Published on May 24, 2021
Ahmedabad: Jignesh Prajapati (name changed), 41, was brought to a city-based psychiatrist after he showed signs of physical distress including the loss of sleep, appetite, and the lack of drive to do anything. The doctors got to know that Prajapati had lost his father in the pandemic, and he could do nothing, as he was under home isolation. He could not help in hospitalization and later at the funeral.
Thus, his question to the doctors was how could he come to terms with such a death. The last he had seen of his father was when he was taken to the hospital.
Dr Ajay Chauhan, medical superintendent of Government Hospital for Mental Health (HMH), said that the psychology helpline 1100 is getting an increasing number of distress calls spurred by the loss of someone near and dear. “Due to the nature of the pandemic, the relatives often don’t find closure. Thus, grief counselling becomes a necessity,” he said.
Dr Dipti Bhatt, coordinator of the helpline at HMH and senior psychiatrist, said that they are receiving at least two calls daily about grief and loss. “None of us would have seen so many deaths around us in our lives,” she said. “Thus, when it hits close to home, it takes a systematic approach to get the person out. The tell-tale signs of distress include not being able to grieve, communicate, or sleep. Incessant body pain or headache are other signs.”
Often the calls are about guilt, helplessness, anger, and despair. “Give yourself time, don’t blame yourself for everything that has happened, and don’t isolate yourself,” said Dr Bhatt. “There is no right way of grieving. But closure and accepting reality is the step in the right direction.”
She said people can channelize the feelings in activities. “Some families encouraged friends and relatives of the departed to plant a tree each in his remembrance,” she said.
Priyanka Adalaja, senior counsellor of Jeevan Aastha helpline (1800 233 3330) said that in one case, a man was asked by a doctor to choose between his wife and his newborn child as they could not save both. “Both were suspected to be Covid-19 positive, and the doctors eventually could not save the child,” she said. “They apparently also refused to treat his wife as it was a non-Covid hospital. He could not come to terms with the loss.”
She added: “It’s very important not to suppress feelings, and to observe them to address them for a proper closure.”