Journalist Biba Adams on losing 3 family members to COVID: ‘They were not just numbers’
theGrio's daytime news writer Biba Adams lost her aunt, grandmother and mother within weeks of each other in 2020
Journalist Biba Adams is no stranger to the hurt that has swept the nation as COVID-19 claims lives at a staggering pace. She lost her aunt, grandmother and her mother to the disease within weeks of each other in 2020.
Three of the most important women in Adams’ life—faithful women of God who would be found in the pews of New Testament of God in Christ church in Detroit, Michigan— who poured into Adams and helped mold the woman she is today, were gone.
“All we hear about every day is how many thousands, 400,000. This many thousands… and that number is getting so high that you can start to seem unreal, especially if you might not know someone who died personally,” Adams, who is theGrio’s daytime news writer, shares.
Elaine Head, Adam’s mother, was a retired school teacher who would be celebrating her 71st birthday on Tuesday. Adams won’t be able to spend the day indulging in some of their favorite pastimes, such as shopping at thrift stores, watching her favorite movies, and blowing out the candles in a cake her mom probably would’ve made, just as she did for her final fete.
Head died on April 22, 2020. It was the culmination of back-to-back tragedies for Adams who suffered the loss of her aunt, 72, on March 26, which was the same day her grandmother, 89, was admitted to the hospital. She ultimately lost her life on March 22.
“’[My mother] was everything to me. She was my whole world. Every time I see that number on CNN, I just see one. I don’t see 400,000,” Adams states.
Adams continues, “Of course, my grandmother as well, my aunt, but I see that one. That’s what I want people to understand that they were not just numbers. These were people. They had dreams. They had goals. They had bills.”
At the request of her family, Adams does not publicize the names of her aunt and grandmother. They have chosen to mourn privately.
Adams wants to “honor” her loved ones differently, but never expected her tweet last year announcing her mother’s passing to go viral. The scribe went from reporting the news to becoming a trending topic that yielded an outpouring of support.
“It was never my intention and I never would have imagined that it would be something like this that would that would further give me a platform to help me, to help my society because that’s always my goal,” she says.
To date, there have been more than 441,000 deaths due to the virus and 26.2 million cases, according to data by the New York Times.
In Detroit, where Adams lives and her family spent their final moments, there have been more than 28,000 confirmed cases and over 1,700 deaths, according to the Detroit Health Department. More than 81% of those known deaths were identified as Black people.
Despite these figures, she notes that the Black community has hit a “lull” with this disease and fatigue has set in.
“I think we as a community, we’ve hit a wall. I think that that’s not something that should be shamed,” she muses.
“I think we have the capacity to support people and encourage people to say, you know, a little bit longer, like we have to take this, have to take this seriously a little bit longer.”
Adams is appreciative that President Joe Biden has placed ending the pandemic high atop of the priorities.
“I believe that the new president will speed up the rate of vaccination, will probably use the Defense Production Act, [to get] us a lot further along so that we can get back to some sense of normalcy and start to heal,” she says.
Adams is also comforted that Biden acknowledges the pandemic with a gravitas that is in sharp contrast to how former President Donald Trump failed to take the virus seriously in the eyes of many, including Adams’ gaze.
“The way that [Biden] speaks about grief, I think that’s something that really resonated with people. That’s why he got 81 million votes and I think that lack of empathy from the previous president, it almost felt like an additional grief.”
A renewed effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus is here. Still, the questions of why and what if linger.
“I’ve gone through about [it] in my mind a million times, about what we could have really could have done differently. Honestly, every single time, the scenario is still with them being dead,” she says.
“I have accepted the fact that there’s maybe nothing that could have been done to save them back in March. But a lot more people, I believe hundreds of thousands of people, still didn’t have to die.”
The heaviness of her grief still permeates every fabric of her life; ebbing and flowing from days where Adams wants to just “stay in bed” to others where she is filled with “energy,” and taps into the strength that’s become muscle memory.
“Almost all of us have a little touch of something, but the grief has exacerbated that. Not to mention the isolation of the pandemic. It has really taken a toll on me emotionally. A lot of people tell me all the time that I’m strong. I don’t feel strong,” Adams says.
“I feel like I’m just a person, that I have no other choice. I could curl up and die and some days, I just want to, but I still have family.”
She uses her still raw pain as purpose. If her will can encourage others, it provides a silver lining.
“Maybe I’m not changing people’s minds about getting the vaccine or wearing a mask or social distancing,” Adams notes. “But if I can bring comfort to someone else who is grieving like me, that would be good for me too.”
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