In Brazil, 2.0 therapies are put in place for people with the coronavirus. “We count the deaths, but we forget the pain of families,” laments Dieisy Seitenfus, who found comfort in an online psychological support group after losing his mother, one of the 191,000 victims of Covid-19 in Brazil .
“People are afraid to talk about their grief and pretend everything is fine. In the group, we talk about our anxieties, we tell how we live this mourning on a daily basis, ”adds this 30-year-old teacher who lives in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in the south of the country. After the death of her mother, she connected with other bereaved people on social networks and thus got to know the association Ressignificando o Luto (Redefining mourning).
” To look at oneself in the mirror “
Several Brazilian associations of this type have set up online support groups to alleviate the difficulties of families in benefiting from face-to-face psychological follow-up because of the restrictions linked to the pandemic. Each death related to Covid-19 causes a psychological impact on four to ten people, according to mental health specialists. If we follow this logic, in Brazil, where the virus has killed more than 190,000, there are therefore 760,000 to 1.9 million people in mourning. For families, mourning is all the more complicated as health protocols have upset funeral rites, without a wake and with a small audience.
In Maranhao, a poor state in the north-east of the country, the family of Rosinélia Machado, 49, was hit hard by the virus. Her mother, 73, has recovered, but not her daughter, Ana Caroline, who died at 31. “For several days, I did not eat anything and I did not sleep. I even thought about killing myself, ”says Rosinélia, who was followed by a psychiatrist and also benefits from psychological support thanks to the association Acolher perdas e luto (Welcoming mourning). “The hardest part was accepting the pain, looking at myself in the mirror and talking with myself about what had happened,” says this philosophy professor.
Mourning in the hospital
Created in 2018 by therapist Rosana de Rosa, Acolher perdas e luto offers a free online twelve-step program to learn how to better manage bereavement. A program based on his personal experience, after the death of his two children. Psychologists and other workers are volunteers, for group or individual dialogue activities, and for meditation.
Most Brazilian hospitals have counseling units for patients and their families, but the pandemic has changed everything. “Before, we could follow families 24 hours a day in intensive care units, but we had to stop because of the Covid-19”, explains Giovana Rossilenzi, who coordinates the psychological assistance unit of the private hospital Santa Catarina, in Sao Paulo (south-east). “We must be satisfied with a simple phone call per day to give relatives the assessment of the patient’s state of health,” she continues. But to maintain the link between hospitalized Covid-19 patients and their families, this psychologist has created the “Therapeutic Letters” project: nurses deliver letters to patients and organize “virtual visits” by videoconference.
In the same hospital, Manoel Gama, a 67-year-old civil servant, was admitted after being infected with the virus and had to be operated on after a heart attack. But while he was still hospitalized, his wife, also infected with Covid-19, died. “They took all the necessary precautions to give me the news. It was my pulmonologist who told me. His support was fundamental to endure such pain, ”explains Mr. Gama.
During his convalescence, he did speech therapy and physiotherapy sessions several times a day. But it was above all the psychological support that allowed him to regain his taste for life. “The psychologist called me every day. I did not ask for psychological follow-up at the base, but the doctors told me that I was not going to be cured if I was sick in my head ”, he concludes.