world to stop. It's ok if the pain you are feeling has nothing or little to do with the pain that others are feeling. And most of all, it's ok to find joy, hope, love and community in the grief, pain and fear that comes with losing something or someone that you love.




Anonymous, “Loss and Learning in the Age of Covid-19,” Chatham Covid 19 Collection Project, accessed December 10, 2023, http://covid19.chathamarchivesdigital.org/items/show/84.

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