Trauma caused by COVID-19: taking it one day at a time

Tusiime Tutu Sept. 9, 2021

COVID-19 continues to paralyze the world. Uganda has so far experienced two waves of severe COVID-19 outbreaks, which have affected not just the structure of life but caused trauma.


Trigger warning: The content of this blog post includes references to depression, depressive phases, hopelessness and near-death experience.

The things we never got to say: trauma of losing a loved one to COVID-19

“When my little sister told me Auntie was gone, my immediate thought was ‘no way, this must be a mistake’. Even today, two months later, I’m still in disbelief. For me I think the best way I can put it is, this loss is like telling Christians that God is no more. I don’t think if you told a christian that God is no more, they would ever believe it. Auntie was supposed to be that constant in my life forever. Anyone else could go and I would accept that, Dad went and I accepted that, but auntie was that person that was supposed to be there always.

There are moments when the disbelief morphs into acceptance and I think ‘it is actually true, auntie is gone’. I will cry my eyes out, but after a while I go back to denial and start the mantra of ‘don’t think about it, don’t think it’. I force it to the back of my mind, I write, chat with friends, listen to other people’s problems, just so I don’t remember this loss.

I wish I had told her how much I appreciated her for being there for me through every big and small moment of my life, I wish I had told her that I loved her so much. I wish I had told her that because I didn’t visit her, it didn’t mean that I loved her any less. At the end there, when she was in the hospital, I wish I had been there with her just to hold her hand and tell her everything will be okay like she held me through insane asthma attacks as a child. She herself would be scared not knowing what to do but she would stay up all night and hold me through it. I wish I could have given her that back.

I wish she had not died of COVID-19 so that at least we would have been there with her, but she was alone, in the ICU, scared. I wonder if I had been there holding her hand, maybe it would have anchored her and she would not have died. How does one even go on?”

Tryphn, a 26-year-old female writer, lost her auntie Godrine on 1st July, 2021 to COVID-19

The bad situations that got worse: trauma of losing one’s source of income due to COVID-19

“Before the lockdown, my salary had been cut to 50% but when we went into lockdown and schools had to close, my salary went to 0%. Truth is my salary was insufficient even when it was at 100%, so the reduction was extra insufficient and then it got worse to where there was just no salary.

I have a family of three children and I couldn’t maintain their diet anymore; in my family we used to eat meat every weekend but now I can’t even remember the last time that happened. There was a day we had just posho that on top of it not being enough for the five of us, we didn’t even have sauce to eat it with. Even now, months since we went into lockdown, there are still moments when the food is just not there. I have encroached on our savings but it’s been months so, if the situation continues like this, well…

I have had moments where I think ‘I don’t want to be alive anymore’ and even gone ahead to think of ways I could take myself out of the equation because there is just no way to go on. Usually, though, when thoughts of giving up come in, I manage to rebuttal them with self-encouragements. I guess I have been lucky that way- that I am not so depleted of faith and hope.

For me the trauma is not just from constant lack, I’m also residing at my parent’s home which comes with disagreements between them and us. I sometimes think ‘maybe if I were alone, I would manage better’. I find myself in the headspace where I regret my family - regret having my three children. This is when the thoughts of giving up become so vivid.

The truth is I have had to fake some things just to make a penny and I’m not proud of that but I needed to make ends meet. I have moments when I cry for a while. I have shut down from friends and don’t even wish to connect with people. I have been feeling depressed. I’m torn between leaving my family and going out there to hustle or stay with family and continue to lack. What choice does one even make?”

Anonymous, a 31-year-old private school principal, lost his full income source due to COVID-19

The desperate prayers at the edge: trauma of accepting one may die from COVID-19

23rd May, 2021, at around 9:00p.m. I accepted that I would die from the corona-virus. My fever was so high it felt like I was in a furnace, I could barely breathe, my limbs couldn’t move and I had a headache too intense. I remember lying in bed as my breath became shallower, scared that if I close my eyes I may not come back. In those moments I wondered whether mum would be okay, I wondered about my siblings, friends and thought about all the things I hadn’t gotten to do.

I have never been too prayerful but that night I prayed. Except I didn’t pray to stay alive because it felt hopeless, I was wheezing, burning and shaking, so I didn’t think a prayer to stay alive would work. I prayed that my parents, my siblings, my friends would find a way to deal with the loss. I wondered if my sister remembered the password to my phone so she could publish my poems when I’m gone. So, I prayed that they would not be broken. Luckily, I made it through but even now as I recount that traumatic experience, I find myself shedding tears.

The worst part was thinking I may have infected my siblings and friends. I know of a lady who was sick with COVID-19 but was feeling better and so she went home to see her mum. Unfortunately, this lady infected her mum who then passed on from COVID-19 a few days later.

Tusiime Tutu, writer, fell sick with COVID-19 on her birthday in May 2021

It is impossible to know how either of us deals with trauma. There may not be a simple checklist and all we have to go on with is hoping that we are capable of wading through these experiences. COVID-19 has come with heartbreaking stories of trauma that we must sit back and ask ourselves: - How are we and how will we deal with this trauma? Help exists, all we have to do is seek it.

Here is a list of contacts for mental health support: Mental Health Contact List