Anna Beuselinck: Was She Vaccinated?

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Grief at the loss of a loved one is always hard, but Anna Beuselinck says a persistent question born of the pandemic is making it harder.

My sister died with COVID.

When I consider sharing this news, I hold the information and assess for understanding. Will this person empathize with my loss or will my sister’s death be another data point on a pandemic chart?

I can tell whether the response will offer empathy or judgment if their immediate question is, “Was she vaccinated?”

The first time I was asked the question — “Was she vaccinated?” — I was frozen with sadness. Is this all they care about? What about my sister’s life or my grief?

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The second time I was asked the question — “Was she vaccinated?” — I was awakened with anger. Is this all they care about? What about my sister’s life or my grief?

The third time I was asked the question — “Was she vaccinated?” — I was broken with hopelessness.

I found myself asking, “Where is our humanity?” As in, "a state of being kind."

Some will find it understandable to ask the vaccination question. I get it. But I find it unkind and unskillful when someone has died. If you lose your loved one, who struggled to breathe and died alone, you will understand.

“Was she vaccinated?” is not how anyone wants to be remembered, including my sister.

“Was she vaccinated?” is for you, and your own fear.

“Was she vaccinated?” is a question that builds fences and separates us from shared compassion and our collective humanity. Instead of asking “Was she vaccinated?” perhaps take a moment to breathe in the grief. From my experience, silence can be incredibly kind.

Simply saying “I am sorry for your loss,” or “I can only imagine how difficult this is for you,” or “I have no words,” are ways to be supportive.

You may still want to know the answer to the question, “Was she vaccinated?”

I know the answer, and my heart knows better than to share it, and instead to gently remind you, my sister died with COVID and I am grieving for us all.

With a Perspective, I am Anna Beuselinck.

Anna Beuselinck is a leadership coach and steward at a winery in Hopland.