COVID-19: Stunted Grief

María Felícitas Infante Zamora and her siblings were told by Texas prison officials last week that their father, Bartolo Infante, had died. Infante, 72, had been in prison since 2000 for a sexual assault.

But the family only learned that he had tested positive for Covid-19 from a news article they came across on Facebook days later.

Then came another blow. Infante’s relatives could not afford to hold their own funeral, so the Texas department of criminal justice said it would bury him at a prison cemetery. But the family would not be able to attend the burial on Thursday because gatherings put people at increased risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

“They said: ‘We’re just going to give you a picture of him and that’s it,’” Zamora said. The picture would be of her father’s body at his funeral.

Infante was incarcerated in the Barry B Telford Unit, near the Arkansas border, but will be buried at a prison cemetery in Huntsville, roughly 150 miles from Lockhart, where Zamora and her mother live.

They are not alone. Families across the US, and around the world, have been unable to be with their loved ones when they die, unable to attend funerals and unable to grieve with family and friends.