Sometimes, COVID-19 can seem so all-consuming that it’s easy to forget that, even in the midst of a pandemic, the realities of normal life—and death—continue to be with us. For Rachel Sholder ’16 ’17G, the latter has been a burden she has borne, sometimes alone, since the start of the year.
In January, her father was moved into hospice care, and passed away shortly thereafter. After taking bereavement leave, Rachel was hopeful that a return to normalcy would be helpful for her. “Everyone kept telling me that dealing with grief is easier once you return to your normal routine. I missed my coworkers and was excited to go back to work. I wanted to be back among friends and attempt to return to a normal social life.... However, the day I was supposed to return to my life was the day that the majority of the country shut down, and soon after, so did I.
“I’ve always been most thankful for my stable mental health. But the combination of the death of a parent and the isolation of a global pandemic was the perfect mix to take away what I’ve always been most thankful for. I silently struggled for a while before getting help.”
Rachel says she remains thankful for the small blessings of this year: The timing of her dad’s death meant that he was able to be with family in his last days. It also meant that the family could gather for his funeral. She feels fortunate to have a stable job. But she felt compelled to share her story because “social media doesn’t at all depict what anyone is going through.”
“All year, all I heard was ‘you look healthier and happier than ever.’ And while I definitely am still trying to make the best out of a weird year, it has been a year of endlessly learning how to cope with grief while adopting a ‘new normal.’ I never got to return to my normal routine to properly grieve.”