coronavirus pandemic

Support Groups Give Solace to Those Who've Lost Family Members to COVID-19

Thousands of people who have lost family members to COVID-19 are turning to online support groups to process their loss

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More than nine months after her father lost his battle with COVID-19, Jaclyn Winer is still grappling with the loss.

“He’s going to stay right here," Winer said, tapping on her shoulder. "He’s always right here with me.”

Winer, who lives in Mansfield, says her father, Keith Mitchell Jacobs, contracted COVID-19 last year on April 4 -- and died 10 days later. After his passing, Winer struggled to find others who might understand what she was going through.

“You just were searching for anybody else who could validate your experience and say, 'My God, that was the exact same thing that happened to my dad,'” she said.

That "anybody" turned out to be Nicole Harris of Salem, whose father, Frederick Carl Harris also died from COVID.

“My dad passed March 25 so I was looking for any sort of support for people who are going through the same sort of loss,” Harris said.

The women met as part of COVID-19 Loss Support for Family and Friends, an international online support group of nearly 6,000 members. 

UMass Medical School in Worcester is slated to begin enrollment for Moderna's clinical trial on the coronavirus vaccine among teenagers next month.

The self-described “daddy’s girls” bonded through their grief. However, the women only met for the first time in person over the past weekend, at Jitters Cafe in Melrose.

“It brought us together,” Harris said. 

Winer and Harris are among thousands of people seeking help through COVID-19 support groups. This one focuses on people whose loved ones have died from COVID-19.

Sabila Khan, co-founder of the COVID-19 Loss Support for Family and Friends group, says the grief is unlike any other.

Pregnant women are at an increased risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, but there is also limited data about the safety of getting the vaccine during pregnancy.

“There’s this constant level of grief and pain and trauma,” she said.

Winer and Harris’ fathers became ill with COVID-19 just weeks into the pandemic. There were fewer treatments than there are now and no vaccines were available. When their fathers died, neither could be with them to say goodbye. 

When asked what she would say to her fathers if she could have that moment back, Harris responded, “That he was an amazing dad."

Winer, meanwhile, said: “I think I would say to him how very lucky I am to have somebody who makes losing them so hard."

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