Grief in Isolation

Adrian Robinson, who travelled to the UK for his Mum’s funeral and is now back on the Isle of Man, self-isolating for at least two weeks.

He has been living on the Isle of Man with his wife and daughter for nearly five years. His mother died in the UK on 17 December after being hospitalised with a dislocated shoulder and concussion after a fall. She contracted Covid in hospital and died within two weeks. Adrian’s two aunties and uncle also died in December from Covid. 

If you missed Adrian’s first piece on travelling to his mother’s funeral, you can read that here.

Friday 22 January 

One week of self-isolation is not a long time, not in the grand scheme of things. But it’s no walk in the park either. However, now that I have my Day 7 test result back – negative, a huge sigh of relief – I can at least leave the house and go for a walk. You receive Covid test results via email. The team at 111 put the result in the subject line so you don’t even have to open it – I love that detail.  

As we move towards the beginning of February and a potential end to our lockdown, it strikes me that many people on the Island could still face hard decisions over travelling to the UK for medical reasons, to see loved ones with serious health issues or to attend funerals. It’s unlikely that border restrictions will be relaxed in the immediate future, so you may find yourself in a similar position to me. So, here’s how I made my decision. 

Should I Go? 

I left it to the last minute. At the time, it felt like the rules around borders, self-isolation and lockdown were changing every day. In reality, they weren’t, but a combination of fear, opinion, and the constantly developing situation on the Isle of Man and UK made it almost impossible to make plans on anything other than gutfeeling.  

With five days left until I travelled, I got up early and went on a walk from my home to the cliffs at Port Grenaugh and stared across the water at the UK’s coastline. It was the first time I had ever worn a face mask in public. I made two mental lists, which I committed to paper when I returned home.  

On the left – reasons against going: 

  1. Bring back Covid and endanger my family (my wife has chronic asthma)

  2. Get stuck in the UK (indefinitely)

  3. Get Covid

  4. Two (or more) weeks of self-isolation

On the right – reasons for going: 

  1. I can’t allow my sister has to face the funeral without her brother

  2. I’m delivering the eulogy

  3. I need some form of mental closure

  4. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t go

Ultimately, it came down to the top items on each list. I didn’t want to put my family at risk, but I also didn’t want to let my family down.  

I finally come to a decision thanks to the leadership team at plan.com. At the end of our weekly meeting, in turn, the team all said the same thing: “You have to go”. I knew they were right, I felt it in my bones. It was the final push I so desperately needed.  

Closure?

I am now back on the Island and one week into self-isolation. Was it worth it? In my mind: yes. Did I get the closure I was looking for? No… but it was a giant leap in the right direction. I speak with a friend whose dad died just after Christmas. The funeral is arranged but the death hadn’t hit him yet – he thought it would have by now. I tell him that during my mum’s funeral I spent a long time staring at her coffin. I tried to imagine her inside, but I couldn’t. Her death still hasn’t hit me. I recall the final words of the Celebrant at her funeral: “Barbara has left this earth but as long as she is remembered in your hearts, she lives on.” 

Travelling abroad during a pandemic is highly risky. At the same time, for some, staying at home may have its own high costs. For others, travel is unavoidable. If you do have to travel, my advice is this: wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands. These are still the best line of defence: easy to dismiss because they seem so simple – but the best solutions are.  

If you do have to travel, travel safe.