Home COVID-19 On Losing My Sister to COVID-19 — A Hoboken Girl Contributor Shares Her Story

On Losing My Sister to COVID-19 — A Hoboken Girl Contributor Shares Her Story

by Yarleen Hernandez
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A Hoboken Girl team member, Yarleen Hernandez, shares her personal story on losing her sister to COVID-19. This is a personal account of the passing of a sister, mother, and daughter, Yaenis, who was a West New York resident that passed away in April of 2020.

I’m sharing my story from my point of view in hopes that people will gain a better understanding of what the effects of the pandemic look like from the lens of a family deeply impacted by COVID-19.   

covid-19 death remembrance story yaenis hernandez

Dealing With Grief

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been over eight months since my older sister died from COVID-19. Processing this loss and coming to terms with it has not been easy, to put it mildly. I continuously find myself jumping back and forth between denial, anger, grief, and then right back to denial again. Acceptance has been hard to find.

Mostly, I’ve tried to distract myself as much as possible since the day she died back in April, forcing myself to watch countless movies {that was our thing}, and spending hours scrolling through social media to escape reality. Any moment of stillness is an invitation for the pain to come back into focus.

When the pandemic began, I never thought it would hit this close to home. I often ask myself how it’s even possible that this could happen. My sister, Yaenis Hernandez, had just turned 45 a couple of weeks before she passed. 

The Effects of COVID-19

She lived in West New York and worked in Secaucus, which is where it is believed that she contracted the virus. Symptoms {coughing, difficulty breathing, and more} first began in late March/early April. After she tested positive, her symptoms seemed to have gradually improved, so she did not go to the hospital. 

However, her health deteriorated quickly once her symptoms worsened. She stopped breathing overnight. This incredibly strong person was taken from her family by this virus, just like that. My sister survived breast cancer almost a decade ago and found purpose through bringing awareness of the disease, only to be lost to another disease.

It’s painful to realize that after bravely beating cancer, she couldn’t survive this virus. I’ll always admire her unbreakable spirit, for following her own rules and not the ones society laid out for her, and for being an amazing mother.

Growing Up Together

Growing up, my sister always tried to shield me from the ugly moments that came along, especially during my teens. I have her to thank for my love of sushi, literature {so many hours spent at Barnes & Noble growing up}, and astrology {she was the fiery Aries to my fun-loving Leo}, but our trips to the movies are what solidified our bond throughout the years. 

We’re both hopeless romantics, so naturally, romcoms were our bread and butter. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, A lot Like Love, and 13 Going on Thirty are some memorable ones that come to mind, but I won’t neglect some of our other favorites like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings, because they too had a love story in the plot. Going to the movies and grabbing Houlihan’s after was our love language. 

Until I processed her absence, I didn’t realize how meaningful those moments were, how much they shaped me into the person I am today, and how grateful I am that she was my older sister. That’s the thing about loss: it brings a unique kind of clarity that can’t be attained any other way. 

Coping With Our New Reality

Living in this new reality, where the thing that killed my sister is still an active threat to everyone, is overwhelming. It’s already hard enough to lose someone under normal circumstances, but to have to relive that daily makes it much harder to find peace. I can say with certainty that letting the pain and fear consume you is not an option. 

Guided meditation has helped me tremendously this year, and I can not recommend it enough. Some other coping techniques that have aided me are journaling, reading {Call Me By Your Name was a beautiful escape for me}, jogging, reaching out to friends, being in nature, and {socially-distanced + masked} outdoor activities. 

I am also drastically reducing the amount of time I spend watching the news. Lastly {but certainly not least}, I am educating myself on ways to improve my overall immune health to better prepare. But there’s something we can ALL do right now: practice kindness. Wear a mask which is not much to ask for if it will most certainly save lives.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my sister. There’s so much I wish I could’ve told her and thanked her for. No one’s loved one should die like this, and yet it’s happening every day. Please tell your loved ones what they mean to you, especially now more than ever. I hope that we can all start to heal from the collective grief we’re all experiencing.

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