200,000 people in America have now died from COVID-19, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The figure on its own can feel hard to fathom. As the nation grieves yet another devastating milestone, we asked you, our readers: Who or what are you mourning? What have you lost, and how are you coping?
We were inundated with responses ranging from those grieving the loss of a loved one to readers mourning more intangible concepts like independence, social connection, and the loss of American leadership in the world. Below, you can read a selection of our reader contributions, edited for length and clarity, which demonstrate the breadth and depth of suffering Americans have endured over the last seven months.
I lost the ability to share the first glimpse of our baby with my husband, the first ultrasounds, and first heartbeat. We found out we were pregnant just before lockdowns started. I’ve attended every important appointment alone and am coming to terms with giving birth in a mask.
Brenda Rooks, 80
I am 80 years old. Along with my elderly friends, I have been cooped up for six months, and scared to death that we will get this virus. We are in mourning that we can’t have normal relationships with family and friends. We miss the kisses and hugs from our children, grandkids, and great grandkids, and our family visits, picnics, and dinners. I miss going to Planet Fitness three days a week, which kept me strong, flexible, and healthy. I miss going to VFW, for weekly shuffleboard tournaments, companionship, and my weekly “White Russians.” My husband does our shopping and I have my two Labradoodles and pet parrots that help fill my days. But life is not the same. I grieve for all the lives that are lost, all due to an incompetent president who has caused all of this, has no compassion, and puts us in danger. I’m mad, angry, and cuss a lot. But don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. I might be 80, but still full of “piss and vinegar” and can mix me up a “drinky poo” now and then if I start feeling depressed.
Tara Ghormley, 38
Agoura Hills, California
I am mourning the loss of my previous self. My doctor said I may have suffered from a hypoxic brain injury from my oxygen levels falling due to my COVID infection. I did several weeks of speech and cognitive therapy. Little deficits felt large because my career relies on my intellect and memory, and I have deficits in both. I’m probably about 70 percent better now. But it feels like I will never be me again and I’m constantly reminded of who I used to be.
Joe Roberts, 61
My intellectually challenged 60-something sister lives in a wonderful group home just a few miles from me. I’m her only family close enough to regularly see her. The home went into strict lockdown. Since March, I’ve only been able to drop off food or a trifle, if only to let her know I’m out here. Two weeks ago, I dropped off some coffee and the staff member asked me to wait by my car. A few seconds later my sister appeared in the door. This was the first time I had seen her in six months. I still had to stay six feet away. Couldn’t lower my mask. Couldn’t hug her. But I got to see her smiling.
Dr. Jerry Cronin, 57
Gallup, New Mexico
My brother-in-law died back in July from complications of coronavirus and two other cousins on the Navajo nation were deathly sick. The occupant of the White House just doesn’t understand how dangerous it is to pretend there isn’t a health crisis going on all around him.
Caroni Lombard, 68
I am 68 years old and had just started a job in order to supplement my income. It was not easy to come by a job that wouldn’t bore me completely to death. On the second day I had to tell them I couldn’t risk public exposure in light of the pandemic. So, I’m mourning my loss of income that I never got to earn. I am mourning not being completely at ease when my grandsons visit on weekends. They are just two and four. For the first few months of the pandemic, I didn’t have them come, but it was too hard on my son, who lives with me, not to see them, and, it was hard on the boys. I worry each week about exposure.
Jeanine Davis, 54
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
My dear sweet mother died after being hospitalized with COVID-19 for 37 days. The hospital basically said there was nothing else they could do for her so she returned to her nursing home—where she contracted it—and after a week she tested negative for COVID twice. We rejoiced! But four days later she died. It pains me to write this, but her story should be told. Her cause of death was not listed as COVID-19 because she was COVID-negative when she passed away, but we know that her body was weakened to the point of death.
John W. Burney, 83
Hot Springs, Arizona
Shortly after the pandemic began, the assisted living facility where my wife, Sue, is located wisely shut its doors. It meant I was alone and unable to see her. She is experiencing Alzheimers and I knew she would forget who I was without some contact. They allowed me to stand outside and visit through a glass door. As restrictions lifted, I was able to take her for rides in the car, but there was no stopping for a bite to eat.
To keep myself mentally healthy, I picked up a book I had begun to write before her approach to this horrible illness. The writing gave me an escape. The regimen of stacking paragraphs began a healing process. The book, Creeks, became a finished work and is now in publication.
Tomorrow is Sue’s birthday and I plan to visit with her on the front porch of the facility (masked). I bought her one of the things she loves: a box of chocolates.
Cameron Lopez, 30
As an individual who has a compromised immune system, I have lost the freedom to live my daily life without constant fear. Although I am young, and my friends have continued to party and travel, I have been stuck at home. The invites used to come in and I would solemnly reply, “No, I still can’t be around crowds”, but now the invites have stopped altogether. I mourn the loss of normalcy, the loss of social activity and friends, and I mourn the loss of America’s leadership status in the world.
Jennifer Gillis, 69
Pittsboro, North Carolina
In May, my mother-in-law Pauline Martin Gillis passed away. Although she didn’t die of COVID, as a single senior confined to her room in a nursing home, we could only watch from a distance as she steadily declined. We were fortunate in that a week before she died that all her children and grandchildren came to town. My husband moved mom from her nursing home to a beautiful hospice where he and one of his sisters could stay in the room around the clock and the rest of the family could see her through a big picture window and talk to her on the phone. She would have celebrated her 93rd birthday on May 28.
My dad, Jerald Blizin, afflicted with heart disease and chronic lung problems, was moved into assisted living just one week before the nation virtually shut down due to the pandemic. A social butterfly who loved trivia, my dad really suffered from being quarantined with his wife, whose dementia was rapidly advancing. My dad was a long-time resident of Florida and wrote and lectured about Florida history, particularly in regard to the state’s Jewish past. Dad had been a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) beginning in 1948, and became their Washington correspondent in the early 60s. He passed away suddenly due to complications from heart disease on August 31, a few weeks shy of his 93rd birthday.
Santa Cruz, California
I am a teacher and a mother of three kids: 17, 14, and nine. Personally, I am mourning the loss of my own children’s happiness and intellectual growth as I see their mental health deteriorate before my eyes. Our middle daughter is showing signs of depression and I’ve had to take a short leave from work to get her the help she needs. I have been a teacher for 20 years and have never felt so demoralized.
Jenny Brown, 50
Unemployed comedian and dog groomer
Port Townsend, Washington
When COVID lockdowns hit, I lost my job, my apartment, and my lover (we lived in separate households, so getting together became dangerous). But what really broke my heart was the loss of my ability to follow my calling. I had spent the decade prior to COVID learning how to write and perform comedy. As 2019 turned to 2020, I successfully transitioned from amateur comic to paid semi-professional. As someone who floundered my way through young adulthood, finding and being good at my passionate calling was an answer to decades of heavenward pleas. I am mourning the loss of direction, the loss of purpose, the loss of community and connection, of intellectual stimulation. I’m mourning the loss of the healing that a good belly laugh, well delivered, brings to a group of strangers. I was finally being paid to do what I love. Now what?