U.S.

The ‘grief pandemic’ will torment Americans for years, experts say

Cassandra Rollins’ daughter was still conscious when the ambulance took her away.

Shalondra Rollins, 38, was struggling to breathe as COVID-19 overwhelmed her lungs. But before the doors closed, she asked for her cellphone, so she could call her family from the hospital.

It was April 7, 2020 — the last time Rollins would see her daughter or hear her voice.

The hospital rang an hour later to say she was gone. A chaplain later told Rollins that Shalondra had died on a gurney in the hallway. Rollins was left to break the news to Shalondra’s children, ages 13 and 15.

More than a year later, Rollins said, the grief is unrelenting.

Rollins has suffered panic attacks and depression that make it hard to get out of bed. She often startles when the phone rings, fearing that someone else is hurt or dead. If her other daughters don’t pick up when she calls, Rollins phones their neighbors to check on them.

“You would think that as time passes it would get better,” said Rollins, 57, of Jackson, Mississippi. “Sometimes, it is even harder. … This wound right here, time don’t heal it.”

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