‘She was my rock. She was my foundation,' father of four shares experience after losing wife to Covid-19 complications

A local clinical psychologist provides tips for families to cope with tragic life changes

San Antonio – A San Antonio family’s life changed abruptly after their loved one, a wife and a mother of four, passed away from Covid-19 complications Sunday.

Andres Garcia, the husband of Erica Garcia said he is frustrated by people’s lack of respect for the virus and those it may affect.

“I lost my wife because of careless people,” Andres said. “I am by myself. A single parent of four having to figure out funeral arrangements and how to make sure my children are holding up. It is frustrating because people won’t wear their masks.”

Andres said his wife, who was also diabetic, went to the doctor around her birthday after she began feeling ill. That’s when the family was told that Erica had pneumonia.

“They let her go,” Andres said. “She was checked into the hospital soon afterward and she died Sunday on the 5th.”

Andres said he was heartbroken because everyone expected her to survive.

“She was here one day and gone the next,” Andres said. “That is why I take this stuff seriously and I wish other people would take this seriously as well. People think it is all fun and games until it hits home. It can happen to anybody.”

Andres said his mission is to raise as much awareness as he can for the virus and preventative measures people can take.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Andres said. “She just turned 41! She was so young. She didn’t even get a chance to enjoy a full year of being 41 years old. I lost her within a week.”

Andres said it was nothing he could have ever prepared for.

“It wasn’t like the doctors called us up and told us, ‘Hey, you have week with her.’ No,” Andres said. “She was escalating and escalating and she turned around for the worst and I lost her you know,” he said through tears. “This virus is for real man. It is a real thing and nothing to joke around with. It is something serious and people need to think about that. It is not about themselves, but other people.”

Andres is now starting from scratch with taking over roles his wife performed throughout their marriage.

“I just worked and made the money,” Andres said. “She was my everything. She was my rock. She was my foundation. I lost my best friend. She would take care of all of the bills and finances. She had everything under control.”

Andres said the pain he has is something he would not wish on his worst enemy.

“What I am going through hurts,” Andres said. “It hurts so much. I lost my wife. It is so hard to lose somebody like this in such a tragic way. She was very caring. Very giving. She loved children. She helped anybody out that she could. You know it’s hard man.”

Though Andres is now taking on everything on his own, he said he is thankful he has his sister to help and family friends like Vanessa Uriegas who was also Erica’s best friend of 13 years.

“Erica took care of everything,” Uriegas said. “She took care of the bills, she made sure bills got paid. She made sure there was food. I will do my best to help out Andres out with making sure the children are fed and just being there whenever and where ever they need me.”

Uriegas said as she copes with the loss of her friend, she is also healing a broken heart.

“She used to tell her kids and my kids that we were long lost sisters from another mother,” Uriegas said. “She took her time out to help people in need. We looked like sisters and worked so many jobs togethers. We would work and laugh. She was a football mom and was there for her kids’ football games.”

From the outside looking in, Uriegas said the family is taking this loss hard.

“We just thought she was going to make it through,” Uriegas said as she wept. “We didn’t expect her to leave. I still can’t believe it. We all miss her. It feels like one big nightmare. We are all just waiting on her phone call for her to say, ‘Hey, I’m here.’”

Like Andres Garcia, Uriegas is frustrated with people not wearing masks.

“It really sucks that people are not taking this seriously,” Uriegas said. “Wear the mask. Wash your hands. I see a lot of people sneezing and coughing and not covering their faces. Some people think this is a joke. People are out there protesting and rallying and tearing down statues. Take this seriously and stay home to protect your loved ones. What the city is doing is not enough. What the government is doing is not enough.”

Dr. Lindsay Bira, a clinical health psychologist, said the grieving process Erica’s husband is going through is devastating.

“Losing someone you love under unexpected, traumatic circumstances is a huge hit,” Bira said. “You must stabilize. This is something that no one ever plans for or wants to happen. No-one can predict this and it is traumatic. A lot of things change with this.”

Bira said having a loss can be hard to digest.

“It is hard for our brain to make sense of unexpected things so it is ok to take a while for reality to set in,” Bira said. “There may be difficulty with memory or moods but you need to realize that reaction is normal to have in an abnormal situation. The reality of this situation is that it is overwhelming, it is sad, it is traumatic and it does take a lot to recover from.”

Bira said if you are in a similar situation such as Andres, you have to find a way to prepare as best as you can.

“When it comes down to logistics and the reality after losing someone, that creates a big worry time,” Bira said. “If a death does come down to being a reality, start the education process of what happens next. Get the ball rolling of what happens next it’s not completely overwhelming.”

More importantly, Bira said people should never be afraid to ask for help.

“You need to rally troops around you,” Bira said. “Get the support of others who can help take off layers of stress. They can do that by fixing meals or simply checking in on you to make sure you are mentally okay.”

Last but not least, Bira highly said she recommends people continue to follow CDC guidelines even though it may be difficult to do in the unknown reality of the Coronavirus.

“Our job is to respond to science,” Bira said. Thankfully, the death rate is low but there is still risk. We need to take measures to protect ourselves and it is not even about us. We have the personal responsibility to wear the mask, social distance and so forth. We host have to roll with the changes from health care professionals which will happen. This will all end at some point. We need to accept the reality as it is and that includes holding values in our health and wellness, values in taking care of others, and values in trying to live a normal and healthy life.”

The Garcia family is raising money to help with expenses. Andres asks that people take Covid-19 seriously so that the loss he has endured doesn’t happen to other families.

“Erica is going to help me get through this I believe,” Andres said. “She might have left me physically but she is by my side spiritually for life.”

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