Ebony James’s 20-year-old son sometimes sits in his car for hours after he parks inside the family’s garage. Her eight-year-old stopped sleeping in his own bed after his dad no longer sat with him reading the Bible until he fell asleep. Her 16-year-old daughter “completely shut down and just didn’t talk at all”.
This is how they are processing the sudden death of their father, Terrence, 49, from COVID-19 in February.
“Their reaction is a little bit different than mine. I notice that when I try to talk to them about their dad, they don’t want to talk. They just don’t, and that part hurts because sometimes I do,” James, 49, told Al Jazeera. “What do you do with that?”
Beyond the heartbreak of losing her best friend and husband of 10 years, James, an education administrator, now also faces a life she had never imagined for herself as a 49-year-old widow and single mother of three children. In addition to the grief, she worries how she will make ends meet for them all.
In the wake of Terrence’s death, there were immediate costs: her own medical bills after being hospitalised for COVID-19, a $2,000 payment to a lawyer to put the house Terrence had bought before their wedding in her name — and another $16,000 for his funeral and burial after his life insurance policy lapsed. Bills racked up for counselling sessions for her children as they navigated their own grief.
James now wonders if she can afford to pay the mortgage on their house in Fresno, Texas alone. Will she need to sell their cars? She applied for Medicaid and food stamps and was denied, she said; her children are now uninsured because she hasn’t been able to afford a health insurance plan for them.
Her older son pitches in with money from his job — help she wishes she didn’t need. Her daughter will have to leave the prestigious high school she attends.
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SOURCE: Al Jazeera, Kaelyn Forde