Inability to visit family in India due to Covid travel ban leading to a heightened feeling of loss.
When California based Ruchika Shah lost her mom in India due to Covid in India earlier this month, her immediate reaction was to look for a flight to India.
However, her family and relatives in India advised against it as the pandemic situation in India had been out of control. She decided to stay back as she couldn’t have taken her young children along and exposed them to the risk.
However, she has had a miserable time with anxiety attacks about not being able to be with her family during such tough times.
For Shanti Kumar, the grieving process has been almost cathartic. “I lost both my dad and mom within the same week. Even my siblings who were in India but in a different city couldn’t travel in time due to the lock down,” she says. “I am perpetually living with a feeling of guilt.”
The second Covid wave in India has been one of the deadliest with a quick scroll through various Indian American groups on social media revealing how the loss has touched an unbelievable number of families.
While a raging pandemic and risk of infection has been a primary factor to deter people from traveling, most Indians in the US who are on work based visas also took the tough decision so as not to get stuck in India.
Vijay Shah, a software professional from New Jersey says, “I lost my dad last month. My wife is pregnant here and is in her third trimester.
“I also require visa stamping for my H-1B. With consulates closed, I knew traveling to India would mean getting stuck. Hence I decided to stay put, it hasn’t been easy and I am struggling.”
As cases of Indians in the US, having suffered the loss of loved ones back in India due to Covid continue to mount, many are trying to seek grief counseling to help them cope with the stress.
While losing a loved one is always tragic, the fact that many of them could not be there to perform the last rites or be with other family members during tough times has further amplified the grieving process.
Many Indians have set up social media support groups, where they have been sharing their stories with each other.
Colorado based Mukul Singh says, “Let’s face it, in America we lead isolated lives. Also during the pandemic you are not meeting many friends, so who would you talk to about your loss.”
“A friend shared an Indian grief support group on Telegram and talking to strangers about the details of how my uncle and father passed away helped me cope up with it.”
According to psychologists talking to people with similar shared experiences helps in overcoming the loss as well as negating the feeling of, ‘Why Me?’ The support groups are doing just that.
Many members refer each other to professional counselors while others share books or podcasts that helped them cope.
While some say that they found solace in books such as, ‘Journey of Souls,’ by Michael Newton, others are referring each other to Facebook groups such as Option B support group.
A few others have also arranged for group coping with grief sessions on Zoom, while some like San Jose based Sujata Tibrewala has been offering free online healing Mandala art classes on Facebook for anyone who would like to de-stress.
She says, “A lot of my followers are Indian Americans and when I saw that many of them are looking for ways to cope up with losses, as an artist I opened up my Mandala re-invented sessions on Facebook for anyone who would want to come and share their experiences while practicing healing art form.
“As fellow Indians we are just trying to be there for our brothers and sisters and that is what matters.”
US restricts travel from India; H-1B, L1 holders most affected (April 30, 2021)
US asks Americans to leave India amid Covid surge (April 29, 2021)
Indian Americans concerned about travel to Covid hit India (April 26, 2021)