France is considering declaring a day of national tribute to the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic, after passing the milestone of 100,000 deaths on Thursday and in response to calls for such a tribute to surviving families and associations. A psychologist tells Jowharthat talking about death can help survivors overcome the loss of their loved ones.
“It will certainly be a tribute, a national mourning for the victims of Covid-19,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday, but suggested it was too early to set a specific date, as France was fighting for another rise in confirmed case .
Grieving families have been demanding national mourning for months, “so that all these invisible deaths are not just reduced to a number in history,” said Lionel Petitpas, 70, president of the Victims of Covid-19 Association, established in April last year.
Petitpa’s wife died in March 2020, a week after becoming ill with the disease, during the first wave of the pandemic. “She gave me a little wave when she left. I never saw her again, neither alive nor dead, he said.
“After her death, my wife was no longer mine. She was hijacked by the system, “he announced. “It was completely forbidden to meet her. They put her, naked, in a body bag – I call it a luxury garbage bag – and then in a waterproof coffin. Everything was closed, the funeral home, the crematorium. ”
“My wife, I do not even know what happened to her! Was it even my wife in that coffin? He asks painfully.
Last month, Petitpa’s responded to his demands for a national tribute in a letter from President Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff. “I can tell you that discussions are underway about the establishment of a day dedicated to the memory of those who swept away from the torment,” the official wrote.
VIDEO: After losing his wife to Covid-19, without being able to see her in hospital “neither alive nor dead”, Lionel Petitpas fights hard to create a national day of tribute to all victims of the pandemic pic.twitter .com / KnGTKeZPWE
– AFP News Agency (@AFP) April 15, 2021
“Talking about death is good”
“It is important to hold a day of tribute as long as it is addressed to families,” Marie-Frédérique Bacqué, director of the International Center for Death Studies, told FRANCE 24. “We must tell citizens that we understand the conditions of their grief. But it is crucial that this tribute sets aside time for the people who are most affected to be able to speak, express themselves. “And to remember,” she added, “the minute of silence does not necessarily have the expected effect.”
“Talking about death is good,” says Bacqué, a psychologist and psychoanalyst who has written many books over the past 30 years on how to overcome death. “Death is a sure thing, but we do not know when it will happen. Talking about it would enable us to put it into perspective, to take full life in the time allotted to us. ”
According to Bacqué, evening news reports showing daily counts of the number of deaths during the first wave of Covid-19 in the spring of 2020 created a shock.
“Nothing good comes with delivering numbers as they are, in their raw form,” she said. “Adults quickly get tired of this morbid speech, in the sense that it leads to illness, anxiety and fear. In my opinion, we should go beyond thinking about our existence,” she said. For her, dealing with death is something that one learns “gradually”, but 2020 was a brutal year.
Many families could not honor the usual farewell series for their dead due to health restrictions and protocols. Today, family members get to see their deceased loved ones but with special precautions and only in very small numbers. And a maximum of 30 people may gather to be buried.
“And what about the traditional reunion after the funeral, which is an important moment for families?” Bacqué asked and noted that this year’s restrictions affected not only the families of deceased Covid-19 patients but also relatives of anyone who died of any cause.
Memorials elsewhere in Europe
Matthieu Orphelin, a Maine-et-Loire MP, proposed a bill to the National Assembly on April 6 to declare March 17 – the first day of the first lockdown in France – a national day of tribute to the victims of the pandemic.
This has already been done elsewhere in Europe. Italy celebrated the victims of the pandemic on March 18 and intends to continue to mark their memory that day every year. A ceremony was held last month in Bergamo, one of the Italian cities worst affected by the first wave, and about 100 young trees will be planted in a “memorial tree”.
Germany plans to hold a national ceremony on Sunday to mourn the nearly 80,000 Covid-19 deaths in that country.
In Spain, a discreet memorial to the dead has been erected in the center of the capital Madrid with the inscription “Your flame will never be extinguished in our hearts”; and in Britain church bells rang for a minute’s silence on March 23, and Prime Minister Johnson announced that a permanent memorial garden would be created in east London to honor the dead.
This article has been translated from the original into French.