an endless mourning
2021. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
Almost half a million deaths by Covid-19.
There are almost half a million families in mourning. Families that did not even have the right to watch over their deceased loved ones. Covid-19 has ceased many rights for us and has caused significant social unrest, but not being able to say goodbye maybe will cause us major psychological disorders in the near future.
Funerary rituals are so important to the history of mankind that they are considered in anthropology to be one of the markers of evolution from the primate to today's homo sapiens. If we take this perspective, at the present time we are somehow devolving as a species. There is a feeling that we are dehumanizing or worse, losing our humanity completely.
In a country like Brazil, multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic, the funeral, with its small differences between beliefs, is a moment where a unique identity seems to emerge. That we are all Brazilians. It is even possible to expand this feeling to the whole planet. After all, we all watch over our dead. The funeral becomes a moment of acceptance of death, of farewell, of meeting people close and dear, and even of celebration. The coffin opened for the last touch, the last image, and the last goodbye. There are several symbols present in this ceremony, but the flowers have a special place. Each one with its meaning, thus leaving a certain conformation and even a more particular touch from family to family or from person to person.
Covid-19 shattered that moment that has connected us since the Middle Ages, to hold a wake over our dead. The reality now is sealed coffins, dropped into containers, alone in the heavy rain. The last goodbye has been replaced by a quick look at a small display of the coffin to make sure you are the right person. The whole process that according to some traditions can take days, today it takes minutes. There is no time to process anything. Much less feel. All the deep emotional connection with the deceased is abruptly cut to the sounds of hoes on the earth.
Complicated grief. This is the term used by experts to frame the current feeling of those who lose a family member or close person to Covid-19. It is when there is an extreme difficulty in accepting the loss; when the mourner presents reactions different from those considered expected (according to the socio-cultural norms of each community) or when they are absent. It is the intensification of mourning and in some cases even eternal mourning. With the alarming increase in cases, Brazil is at serious risk of turning this state of eternal mourning into something intrinsic to its people.
In the city of Rio de Janeiro, many of the funeral chapels and cemeteries are concessions to the private sector. All of this feeling previously spoken is managed by a system. There is a bureaucracy, a process, and mechanics that brings another layer, almost surreal, to the story. A working-class that has adapted to a new reality, but that still relates to a custom of centuries.
The photo story aims to analyze mainly the contrasts that the pandemic forces us to face in a secular tradition that is the funeral. What used to be real and now no more. The visual approach portrays a cold and even clinical moment, not only where there is no soul, but neither is there any heat. A world where the only feeling seems to be mourning. A narrative proposal that, in addition to informing, brings images that allow us to reflect and bring thoughtful moments about what we are becoming as a collective and what psychological impacts the lack of a last goodbye can affect us in the future as rational and emotional beings.
April is not over yet and it is already the deadliest month of the pandemic in Brazil. Collective mourning is already taking over all of us. After all, it could also become a mental pandemic.