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500,000 Americans are dead from COVID-19: How it's shaped our grieving processes

Now nearly a year into the pandemic, one Quad Cities therapist says the impacts of the past twelve months will linger on, possibly for years.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Since last February, over 500,000 Americans have lost their lives to the Covid-19 pandemic; half of those deaths have occurred in just the last three and a half months. 

Speaking to NBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci called the death toll 'stunning,' and said it was "almost unbelievable, but it's true. This is a devastating pandemic. And it’s historic. People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now.” 

On Monday morning, Congress held a moment of silence for all of the people the United States has lost over the past year. 

The 500,000 statistic is enough to fill the TaxSlayer Center nearly 42 times; Modern Woodmen Park nearly 100 times; and is 55 times greater than the amount of visible stars in the night sky. 

In Scott and Rock Island Counties, over 500 people have lost their lives to the disease. 

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For the friends and family who have been left behind, the support normally provided during the grieving process has been taken away too. Funeral gatherings have been cut short, therapy groups have been moved online, and people have been isolated away from loved ones for months. 

"In the time of the pandemic, I think part of the struggle is that we don't have as quick of access or as easy of access to the supports that we would normally have," said Jamie McWade, an outpatient therapist at Vera French Community Mental Health Center in Davenport. "For some people that actually might feel like a relief and for others it might just feel like you're on an island and really lonely."

McWade says that even for people who haven't lost a loved one to the virus, the isolation, fear, economic hardships and more from the past year will have lingering consequences. 

"We are kind of gearing up for a mass 'need' that might be coming," she explained. "Part of that is related to the lack of comfort with that distance assistance. Once we start doing more face-to-face therapies and meet-ups, maybe more people will seek help." 

McWade says for much of the pandemic, our tendencies to grin and bear things have been pushed to the limits. 

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"We've been on what I would call survival mode and ultimately there’s gonna be a breaking point for people where they’re just gonna not be able to survive the way they have and they’re just gonna have to find other ways of doing that," she said. "We keep hearing words like ‘unprecedented,' but the reality is that our life is very different and any big change can be tough – whether it’s a loss of a loved one, whether it’s a huge change in our day to day routines, whether it’s just a change in how we have to do normal life activities like work and school and all of those things."

As the pandemic stretches on, and the death count continues to rise, she explains that it's more important than ever to lean on the people you trust, and feel confident in your ability to share your emotions with other people. 

"Learn to accept emotions as they come. Happiness, sadness, fear, those emotions are there for a reason and they’re there to serve us. Anger even. Recognizing that emotions are okay, how we feel is okay, talking about it is okay. Utilize the people in your life that you know care about you. Go to them if you’re struggling," said McWade. 

If you're considering starting therapy, but are worried about the cost, McWade suggests contacting Vera French's Carol Center, on N Harrison St. in Davenport, to see what options are available.